You’d like to look your best, and you think a fancy cream or potion will help. But there are so many products out there… how do you know what to look for when buying a facial moisturizer?

A moisturizer contains water and an occlusive like an oil. The most familiar moisturizers are lotions and creams. Face oils are NOT moisturizers, they are occlusives: they help stop moisture from evaporating. The way to use them is to apply them to a damp face, so that they can hold the moisture in. Using them after washing your face takes advantage of the rehydration of your skin.Studio portrait of young woman with moisturizer on face --- Image by © Robert Freeman/Corbis

Self-emulsifying balms are a nice compromise between oils and creams, because they have the features of oils, but you add your own water (or water substitute) to make a creamy mixture. Because they don’t contain water, face oils and balms don’t require preservatives, although often contain an anti-oxidant to extend the life of the oils. Popular anti-oxidants are vitamin E and Rosemary extract or oleoresin.


Deciphering ingredients

As a rule of thumb, for facial products, all essential oils or fragrances combined will be about 0.5-0.75% of the product, and preservatives will be at 0.5-1.0%. So all ingredients listed after these items are at less than 1%. If you see fancy high-end ingredients listed after the essential oils, they will be in tiny amounts and really will not offer anything substantial to the product’s performance!


Many ingredient labels are downright incorrect! Even from big name manufacturers! If you are looking at a cream or lotion, some form of water must be the first ingredient. (Liquids run somewhere upwards of 60% of lotions and creams, and many face moisturizers are 90% liquid!) If you see functional additives or expensive oils near the beginning of the ingredient list of a cream or lotion, be suspicious that the label is incorrect. Sorry, DMAE or raspberry seed oil will not be the major ingredient, ever!

Once you start reading labels, you will begin to get a feel for what things are and why they are used.  While you can search individual ingredients online, it’s far easy to have a good cosmetic dictionary, like this one: Miladay Skincare & Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary.


Do these products really work?

So, are all those claims of reducing wrinkles, etc. to be believed? Pretty much, NO! Most ingredients that purport to help with wrinkles, and youthful skin, like Collagen, cannot be absorbed through the skin in quantities that make any measurable effect! The secret in the industry is that product tests compare the product against using nothing on your skin! In all honesty, using anything on your skin, including olive oil, is temporarily going to make your skin look softer and less wrinkled!

In addition, the FDA zealously enforces their rules about drug claims. A drug is anything that changes the appearance or function of the body, which pretty much means that most cosmetic companies are making drug claims! This is a major reason why products don’t stay on the market for very long.

Herbs, essential oils and many natural oils are scientifically documented to have medicinal properties, such as comfrey helping with healing, but making a claim that these ingredients actually heal is a drug claim, and is banned!

Cosmetic companies only make money when you are a repeat customer, so they have to convince you that you need their product and you must keep using the product to maintain the benefits. An initial product launch creates excitement and lots of buying… but sales fall off as customers get disenchanted.  The manufacturer then replaces that product with something newer and better, to get you back as an excited customer, and the cycle repeats.


What should you buy?

So what should you do? Ignore advertising claims! The big companies spend more money on marketing than on R&D or the product itself! Choose a company that you believe you can trust, and then scrutinize their products, their claims and their ingredients. (I would never buy a body product today without reading the ingredient list first!) You need to decide what you like… what feels and smells the best to you.

If you want to look younger, 90% of that is health related, which doesn’t come in a bottle! You definitely don’t need to spend a lot of money, especially on cleansers! If you are going to buy an expensive product, choose a leave on product with a blend of cosmeceuticals, healing oils, vitamins, herbs or essential oils so that there is some longer lasting benefit.

You can see our face care products here, complete with ingredient listings Blue Feather Face Moisturizers  and our Cleansing Balm (which can be used as a Moisturizer as well).  We believe in simple and multi-purpose products, so I especially like our face oil and balm cleanser… they’re simple, travel well, and they are concentrated, so they are a good value. If you have any questions or would like to try a sample of something, just drop us a line!