Best Skin Moisturizer Application Practices: Find it Again Friday

best skin moisturizerDuring the winter dry months, we commonly hear at the dermatology practice :

“I moisturize daily but still have dry skin. Am I doing something wrong or should I be using a different moisturizer?”

The answer to this question depends on how you use your moisturizer and the ingredients in your moisturizer. Patients become even more distressed as their dry skin develops into eczema and other dry skin conditions.  To address these questions, Dr. Cynthia Bailey details the best skin moisturizer practices in her blog post: How to Use Moisturizers Correctly to Treat Dry Skin. However, to treat dry skin you must first understand what causes dry skin.

The Causes of Dry Skin

There are various reasons for dry skin, ranging from environmental factors to genetics.

  • Environment: Dry and low humidity climates “pull” the water out of your skin, resulting in dry skin and chapping.
  • Harsh Products: Soaps and solvents remove not only dirt but also your skin’s natural oils, damaging your top layer of skin cells.
  • Hot Water: This has a similar effect to how harsh products cause dry skin.
  • Age: Our skin produces less oils as we age, making us more prone to dry skin.
  • Genetics: You were born with it, and may have a family history of asthma, eczema, or hay fever.

No matter the reason, to have a healthy skin barrier requires the proper hydration. Moisturizers are vital to your skin barrier health, but the application of moisturizers and other skin care practices are just as important, as we will explain below.

What are the Best Skin Moisturizer Practices?

1. Bathing Methods

Bathing is part of your daily routine for hygiene and skin health. However, there are bathing practices that damage your skin barrier.

  • Water Temperature: As discussed earlier, steamy or hot water strips the top layer of your skin of its natural oils leading to dry or inflamed skin. Bathing in lukewarm water prevents – and even heals – dry skin.
  • Over-soaping: Soap is designed to remove grease and oil, so try to minimize its use to the oily areas of the skin. These areas include: face, armpits, buttocks, groin, and feet.
  • Soap Strength: While some skin conditions require medicated or harsh soaps, try to use only mild soaps to cleanse your skin. Mild soaps should have excess alkali removed, some level of glycerin, and be gentle enough for even sensitive skin. Dr. Bailey’s favorite mild soaps with these qualities are: Toleriane Cleanser and Naturally Best Bar Soap for Dry Skin.

naturally best bar soapBest facial skin cleanser for winter Toleriane

 2. Moisturizing Methods

A healthy skin barrier consists of hydrated skin: skin layers with a mixture of water and oil. Oil helps hydrate the skin by trapping water into its layers and protecting it from harmful substances or evaporation. Moisturizer aids in providing additional oils or maintaining the skin’s current oils. In order for moisturizers to be useful, you must be mindful of how they apply their moisturizers.

  • Apply moisturizers three minutes after bathing or cleansing. While bathing, your skin absorbs water but will be prone to evaporation after you towel off to dry. It is essential to apply a thin layer of moisturizer or lotion to your skin within three minutes after toweling off to dry.
  • Moisturizer ingredients. Rich and deeply moisturizing ingredients are necessary to heal dry or damaged skin. Some examples include:
    • Pure oils: Jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc.
    • Butters: Shea butter or cocoa butter

Look for high oil ointments such as aquaphor, bag balm, or vaseline jelly with these moisturizing ingredients. Also, bland creams without fragrances are useful for repairing damaged skin. Some of these include: Vanicream, Eucerin Cream, Cetaphil Cream, and Nivea Cream.

Dermatologist recommended vanicream for winter skin care buy Bag Balm 1 oz

3. Best Moisturizer Products

Dr. Bailey’s favorite moisturizers have combination of all the ingredients discussed above and sell at affordable prices. In her practice and her daily skin care routine, Dr Bailey uses her All Natural Face and Body Butter Cream or All Natural Face, Hand, and Body Lotion (hairy or oily skin types). These ultra rich and healing moisturizers are deeply moisturizing and do not leave your skin feeling oily.

Natural Face and Body Butter Cream All Natural Face, Hand and Body Lotion

The most common area for dry skin is your hands, which are washed constantly throughout your day. It is important to moisturize your hands multiple times a day and Dr. Bailey’s Dry Hand Skin Repair Kit covers the basics for daily dry skin hand care. It includes a non-drying soap and cotton gloves to use with a rich hand cream or ointment.

best dry hand skin care products to heal chapped skin

If you would like a more thorough discussion on the best skin moisturizer practices, read Dr. Bailey’s original blog post: How to Use Moisturizers Correctly to Treat Dry Skin.


If you have found these best skin moisturizer practices tips helpful, please show your thanks by commenting on, sharing, “liking,” Google+, tweeting, and “pinning,” using the social sharing buttons above and below this blog post with friends and family. 

