What Your Moisturizer Must Contain


In This Article:

There are endless recommendations for the "best" moisturizers and latest must-have anti-aging ingredients. We’ve seen it all, product after product with astounding claims, and often even more astounding price tags. We want you only looking for formulas containing the most indispensable types of ingredients that research has clearly shown provide the most impressive results for all skin types.

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Must-Have Moisturizer Ingredients

In order to truly alleviate dry skin, your moisturizer needs to contain the ingredient categories extensive research has shown have the most remarkable benefits for skin. By any standard, the research is compelling and conclusive.

As we state often, there isn’t one or even 20 best ingredients for skin. Rather, there are dozens and dozens which is why we are going to describe the ingredients by category and provide a handful of specific examples. By no means are these the only ones; that’s what makes skincare so remarkable and regrettably so complicated—we are here to help you navigate the complexity.


Antioxidants play a uniquely important role when it comes to alleviating dry skin. Dry skin is often the result of the destructive effects of sun exposure (one more reason to load up on your daily broad-spectrum sunscreen) and other environmental factors. This slowly chips away at skin’s natural ability to retain moisture. As this damage accumulates, skin gradually loses its ability to bounce back, renew itself, and regain its smooth resilient surface.

Potent, stable antioxidants (and there are dozens and dozens) step in to help shield skin’s surface from further deterioration and defend against the effects of this environmental assault on the visible signs of aging. You can’t escape the environment, but you can help tame it.

For the best results, opt for a moisturizer formulated with multiple antioxidants to rejuvenate dry skin in numerous ways. As you can imagine here at Paula’s Choice Skincare, we love antioxidants and load all of our leave-on products with an array of the ones we find to have the best research about their effectiveness.

A few fascinating antioxidants: Green tea extract, grape extract, resveratrol, vitamin C, vitamin E, epigallocatechin-3 gallate, superoxide dismutase, ferulic acid, quercetin, willow herb extract, feverfew extract, and licorice extract.

Skin-Replenishing Ingredients

Skin-replenishing ingredients help enrich skin’s surface, drenching it with revitalizing hydration and keeping it there. This stunning benefit helps skin look and feel soft, smooth, and supple–the polar opposite of dry! For certain, these are a cornerstone of any moisturizer, but especially so for dry skin.

There are numerous skin-replenishing ingredients to consider, including hydration-boosting superstars hyaluronic acid, ceramides, sodium PCA, glycerin, glycerol, silicones, petrolatum, salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids.


Emollients are lubricating ingredients that thwart water loss and have beautiful softening, protective, and smoothing effects on skin. This is key in maintaining dry skin’s moisture and silky, radiant texture! Emollients may be fluid or thick in texture and include non-fragrant plant oils (never fragrant oils which can be a disaster for skin) along with shea butter, cocoa butter, fatty acids, borage oil, linoleic acid, oleic acid, coconut oil, evening primrose oil, sunflower oil, and mango butter.


And of course, during the day, your moisturizer should contain broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30+. You knew we were going to say that, right? All the moisturizers and anti-aging products in the world can’t keep up with the havoc unprotected sun exposure causes skin, even on a cloudy day. During daytime, the sun sees you even when you can’t see it.

Unprotected sun exposure continually hammers away at your skin, hindering its ability to hold moisture in and replenish the vital substances dry skin needs to not be dry. Make sure the label says "broad spectrum" and apply it liberally to ensure you’re getting adequate protection.

Packaging Matters

No matter how great a moisturizer’s formula is, jar packaging is always a deal breaker. As it turns out, most antioxidants and many other beneficial ingredients are sensitive to air and light. Jar packaging exposes the formula to these elements, causing them to break down and lose their effectiveness.

Check out examples of different types of airless/air-restrictive/opaque packaging that will help keep the beneficial ingredients potent and stable from Paula’s Choice Skincare moisturizers here. These formulas also contain a generous mix of the ingredients detailed above!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! Learn more at Shop Paula's Choice.

References for this information:

Molecules, August 2016, issue 9, page 1147
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, January 2016, issue 1, supplemental, S24-37
Journal of Dermatologic Science, June 2015, issue 3, pages 224-231
Journal of Physical Chemistry, March 2015, issue 10, pages 3988-3998
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2014, issue 6, pages 316-332
Skin Research and Technology, November 2014, issue 4, pages 409-415
Dermatology Research and Practice, February 2012, volume 2012, pages 1-4
Dermatologic Therapy, 2007;20(5):322–329
Clinical Dermatology, November-December 2013, pages 750-758
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2005, pages 17-34
Journal of Lipid Research, May 2002, volume 43, pages 794–804

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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