How to Choose the Right Moisturizer for Dry Skin: A Comprehensive Guide

  • October 11, 2023
  • 6 Minutes

When your skin starts to feel itchy and to look flaky, you know it’s dry. Dry skin, or xerosis, is a very common skin condition that happens when there’s a lack of adequate moisture. It usually makes your skin look dull or red, and it goes from being supple and plump to a rough texture that we feel we could use that rough patch as sandpaper. There is not just one factor that causes dry skin. Various factors can contribute to it, and finding the right moisturizer can be challenging. In this article, I will go over the different types of products in the market, comparing moisturizers and humectants (or hydrators) to understand how to choose the right product for dry skin.

A suitable moisturizer for dry skin is necessary to prevent parmesan-flake type skin. Environmental elements such as extreme weather, low humidity, and indoor heating can strip your skin of natural oils.

At the same time, lifestyle habits like long, hot showers and certain soaps can further worsen the dryness of your skin. A well-formulated moisturizer aids in restoring and maintaining your skin’s hydration levels by locking in moisture and providing a protective barrier against environmental aggressors and free radicals. Beyond hydration, a well-chosen moisturizer can also improve skin’s texture and diminish the appearance of fine lines, making you glow every day. The daily use of a good moisturizer can transform your dry, tight skin into a smoother, softer, and more elastic complexion.

dark skin with moisturizer on it
young woman applying moisturizer to her face
decorative picture resembling cracked dry skin in need of a good moisturizer<br />

Identifying Your Skin’s Needs

Understanding your skin type and specific needs is important when looking for the right moisturizer. Pay attention to how your skin feels throughout the day and after cleansing to assess the severity of your dryness and how much moisture your skin needs. If your skin feels tight and rough or shows visible flaking, you may need to look for a heavier, more emollient moisturizer. However, a lighter moisturizer will suffice if your skin feels slightly dry but not uncomfortable. The choice of moisturizer also depends on your skin type, so let’s start by that.

Understanding Different Skin Types

Skin is the largest organ in our body, and more often than not, we don’t pay enough attention to it; we don’t really try to understand it. Our skin is a complex multifactorial organ affected by external and internal factors. External factors like the environment and diet and internal factors like genetics combine to make our skin type. As external factors are controllable, we can make lifestyle changes that can help change our skin type over time. Yes, giving your body the necessary nutrients to fight dry skin is possible. In my article, From Flaky to Fabulous: Transform Your Dry Skin with These Superfoods, you can quickly learn how to incorporate these superfoods into your diet to help deeply hydrate your skin from within. I also share my family’s favorite skin-loving meals that take no time to make and will bring a smile around the table.


Skin types are typically divided into normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive. Some researchers also include acne-prone and mature skin, which, for the purpose of this article, we will only go into a little detail. Each of the main five skin types has their own set of distinct characteristics:

How To Determine My Skin Type?

  1. Normal Skin: This skin type hits the right spot – not too dry or oily. It has a smooth texture, healthy complexion, and no severe sensitivities. Pores are generally small, and the skin surface is neither greasy nor flaky. People with normal skin can still get periods where their skin gets drier or oilier depending on their diet and environment at the time.
  2. Dry Skin: Dry skin lacks the necessary level of sebum, our skin’s natural oil, and has insufficient lipids to retain moisture and build a protective shield against external influences. It can feel tight, especially after cleansing, and display roughness, visible flaking, redness, and more pronounced lines.
  3. Oily Skin: Oily skin is the contrary; it overproduces sebum, leading to an oily look with visible pores. This skin type is prone to blackheads and pimples, but it tends to age slower than other skin types, developing fewer wrinkles over time.
  4. Combination Skin: This skin type is characterized by varying conditions on different face areas. The forehead, nose, and chin (the T-zone) are typically oily, while the cheeks and other parts may be normal or dry. Pores tend to be larger in the T-zone and might experience more breakouts and blackheads there.
  5. Sensitive Skin: Sensitive skin is more prone to irritants and environmental stressors and can show symptoms of redness, burning, itching, or dryness. This skin type requires special care to avoid triggers that might irritate it.

Remember, your skin type can change over time due to age, climate, hormonal changes, and even lifestyle shifts. Make it a habit to be more self-aware of your skin and its particular needs.

picture of an aloe vera plant, with which fields of yarrow produces moisturizers
picture of a wet orange skin
decorative picture of a dripping flower

Difference between Moisturizers and Humectants

Now that you know the particulars of your skin, it’s time to find the ideal product to keep the moisture in your skin cells. A question that I get asked very often is the difference between moisturizers and humectants/hydrators.

Moisturizers (…) are oil-based ingredients such as petrolatum or mineral oil, and emollients like plant oils. They create a seal on the skin’s surface, preventing water from escaping. They also make the skin feel smoother and less dry,” says Perry Romanowski, cosmetic chemist and co-founder of The Beauty Brains. “Hydrators are ingredients called humectants, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid, that absorb water from the atmosphere or your skin and hold it in place.”

We can easily find thousands of different products in the market, from creams to balms and oils, ointments, toners, serums, and hydrators, but the truth is, most of them do the same thing. Most products on the market have both moisturizing and hydrating ingredients, so you can get a 2-for-1 with them.

How to Choose the Right Moisturizer or Humectant for Dry Skin

Now that we know the strategic differences between moisturizers and humectants, we can see that it’s not a battle between these two products; the battle is with them against dry skin. So don’t stress too much about the labels you find in products; focus more on the ingredients inside. Our friends from The Healthline developed a handy table to help understand which common ingredients belong to which group.