Sincerely, Dr. Bailey Skin Care Team

Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Doable/amanaimages/Corbis


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4 Responses to “Best Skin Moisturizer Application Practices: Find it Again Friday”

  1. Stella February 22, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    I love to read your blogs! Thank you for all the information you provide for us!

    I have an issue with how to apply moisturizer too…now my question is, how can you do this when you also have to apply serums like Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C?? By the time you put the moisturizer on, your skin will already be dry.

    I like to do this tip mostly with oils, I mix my own like Extra virgin, coconut, argan, jojoba and grapeseed, put them in a spritz bottle and after I wash my face I leave it damp and put some oil from this combination…however that would mean not applying the serums for that day….

    Also in regards with oils and moisturisers, do we put oils first, and if we do…does the moisturizer penetrate into the skin due to the oil I have applied before ?

    I really hope I can get these questions answered….I have been wanting to know this for a long time!


  2. Kim White February 28, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Thanks for the awesome information! Especially the info about getting moisturizer on your body within 3 minutes after showering. Good to know!

  3. Cynthia Bailey March 1, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Stella, these are good questions and exactly the ones I like to think about. There are no exact right or wrong answers which leaves us to figure this out on a case by case basis. I approach that with the overriding concept that works best depends on what is layered. If you read into my writings in my posts you will see that I layer water based to more occlusive products and finish w/ mineral sunscreen then mineral makeup if applied. Based on that principle I figure out how to layer products for my patients. In my practice I tell patients to focus on the end result and experiment. There are no good studies to guide so it’s at-home experimentation that’s required.

    I like your spritz with oil, that’s a nice way to disperse a thin layer of potentially more occlusive ingredients. I also love oils applied to the skin. They are one of the “actives” in a moisturizer.

    Thus, with your example, I would apply the hyaluronic acid (which is similar to using the Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy in my routine which has extraordinary levels of green tea plus a ton of hyaluronic acid)and/or vitamin c right after washing. I let that dry for a few seconds or so depending on a person’s time and then layer a more occlusive product. In my routine that layer is the vitamin C because that product contains dimethicone which is more occlusive. Remember, the skin is not entirely dry after each layer because the first product has trapped some water ideally. I have each subsequent layer lightly applied over so as hopefully not to “lift off” the preceding layer. Again, there are no studies to guide us so we have to try to figure this out as best we can. I let each layer sit for a few seconds or so and then finally layer of moisturizer is lightly rubbed onto the skin. Products slowly absorb into the skin over time and do not need to be rubbed vigorously to do that.

    After the moisturizer step, I recommend doing something for a few minutes to let the layers of product dry before applying sunscreen. Your spritz for the moisturizer step would be a very lovely light application that would not unseat any of the previously layered serum type products. Again, another vagary to this whole skin care routine process is that there is no hard and fast definition of a “serum”. You will find products of varying consistency labeled as such. In my routine, the two product I mentioned are lighter and less occlusive than the moisturizers so they go on first. Most serum type products fit in that description.

    I hope that helps, I know it is not a specific answer guided by science, but to my knowledge there is none to help as it would have to study each specific product layered with regard to skin binding and absorption. Stella, I think many of my readers would really like to see this answer and might miss it here in the comments section of this particular post so I am going to write an Ask Dr. Bailey post based on it. Thank you for your excellent question!

  4. Stella March 2, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    What an excellent answer Dr. Bailey, thank you so much! I will continue to follow this post, it is a very great idea to have a an ‘own post’. I am sure that many many people have the same concerns as myself! I always knew that serums and light based products go in first…but I was finding it a little unsure about which ones go first when it comes to Hyaluronic Acid OR vitamin c serum.. I was using vitamin c serum first…but I just realized that Hyaluronic acid works better if the face is slightly damp. If I put in the Vitamin C Serum first, I DO have to make my face a bit damp AGAIN, in order to layer hyaluronic acid serum…that MIGHT wash off the Vit C Serum..
    If I do not damp my face, and layer Hyaluronic Acid ON TOP of vitamin c serum my skin feels a bit sticky… So it makes sense to swap them.

    I have some trouble understanding whether to use the spritz oils FIRST before moisturizer, or vice versa, oils after….I have read somewhere that some oils go FIRST before moisturizer and some oils go on top of moisturizer…but I really do not know which oils go when.

    The spritz oils work best when face is damp, so I do like to allow a day or two WITHOUT any serums so as to be able to use these oils on wet face. This end result is so HYDRATING, Moisture-sealed skin, very healthy looking :)

    Again thank you for your answer, I really do like to experiment ! Your blogs are really interesting , thanks to you I found the best cleanser out there, and my skin loves it so much! I am talking about the Toleraine. I cannot live without it..otherwise my skin gets all flaky . I did try other La Roche Posay cleansers, there is another gentle face wash one, but it still dries my skin so I switched to Toleraine again.

    Best to you