The why and how to apply moisturizer

dear brightly skin cream

Treating dry skin sounds as simple as just drinking more water, right? Although dehydration may be a factor that contributes to dry skin, applying a moisturizer is also necessary. External treatment is just as important as internal treatment, and keeping your skin moisturized is much more than just making it look not dry. The benefits of having a good moisturizer on hand now will help the appearance and health of your skin in the future.

Doing more than just moisturizing

A moisturizer is a topical treatment, most likely in the form of a cream or serum, that is applied on the skin to maintain the functions of the skin barrier and to help prevent dry skin. Dry skin is more than just bothersome in appearance, but it can also lead to other issues that inhibit the role that the skin plays to protect us.

Why does your skin get dry?

When your skin is dry, you will probably notice that the skin feels tight, not so supple, and may even be flaky.

The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of our skin. Although made up of dead skin cells, the stratum corneum acts as a barrier between your body and the outside world, preventing harmful materials from entering and water from escaping.

The structure of this outermost layer of the epidermis includes certain lipids. When the skin is dry, there is a depletion of these lipids that help make up the stratum corneum and the skin loses its functions to retain water within the skin.

Dry skin is relatively normal and can be due to a variety of different factors. Environmental and internal stressors as well as a combination of the two can result in dry skin. Being in extreme climates and stressful situations can exasperate the look and feel of dry skin.

How does moisturizer work on the skin?

Moisturizer does not simply add hydration to the skin. Rather, it helps to maintain and protect the skin by preventing or reducing transepidermal water loss, or the amount of water that evaporates from the skin. This in turn helps the skin to rehydrate from within.

Properties of moisturizer and its benefits

Smooths and softens

As mentioned before, moisturizer does not necessarily add any hydration or water to the skin. However, by preventing water from being evaporated from the skin, moisturizer helps the skin visibly look smoother and softer. There are specific types of moisturizers that work specifically with the lipids in our stratum corneum, filling in gaps and improving the feel of the skin. Continuous application of the moisturizer may be necessary.

Increases skin hydration (from within)

An obvious benefit to moisturizing the skin is skin hydration. Applying moisturizer leaves behind a film that acts as an artificial barrier to retain water within the skin. The moisturizer prevents water from evaporating from the skin. This in turn helps to eventually repair the damaged and dry stratum corneum. The best moisturizers that help with skin hydration will contain occlusive and humectant ingredients.

Prevents and treats photoaging (premature skin aging)

While aging is natural, maintaining the skin’s integrity helps prevent premature skin aging. You may start to notice signs of premature skin aging as the skin starts to lose its elasticity, becomes dull, and even rough in texture. Moisturizer is just one step in preventing and treating the first signs of photoaging.

Side effects

Most moisturizers should not cause you to have any side effects. However, it is always a good idea to test any new product on a patch of skin first before using it regularly. To reduce the probability of any irritation, you should definitely check the ingredients of the moisturizer before you purchase. Parabens, artificial colors or dyes, and fragrances are ingredients to look out for in moisturizers you would want to avoid.

What to look for in a (effective) moisturizer

Within the stratum corneum, ceramides are the main lipid that make up the lipid bilayers in its structure. Therefore, ceramide cream is one of the most common and beneficial in promoting the replenishment of ceramides within the stratum corneum to preserve its functions in retaining the appearance and feel of the skin. 

Your moisturizer should be all about improving the barrier function of the skin and enhancing the skin’s hydration retention. There are different classifications for moisturizers that you may want to be aware of based on your skin needs. Each class works in a different way and may be present in a variety of combinations within a moisturizer to treat dry skin. How do each of these types of moisturizers work?


Emollients are most likely to be used in many everyday skin care routines. Emollients consist of lipids and oils that work to improve the appearance and feel of the skin, by smoothing, softening, and improving the elasticity of the skin. By introducing these lipids to the skin, the stratum corneum’s function in acting as a barrier is repaired. 

Squalane is an example of a specific emollient that also has occlusive properties. Squalane is another lipid that is present in the skin. Even though it is naturally occurring, the production of squalane greatly decreases after the age of thirty, further exasperating the frequency of dry skin. Luckily, squalane can be derived from plant and animal sources and is commonly used as the main ingredient in moisturizers. Although technically an oil, squalane does not have an oily feeling.


Humectants work by attracting water from within and the environment. There are a variety of humectants that work to strengthen the lipid barrier and keep the skin hydrated. Because humectants work by enhancing water absorption, possibly from the environment, it can also lose water easily to the environment. Therefore, humectants work best when combined with occlusives.


Occlusives are utilized to physically block or prevent the loss of water from the skin. Occlusives create a barrier over the skin that repels or does not mix with water. Although this might sound counterintuitive, occlusives keep the skin hydrated by preventing water vapor from escaping, especially when applied onto slightly damp skin after a face wash. The only caveat with occlusives is that products that fall under this category may have an odor and/or greasy feeling (ex. petroleum jelly).

How to apply

Different moisturizers will most likely have different instructions on how to and how much to apply. It would also be helpful to note if the moisturizer you are using will fit into the current skin care routine you have at the moment. Make sure that the moisturizer you use will not react negatively with any other products you are using.

Using a moisturizer with retinoids

Moisturizer is incredibly important to apply alongside your retinoid treatment. Having a moisturizer that improves the stratum corneum’s barrier function will help with the skin’s response to the retinoid treatment.

Skinship, the moisturizer that Dear Brightly has formulated is meant to be used with your retinoid serum. The derm-tested moisturizer works in tandem with your retinoid cream to decrease your skin’s sensitivity to the treatment, while reducing redness, smoothing, softening, and improving your skin’s hydration. 

Drink water. Keep moisturized. Stay hydrated.


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Hong, Seung Phil; Choe, Sung Jay; Yoo, Jiyeon; Jin, Eun Mi; Seo, Hee Seok; Ahn, Sung-Ku. Protective effect of moisturizers on photoaging. Journal of Dermatological Science. 2017; 86(2): e48–. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2017.02.141 

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