Ingredient Moisturizer or hydrator (humectant)
hyaluronic acid hydrator
glycerin hydrator
aloe hydrator
honey hydrator
nut or seed oil moisturizer
shea butter moisturizer
plant oils moisturizer
snail mucin hydrator
mineral oil moisturizer
lanolin moisturizer
lactic acid hydrator
citric acid hydrator
ceramide technically neither

It does not hurt to use both a humectant and a moisturizer. Just make sure that you do them in the proper steps:

  1. Hydrate first. Use humectants like hyaluronic acid that can hold 1000x its weight in water.
  2. Moisturize after. Plant oils help create a barrier and lock that moisture in your skin cells.

Or, if you are like me and live in a rush, get a product with both ingredients. This Rosegel & Mulberry infused Face Mask is packed with a powerful combination of natural ingredients to leave the skin feeling completely refreshed, smooth, and radiant. Infused with rose water, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, this mask provides deep hydration that helps to restore your skin’s natural moisture barrier.

Read Reviews

Rosegel & Mulberry

Hydrating Face Mask

This formula is also enriched with Mangosteen, Grape Juice Ferment, Camellia Flower Extract, Sakura Flower Extract, Moringa Extract and Mulberry Extract, all of which work together to ensures that the skin is getting the essential nutrients it needs to maintain its health and vitality.

What Can I Do If I Have Severely Dry Skin?

First and foremost, consult a skincare professional that can help guide you through the process of regenerating and moisturizing your skin. Also, dense, plant-based face oils can really make a difference when it comes to dry patches of skin. Son plant-based oils that I recommend for dry skin are:

  • Sesame Oil – It is rich in fatty acids, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid, which help to hydrate and soften the skin. The oil penetrates deeply into the skin, leaving it feeling smooth and supple.
  • Moringa Oil – An oil from the “Miracle Tree” that is lightweight and easily absorbed into the skin, making it an excellent moisturizer that helps to hydrate and nourish the skin. h
  • Safflower Oil – is lightweight and non-greasy, making it an ideal ingredient for oily or acne-prone skin. It can be used as a standalone oil or as an ingredient in skincare products like moisturizers, serums, and cleansers.

The natural, 100% plant-based product with all three amazing moisturizers is the Marigold & Moringa Night Treatment Oil. Formulated with natural plant superpowers – Marigold, Moringa Oil and Extract, Safflower Oil, Hibiscus, Sesame Oil, and Kombucha – it restores your skin’s natural glow as you sleep. A few drops of this soothing oil will take your evening routine to the next level without clogging your pores. Not only will your skin feel hydrated and nourished, but it will also look healthier and brighter.

Read Reviews

Marigold & Moringa

Night Treatment Oil

A few drops of this soothing oil will take your evening routine to the next level. Not only will your skin feel hydrated and nourished, it will look healthier and brighter.

Incorporating Moisturizer into Your Skincare Routine

Moisturizing is one of the steps in a well-structured skincare routine. Use gentle upward strokes, and don’t forget your neck. If using multiple skincare products, apply your moisturizer after serums and treatment products. For daytime, select a moisturizer with SPF or apply sunscreen over your moisturizer. Consider The Rose Gel & Mulberry Hydrating Face Mask at night for deep hydration.

While fighting the fight against dry skin, remember that we must also tackle climate change. Buy your products from companies that make products 100% organic and fair-trade, ethically sourcing their ingredients. You can take care of the world while you take care of yourself.


Can using both a humectant and a moisturizer be too much for my skin?

Using both a humectant and a moisturizer can be beneficial for dry skin, as they work together to lock in moisture. However, if your skin feels overwhelmed or greasy, consider using a product that combines both humectants and moisturizing ingredients.

I have sensitive skin. Can I still use products with humectants like hyaluronic acid?

Yes, many individuals with sensitive skin can safely use products with humectants like hyaluronic acid. But, as a good habit and rule of thumb, it's essential to do a patch test first and start with a lower concentration to ensure your skin doesn't react negatively.

How often should I apply moisturizer throughout the day for severely dry skin?

For severely dry skin, it's recommended to apply moisturizer at least twice a day, in the morning and evening. You may also consider reapplying a small amount during the day if your skin feels particularly dry.

Can I combine different types of moisturizers for my dry skin?

That depends on what you combine together, but yes combining different types of moisturizers can be effective for dry skin. For example, using a lightweight humectant serum followed by a more emollient moisturizer can provide deep hydration.

Are there any specific ingredients to avoid in moisturizers for dry skin?
People with dry skin should avoid products with harsh chemicals, alcohol, and fragrances, as these can further dehydrate the skin. Look for products with natural and nourishing ingredients instead.

Should I apply moisturizer before or after sunscreen in my skincare routine?
Apply moisturizer before sunscreen in your skincare routine. The moisturizer helps create a protective barrier on the skin, and then the sunscreen is applied as the final step to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.

About the Author

Souhela Ferrah
Souhela Ferrah

Researcher, mom and founder of Fields of Yarrow

Growing up in the south of France, Souhela Ferrah was surrounded by flower fields. As the daughter of a pharmacist, and with her educational background as chemist, she grew up with a strong affinity with nature and understood its power very well. Thanks to her family, her hometown and her travels around the world, she found inspiration in natural healers, herbalists and nature itself. And this was enough to motivate her to start the awarded honest skincare brand, Fields of Yarrow.
Tags: dry skin / hydrating / hydration / moisturize / moisturizers / skincare routine

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