As we breathe a sigh of relief that sweaty dog days of summer days are finally behind us, reality is beginning to set in that it's a matter of mere weeks before fall's inevitably cold, drying air creeps up on us. And as anyone with naturally dry skin knows well, the onset of cold-weather season — and subsequent time spent pent up in dry artificial — means it's time to enlist the help of an incredibly effective facial moisturizer. But finding a cream that truly hydrates parched skin and bolsters its ability to fight against future dryness isn't quite as simple as looking for the "dry skin" label on a jar.
"There are three main ingredient types to look for in a moisturizer: occlusive, humectant and emollient," explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Occlusive ingredients (like petrolatum or dimethicone) coat the skin with a protective layer to lock in hydration, while humectant ingredients (like glycerin) act like a sponge to pull in moisture. Emollients, like natural oils, smooth out the rough cracks between cells in the outer skin layer," he says.
According to Dr. Zeichner, the journey to soft, smooth, supple skin — especially in the cold, dry months — starts with this simple but crucial step of using an adequate moisturizer. "The skin has the ability to regulate itself to retain hydration so that it can stay healthy even during periods of cold, dry weather," he explains. "Moisturizers can help this process both by preventing loss of water across the skin and increasing the level of hydration directly."
With this criteria in mind, we tracked down 12 of the most hydrating and effective formulas on the market right now. Shop our picks, and a few of Dr. Zeichner's favorites, ahead.
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