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Hydrate the right way: how to choose moisturiser by skin type

January 1 | 5 minute read

Best Moisturisers For Different Skin Types Hero 16x9

Words by Darcy Brown

Originally published on | April 1

We place a confident bet that you use a moisturiser daily or at least have one sitting in your bathroom cupboard.

Before you ask, we aren't psychic; it's simply a universally accepted commitment that skincare newbies, right through to seven-step maestros, make to their self-care routine, no questions asked.

With so many of us in pursuit of a bouncy, glowing complexion, it's easy to be led astray by taking product recommendations from your friends or favourite influencers or not giving it much thought at all and opting for the easiest, most accessible choice (no judgements here). But no two moisturisers are made the same, and what is right for someone with dry skin might not be the best choice if you have oily skin. We believe that if you use just one product (aside from a cleanser, or SPF, of course), make it a moisturiser, but the catch is ensuring it is the right one!

So come with us to skin school (it’s fun, we promise) and discover the importance of choosing the correct formula and what to look for depending on your skin type.

Choosing the right type of moisturiser for you

Looking for the right formula for your skin type is essential when choosing your moisturiser. Use the wrong one, and that train you boarded towards happy skin will quickly divert to lesser than desirable places on your skin's travel list. Possible destinations? Breakout town, irritation station or a total U-turn toward even drier skin than before. But staying on the right track is easy when you know what you are putting on your skin. Ready to have your mind blown? There are actually three different classifications of moisturisers: humectants, emollients and occlusives. Each formula has different levels and blends of each, and knowing about these will equip you with the tools to determine how the moisturiser will feel and if it is likely to suit your skin type.


Humectants are ingredients that attract moisture. When used in skincare, they draw water molecules from the air, serve them straight to your skin in a lightweight style, and hold it there for a serious hydration hit. Some A-list skincare ingredients that fall into the humectant category include hyaluronic acid, glycerin and aloe vera.


Richer in weight, emollients work to replenish the skin's condition by nurturing its barrier and helping it hold on to natural moisture. They can come in butters, oils and gels and spread out on the skin before working their magic towards a softer look and feel. The most recognisable emollients include ceramides, shea butter, squalane and lipids.


Occlusives are the thickest moisturising agents of the three. They create a barrier between your skin and the atmosphere, reducing water loss from the skin and keeping external aggressors away. The most familiar example is petroleum jelly, which can be used in moisture-locking skincare techniques like slugging.

Now that we've broken the beauty jargon, let's find your perfect match. Paying close attention to your skin type and concerns will help determine the weight of your moisturiser and the ingredients to keep on your radar.

Oily skin

The tell-tale signs you have oily skin? You might be prone to breakouts, acne or a midday shine. But it is important not to let these concerns lure you into skipping out on moisturiser – keeping skin hydrated no matter your skin type is essential. The goal is simple, nourish the skin without clogging pores, and these types of moisturisers will help you do just that.

Best moisturiser types for oily skin:

A lightweight or gel-like formula is a clever choice if your skin is prone to oil, as heavier formulas can further clog pores and leave skin feeling greasy. They absorb quickly into the skin and are usually labelled as free from oils and non-comedogenic (aka, a no-clog zone). A humectant like hyaluronic acid is an excellent ingredient choice for oily skin as it will treat your skin to a hydration hit without leaving any residue behind. Plus, it will help your skin regulate oil production as it won’t be overcompensating to hydrate itself. Balanced skin awaits.

Balanced skin

Normal skin, lucky you! Your skin is behaving itself with controlled oil production and little dry patches in sight. But you are still invited to the moisturising party. In fact, your skin could benefit from the moisture boost, too; it’s the bridge between good to great skin! The right moisturiser will ensure your skin barrier is strong and can stand up to environmental aggressors like pollution and weather changes, all while fueling a radiant glow.

Best moisturiser types for balanced/normal skin:

Opting for a medium-weight cream will work wonders on balanced skin. Emollient ingredients like shea butter will nourish the skin and strengthen the skin barrier (making weather changes or days in the city less likely to disrupt the harmony in your skin). The moisture lockdown achieved will hydrate the complexion, which will treat you to a new-found glow and can even plump out and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Dry skin

If you have dry skin, we are sure you already know that moisturising is your skincare routine's most important step. But dry patches and flaking aren't the only signs your skin lacks hydration. The skin may feel tight around the nose and forehead; fine lines appear more apparent, or your complexion duller than usual. The right moisturiser should feel like a big glass of water for the skin and transform your face from dull, sensitive and dry to soft, supple, and radiant.

Best moisturiser types for dry skin:

 Dry skin produces less natural oils, so replacing them with a rich formula is the key to restoring balance to your skin. Ceramides are natural fats found in the skin that work to retain moisture. Using emollients like ceramides or other fats will relieve dry skin by reducing moisture loss, increasing hydration, and improving the skin barrier's function. You can also turn to formulas that blend the emollient with a humectant to draw in extra moisture before locking it in place. If your skin is extremely dry and you tend to experience chapped, cracked or flaking skin, you may benefit from using heavier occlusive formulas to soothe the area and provide further barrier protection.

Combination skin

Oily T-zone paired with dry cheeks? Yes, it's possible, and this skin concern likely falls under the combination skin category. Choosing the right moisturiser requires a little extra thought, as different areas of the face will require specific types of attention. The challenge is to find a product that is effective enough to treat dry areas but is not too heavy for the T-zone.

Best moisturiser types for combination skin:

A light to medium weight consistency formula, like a gel or lotion, would be great for combination skin as it will hydrate the face without leaving any pore-clogging residue behind. An emollient formula will nourish dry parts of the face, but be sure to choose an oil-free option. Pairing it with a humectant like hyaluronic acid will give your skin the moisture it needs to ensure it functions best and regulates oil production.

Related topics and brand tags

MoisturiserSkin careSunscreenDry skinNormal skin

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