Do moisturisers actually work?

Helen Mirren

Most of us have been taught the importance of moisturising our skin regularly from an early age. And a face cream or two, has always been a part of one’s beauty arsenal. But recently, Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren made headlines for her suggestion that they don’t really work. The 72-year-old, who is a brand ambassador for a beauty brand said at a panel discussion, “I’m an eternal optimist — I know that when I put my moisturiser on it probably does f*ck all, but it just makes me feel better. I’ve always said to L’Oreal as well that I will only do what makes me feel better.” Her comments naturally stirs up a debate on how efficient moisturisers really are.

A feel good factor

Dr Geeta Fazalbhoy, Dermatologist and Founder of Skin N You clinic, feels this is a controversial subject. “Moisturisers provide a feel good factor, they temporarily plump the skin and reduce the fine lines and wrinkles and prepare a better skin canvas to work with. They do not cause any change in the skin unless active ingredients like retinol, vitamin C and E, stem cells or hyaluronic acid is added to them. Regular moisturisers just help to hydrate. Also, hydration is internal and external. If we drink enough water and avoid dehydrating agents like caffeine, the skin looks better. But yes, I do still advise a moisturiser according to one’s skin type,” she adds.

Prevents skin from drying out

Dr Mohan Thomas, Senior cosmetic surgeon, Cosmetic Surgery institute, totally disagrees with Mirren. Rather he feels they are an essential, especially for those with dry skin. “Moisturisers supply a little bit of water to the skin and contain a greasy substance that holds it in. In fact, if greasiness weren’t a problem, we might all go back to using what our grandparents used — 100 per cent white petroleum jelly. One reason for the proliferation of moisturisers is the continuing search for a mix of ingredients that holds in water like petroleum jelly but feels nicer on the skin. Hydration of the skin achieved from moisturiser only lasts for a short period. Regular use of such cosmetics at regular intervals improves the skin by keeping it healthy. The basic function of moisturisers is to help treat your skin when it’s dry and prevent it from drying out again. It does this, by holding water in the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin. Not moisturising the skin causes dryness which when continued can develop cracks in the skin. These changes also cause early signs of ageing in the skin,” he warns.

Look for key ingredients

Hydration is not just about aesthetics, it is an important part of skin care, anti-ageing and skin health, explains Dr Malavika Kohli, Dermatologist. “It improves the skin barrier and skin function. When it comes to moisturisers, one should look for hyaluronic acid, ceramides, phospholipids, squalene, shea butter, kokum butter, zinc, and vitamin E. Matrixyl and copper peptides act on collagen synthesis and reduce fine lines and wrinkles on face and under eyes. These help in specialised skin care,” she says.