Moisturizers prevent and treat dry skin, but that’s not all they do. Moisturizers can protect sensitive skin, improve skin tone and texture, and mask imperfections. There are plenty of moisturizers available. Here’s help finding the right moisturizer for you.

Before you add a few wrinkles to your brow trying to choose among the vast majority of moisturizers available on the market, it might be helpful to learn more about the benefits of various types of moisturizers and what kind of protection you need, specifically.

On the most basic level, moisturizers hold water in the outermost layer of skin. They also act as a temporary barrier. Many moisturizers contain some combination of humectants, emollients and other ingredients.
Humectants draw water from the air to your skin and help keep it there. Urea, glycerin and alpha hydroxy acids are examples of humectants.
Emollients sink into the spaces between skins cells where they help replace lipids, or fats, which make skin, look healthier. Emollients are oils from plants, minerals or animals. Shea butter, cocoa butter, petrolatum, cholesterol and silicones are all emollients.

• Normal skin. Normal skin is neither too dry nor too oily. To maintain this natural moisture balance, use a water-based moisturizer that has a light, nongreasy feel. These moisturizers often contain lightweight oils or silicone-derived ingredients, such as cyclomethicone.
• Dry skin. To restore moisture to dry skin, choose a heavier, oil-based moisturizer that contains ingredients that help keep your skin hydrated. For very dry and cracked skin, petrolatum-based products are preferable.
• Oily skin. Oily skin is prone to acne and breakouts. A light moisturizer can also help protect your skin after washing. Choose a water-based product that’s labeled noncomedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores.
• Sensitive skin. Sensitive skin is susceptible to skin irritations, redness, itching or rashes. Look for a moisturizer that contains soothing ingredients, such as chamomile or aloe, and doesn’t contain potential allergens, such as fragrances or dyes.
• Mature skin. To keep your skin soft and well hydrated, choose an oil-based moisturizer that contains petrolatum as the base, along with antioxidants or alpha hydroxy acids to combat wrinkles. These ingredients help hold in moisture and prevent flaky, scaly skin.
• Acne-prone skin. Look for an oil-free product that is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t block your pores. Some moisturizers also contain anti-bacterials which will help prevent breakouts

Getting the most out of your moisturizer
• Be willing to experiment. Find a moisturizer that fits your skin type and makes your skin look and feel soft.
• Protect yourself from the sun. You may choose a moisturizer that contains sunscreen, which performs double duty by both hydrating your skin and protecting it from sun damage.
• Apply moisturizers immediately after bathing. Pat or blot your skin until it’s just barely dry, then apply moisturizer immediately to help trap water in the surface cells.
• Apply moisturizer to your hands and body as needed. Apply after bathing or showering, before exercising outdoors in cold weather, and every time you wash your hands. Although often ignored, your hands get more exposure to irritants than do any other part of your body.
• Use heavy creams appropriately. Don’t use any heavy creams on your face unless you have excessive dryness. You can use heavy, oil-based creams on your legs, hands and feet because those areas tend to be drier.
Obviously, if it itches, burns, gives you a rash or changes your skin in any way except to make it more moist, suppler and younger-looking, don’t buy it.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search to one category of moisturizer, you still have to decide which of the many products available in that category will work best for you. Reviews may be helpful, but only you have your skin, so your best bet is to try a few out for yourself.