Why Should You Moisturize?

A close crop of an Asian femme person dripping face oil from a dropper into an outstretched hand

I’ve written before about how I only used to moisturize before a date. I had no concept of what moisturizing could do beyond getting my legs to look shiny. In reality, my itchy, uncomfortable scratched-up legs were actually just super dry and really needed to be moisturized.

But what is moisturizer? And how does skin get so dry to begin with?

Moisturizing is essentially the practice of rubbing oils (fats) onto your skin. In the case of body lotions, the oils are presented in a palatable, quick-absorbing form because they have been blended with water, but you could just as soon put olive oil on your skin and in fact many people, including Tara’s Italian great-grandmother, do/did. You do need water for complete moisturization, but more on that in a bit.

Skin gets dry for a lot of reasons, mostly environmental. If you live in a dry climate, or if you’re in an apartment with radiant heat in the winter, you’ll notice the effects of this dryness on your skin. Chapped lips, dry hands, etc., are all more common in the winter (or in the desert) for this reason.

Skin has a certain amount of its own oil in quantities that vary from person to person, but most people can benefit from a moisturizer, because of what moisturizer actually does beyond the silky, shiny effect. (I’m not knocking it by the way, you should definitely strive for glow if it makes you feel good, and I would argue that for me, it really does.)

Moisturize for Beauty Comfort

Moisturized skin is comfortable skin, and that’s because of a couple of key technical things that moisturizing does:

  1. It reconditions skin by improving skin cell turnover
  2. It balances skin’s natural oils (called “sebum”), making the oil less sticky, thick, and prone to clogs
  3. It helps skin rebound more quickly from environmental stressors like pollution, heat or cold, and the sun

Skin that is conditioned and elastic and resilient just feels really good. And by the way, this applies to all skin types. Oily skin often needs moisture just as much as dry skin does, but for a different reason. For oily skin, adding more oil is about getting your skin’s oil production to balance itself, stop overcompensating, thin out a bit, and stop clogging pores.

Clogged skin is a reality of having skin. But in our effort to help you get to your most comfortable skin, we’re aiming for less irritation and less inflamation.

What Is a Moisturizer? What Is the Best Moisturizer?

We’ve already established that moisturizers are fats, and in our case, they are exclusively plant fats, but there is a little bit more to it. Most people confuse hydration with moisture, and for obvious reasons; both seem to be about the same end goal—less dryness.

Moisturizers, though, are “occlusives.” They would more accurately be called “moisture seals” or “hydration locks.” By themselves, moisturizers do not offer “complete” moisture (so confusing, but bear with me). They need something water-based to first deliver hydration to the skin. That’s why it’s super important to use a toner before you moisturize or apply body oil to damp skin. The toner adds actual hydration to your skin. Once your skin has been hydrated by the toner, the moisturizer can lock it in, preventing evaporation and giving your skin’s natural oils a fighting chance against the elements.

So, if water based lotions provide you with the hydrator and the occlusive (water and oil), why are water-based lotions bad? They’re not exactly, it’s just that having them as two different steps is better. ​​Oils are fat-loving and mix better with your skin’s sebum. This means they can penetrate more deeply and hold moisture under the surface. In turn, this causes a reconditioning of your skin which over time means you don’t need the products all the time to maintain that state of moisture. With lotion, it’s a short-lived solution. It feels good and does the job but it isn’t working with your skin to improve how it functions. We often call this the “hand lotion addiction” because you have to keep coming back to it. It’s the difference between a “treatment” and “cure.”

That being said, we believe that there is no wrong way to moisturize, especially once you’ve reframed moisturizing as a practice of seeking comfort. We think the most effective way is like this—cleanse, tone, moisturize—but any time you apply moisture to your skin you are doing something to benefit it, especially if you use a moisturizer that is nutrient dense.

Our Preferred Plant Fats (Moisturizers)

Most of our plant oils are high in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that contributes to the health of your skin’s sebum. A deficiency in linoleic acid may cause skin to produce dry and sticky sebum (read: blackheads and clogged pores). Linoleic acid conditions the skin making the sebum more fluid, free flowing and smooth. It is also the essential building block for ceramides, which is a fancy word for lipids, which is a fancy word for fats. Fats are moisturizers that keep water (hydration) in and irritants out. Thus, when you’ve got a lot of conditioning fats in your skin, it’s less likely to wrinkle because it’s more elastic. And again, that tends to feel more comfortable, too.

Moist. Hate or Love?

Now to address a highly important question: Why does everyone hate the word “moist”?

As far as I can discern, some time in the early 2010s, a bunch of marketers and social media people launched a smear campaign against the word for the purposes of… clickbait? follows? attention-grabs? I don’t really know how or why it came into the public consciousness, but dislike for “moist,” took the whole internet by storm, because, of course it did, and it even spurred some social-psych studies about why people find it so offensive. The study found that hearing the word moist does one of two things to people: 1) they find the sound of the word upsetting; 2) it conjures bodily fluids in a way that is not enticing. One person even reported an aversion because it made them think of sex and vaginas. Not super, um, feminist or body positive, eh?

I can’t deny someone the right to their own personal dislikes on any grounds, really, but especially not to something that just sounds bad to the ear—in the way that loud chewing really bothers me and I have no rationale for it other than that I hate it. But after thinking long and hard about this, I’ve decided to start liking the word “moist” again, in all its connotative glory. For one thing, I never thought twice about it until everyone else started saying it was awful. And for another, I really like cake. In fact, my favorite kind of cake is a moist one. Not a tender one, or a soft one, but the kind of cake that is glistening with sticky syrup that’s been applied after baking. Yeah, moist.

I’m going to keep using the word, and perhaps a 2022 goal of mine will be to casually drop it into conversation from time to time. I’m going to vow to keep my face and cakes moist for the sake of pure joy and pleasure and maybe comfort, too. Like an old sweater, moist has its certain nostalgias. And to the haters, I will say, eat your beautifully moist hearts out.


Written By Vera Kachouh

Tags: cheat sheet