Friday, 25 January 2013

How to: Choose a Moisturizer- An Ingredients Breakdown

lab girl
Am I doubting most lab girls look this good?
                Well this is going to be a pretty heavy post but I feel like it is something that has to be done before I go on. After the BB cream post, a few questions popped up about what to look for when you are looking for a “good” moisturizer. I am not going to address any anti-aging really because that would take me the next month of Sundays, with all the different types and new and better types coming out all the time. This is just the rule of thumb for basic moisturizing and skincare; things to look for in your anti-aging products.

Things to look for:

Hyaluronic Acid (or Sodium Hyaluronate)

If you look for anything, look for this in your skin products. This is a molecule that supposedly holds 1000 times its weight in water and is naturally present in the skin. How does this help me then, you say? Well in dry climates, like where I live I find the majority of people are dehydrated. “Oh, but I drink, like, a ton of water” they say. Not enough. The beauty of this is that not only is it something that no one is allergic to, but it is beneficial to all skin types, especially oily. Retaining more water in the skin allows the skin to be less stressed, which can often mean less oil, redness and the skin is less easily irritated. As well, having more water in the skin, plumps out the wrinkles; any “instantly reduced wrinkles” results you see from a product are probably from this little guy. It is now commonly used as an injection for wrinkles now instead of Botox, if that gives you any indication of the power. And because it holds 1000 times its weight in water, it allows longevity; you don’t feel as dry as fast as you normally would. It can now be found in almost every cosmetic product from eye cream to foundation, and there is really no reason why not, so double up! ‘Nuff said. If you want to see the power of this, try this cloth mask; fabulous for everyone if you don’t mind looking like Jason from Friday the thirteenth for a bit:

this mask contains 0.15% of pure hyaluronic acid
This mask contains 0.15% of pure hyaluronic acid!


Is a humectant; meaning, again it helps retain water in the skin. It draws moisture into the skin and helps prevent dryness. Again water is one of the major components most people’s skin is lacking. It is often the base of a lot of oil-free and gel moisturizers.


A neutral pH helps the skin not to be stressed, especially by the cleansing process. Dramatic changes in pH put stress on the skin causing you to break out, produce more oil, redness and possibly even rashes. The whole idea of looking after your skin is calm and balance it, so why throw it so far out of whack?


Now this one is somewhat difficult because there are all sorts of different antioxidants. The logic is sound; they basically are aging prevention, by preventing damage from free radicals ie. Pollution, smoke, UV, etc. This is a fairly new topic of discussion and it is thought that antioxidants might help to prevent cancer and even enhance your sun protection. Not a bad thing at all to have in your moisturizer. It is pretty inconclusive also what is the best form of antioxidant protection, but generally agreed on ones are vitamins A, C, and E, also Selenium, and polyphenols; antioxidants found in berries, fruits, green tea, wine, and chocolate. You can eat them too if you like!

Shea Butter

Now this is something to look for if you have drier skin or in body creams. It is made from a nut from an African tree, but it is collected much like coconut oil, so people with nut allergies are not allergic. It brings back essential fatty acids to the skin and also helps bind it with water. It also is easily and quickly absorbed into the skin ideal for skin creams. It is also purported to have anti-inflammatory and humectant properties. It is really great for people with eczema.

Natural Oils

This one is a little tricky also, because depending on your skin type, different oils may be used in varying amounts for different conditions. Jojoba seed oil for instance is great for oily/combination skin as an oil controlling moisturizer because it mimics our natural oil. Macadamia and sunflower oil is full of fatty acids including omegas. Avocado oil is high in vitamin E and is highly moisturizing. The take away here is that natural oils are more easily absorbed and used by the skin.

Sunscreen (For Day!)

Look for natural, physically blocking sunscreens ie. Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, etc. or chemically stable sunscreens such as Mexoryl that don’t react with the skin and lasts longer. Read why sunscreen is a good idea on my sunscreen post

Things you May not Want:

Mineral Oil/Paraffin Wax/Petrolatum

Are petroleum by-products produced from the production of oil and gas that is basically Vaseline. It is cheap and easily sourced and is used as filler in many cosmetics. It is not absorbed by the skin. It has been argued that if contaminated it can release chemicals into the skin. There are many arguments about whether it is harmful to the body or not. The main factor is because it is not absorbed, it sits on top of the skin, blocking the pores. In acne-prone skin this causes break outs and in dry skin it causes uneven texture. And it is just really not a very good moisturiser because it doesn't put any oil or water back into the skin. The “bounce back” effect of dryness is often caused by these. It does create a barrier to protect the skin, but contrary to popular belief, it doesn't heal. It is inert and no one has allergies to it, which is its advantage over natural oils but it doesn't give anything back to the skin to help it begin to calm down. And there are other alternatives. This is my favourite if I am having something major like an allergy or sunburn (heaven forbid!), it’s from La Roche Posay, and if anyone is allergic to it I am a monkey’s uncle. It is in a hermetically sealed container, beat that nasty Vaseline.

Toleriane Ultra 0% preservative / paraben / fragrance / alcohol / colorant / lanolin
Toleriane Ultra 0% preservative / paraben / fragrance / alcohol / colorant / lanolin

So I was wondering if I wanted to even tackle this debate or not. Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben) are preservatives used in products to keep them from contracting bacteria and fungus (eww). There is some evidence that these preservatives mimic estrogen which is what most of the debate is about. They are acceptable in cosmetics in Canada (which generally has pretty high standards btw) up to 25% but are generally used in levels of 0.01% to 0.1%. So the exposure is really low but you may want to limit your exposure. In some products, it is really difficult to not use parabens because the bacterium happens easily and an alternative hasn’t been invented. Previous preservatives for these products were formaldehyde and no one wants to go back to that. I have problems with skin infections related to bacteria, so I am willing to risk it for some things, but I try and limit how much I come into contact with it. That’s as far as I am going to dive into the debate, make up your own mind. Natural products are often preserved with rosemary extract.


So this one is more personal preference to me. Yes, fragrance can be an irritant to the skin, but it seems to depend on the type of fragrance. Fragrance related headaches are more sensory overload then an actual allergy. Obviously, if you are having any obvious skin conditions; Eczema, burn, cut, rash of any kind, etc. limiting all potential irritants is important. Personally, fragrance adds a bit of luxury to my skin products that I enjoy after years of dermatology products with nasty smells. I do try and stick with more natural derived products that don’t seem to irritate my skin like some chemical fragrances.

So that’s a long enough list for me. I know there are many more preservatives out there to be concerned about, but this should help you on your journey to proper skin care. Did I stuff you with enough information? “What the heck should I put on my face then?” you ask. Well I use a lot of dermatology products (obvs La Roche Posay) because they are quality skin bang for your buck. I have also been using a lot of natural products lately (they have come a long way!), mostly from Korres, which also comes with a handy chart of what it does and does not have for easy reference. I am using the Pomegranate Moisturiser and Toner, but I also have been loving the cleansers, and they do make stuff for drier skin types.

Korres! + it smells heavenly

Handy, dandy chart on Korres products
So what did I miss?
Do you agree with me about Parabens?
What do you slap on your face?  


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