How To Pick The Best Moisturiser For Your Skin

Step into any Sephora, Watsons or even NTUC Fairprice and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking the right moisturiser. Aside from locking in water in your skin, moisturisers can also help to temporarily improve your skin barrier function. Here are some tips from Dr Tey Hong Liang, consultant dermatologist at the National Skin Centre on how to buy one that suits you.


Most moisturisers contain a combination of ingredients that smoothen the skin (emollients), keep it moist by absorbing water from the air (humectants) and form a layer on the skin that prevents water loss (occlusives).

Make your choice based on your skin type, age and specific concerns such as acne or itch.

Those with eczema can look for products with moisturising ingredients such as paraffin, glycerin and ceramides as well as those which are acidic – having a pH level of about 5 to 5.5 – which matches that of the skin, said Dr Tey.

A product with a high concentration of ceramides – a fatty component of the walls of skin-surface cells – is favoured but is likely to cost more, he added.

Dr Gavin Ong, a dermatologist at The Skin Specialist in Paragon shopping centre, said: “The more premium (also more effective) moisturisers also contain additional ingredients such as ceramides.”

Brands that specialise in skin care products for eczema patients make better moisturisers than the run-of-the-mill brands, he said.

Some products for eczema patients have added ingredients.

An eczema balm – its base formula was first designed and created by Dr Tey in 2011 – contains ceramides to moisturise, and menthol to relieve itch. It was launched at Watsons and OG in January.

There are also skin moisturisers that contain dexpanthenol, which has wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to reducing itch, said Dr Eileen Tan, a dermatologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.


Expensive products are not necessarily superior. Also, if the product costs a lot, a patient may apply too little of it, said Dr Tey.

A moisturiser is only as good as the amount you use, he added.

Creams containing fragrances and many botanicals may raise the risk of getting contact dermatitis, a skin rash caused when an irritant substance touches the skin.

Those with skin conditions that require regular use of moisturisers should look for products that do not block skin pores and are fragrance-free.

The products should not contain parabens – preservatives often used in cosmetics – and other ingredients like those for anti-ageing or whitening purposes, said Dr Ong. “The most common skin reaction to moisturisers comes from the fragrances they contain.”

Dr Tey said those with eczema or sensitive skin have to be aware that they are more prone to developing an irritation and allergic reaction to the creams they apply.

If using a new cream, they should first apply it over a small area to see if it causes any irritation.

If there are no problems, they can then gradually use it over bigger areas over a few days.


This is the feeling you get upon applying a cream or lotion.

Ask yourself if you like the feel of the product upon application and whether it requires much effort to rub it into the skin, suggested Dr Tey. “An uncomfortable and sticky feel tends to deter people from using the product frequently.” Eczema sufferers should also check if a product causes a stinging sensation when applied over their lesions.

A good-to-use moisturiser is one that leaves a durable moisturising layer on the skin but does not impart an undesirable sticky feel when applied, he said.

Image: Chris Elwell /
Text: Joyce Teo / The Straits Times April 26, 2016
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Interested in more skincare tips? Check out Beauty Ed Cynthia Chew’s Top 5 Picks — Hydration and How To Have Clear Skin: Beauty Tips From Korean Model Hwang Seon.

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