Buyers Guide to Moisturizers

People of all skin types and tones can benefit from using a quality moisturizer to maintain a strong skin barrier and protect their skin from dryness, redness, irritation, and even the formation of wrinkles. But with so many options up on the shelves promising the same results, it can be challenging to figure out which ones are worth your buck or worthy of your skin!

The Skin Report is a podcast created to educate listeners on methods to improve skin health for people of all ethnicities and ages. On this episode, host Dr. Sethi takes listeners on a deep dive into moisturizers. She addresses some common questions surrounding moisturizers, like “the best moisturizer for different skin types, when to use moisturizer, and how to use moisturizers with serums. The episode also breaks down the two main categories of moisturizers – lipid-based or water-based – and teaches listeners how to tell the difference. Finally, she discusses some popular moisturizers, their pros and cons, and whether she recommends them. So if you’re curious about drugstore moisturizers and higher-end products or want to choose the best moisturizer for your skin, tune in to learn more!

As the founder of RenewMD Beauty Medical Spas and a woman of color, Dr. Sethi shares her experience and knowledge in skincare and maintaining a healthy moisture barrier. So expand your skincare knowledge and learn how to keep your skin healthy and happy with this enriching episode!

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This transcript was exported on July 8, 2023 -view latest version here.

Skin care can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether it’s finding the right products, ingredients, or treatments. There’s a lot out there, but not always for people of African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and East and South Asian descent. That’s why it set out to educate myself and others so that we can all feel beautiful in our skin.

Hello and welcome back to the Skin Report. I’m Dr. Simran Sethi, an internal medicine doctor, mom of three and CEO and founder of Skin by Dr. Sethi and Renew MD Medical Spas.

On today’s episode, I want to talk on a product we put on every day, moisturizer. No matter your skin tone and type, everyone can benefit from moisturizer, and I’ll let you know which one of our favorites are worth it or not.

Moisturizing your skin is imperative to maintaining a strong skin barrier, preventing irritation, redness, dryness, and even the formation of wrinkles. However, for something pretty basic, the right product can be confusing to find. There are so many items on the shelves, all at different price points, different ingredients, promising the same thing. Before I examine favorite moisturizers like CeraVe and Olay, I want to answer some of the most common questions I get on this topic, so let’s get into it.

The first and most common question I hear is, what is the best moisturizer for my skin type? First, we need to look at the two main ingredients of moisturizers, lipid-based, or water-based moisturizer. How can you tell the difference? Lipid-based products usually have oils like coconut or almond oil or lipids like glyco or phospholipids listed first. Phospholipids are similar to the lipids naturally found in our skin barrier. Some products have mineral oil, which is not the best kind of lipid to predominantly find in your voice moisturizer. Mineral oil is used in cheaper cosmetics as it’s cheaper to source. For those with dry or mature skin, you should go for a lipid-based moisturizer.

When it comes to water-based moisturizers, the first ingredient listed should be, you guessed it, water. Other ingredients commonly found in water-based products are humectants, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, sorbitol, and/or ceramide. These type of ingredients hold water in the epidermis or our most superficial skin layer. If you have normal combination or oily skin, water-based moisturizers are the best.

Now, if you have oily skin, I know what you’re thinking. Do I really need moisturizer? Especially in the summer? The answer is yes. Our body is like a simmering pot on a stove and we are constantly losing moisture to the air. If you have oily skin, this is still happening, but without moisturizer, your skin thinks that it has to produce even more oil to protect the skin barrier from drying out, which will just promote clogged pores. By wearing a water-based moisturizer, there will be enough moisture on the skin to down-regulate excess oil production and clogged pores. Now let’s see how to incorporate moisturizer into your routine if you use a serum, with the changing seasons and more.

Another common question I frequently get is, do I still need to moisturize if I also use a serum? The simple answer is yes. A serum should be a highly concentrated active ingredient like vitamin C or E that is able to deliver benefits to the skin. The formulation literally does not and should not have enough room to contain other ingredients for moisturizing. This is a good time to mention why I don’t like the one product does it all concept. There are so many products on the market that are combinations of skincare, sunblock, or even makeup. While this sounds convenient, it’s also too good to be true. A jack of all trades is a master of none. Our skin, just like the rest of the body, needs a certain dose of active ingredients to experience the benefits of that ingredient. If you wanted to get more nutrients into your diet, you wouldn’t want to eat just one lettuce leaf compared to a full salad.

In combination products, you are diluting the capabilities of all the ingredients and essentially not experiencing any benefits. For example, products that have mineral sunscreen ingredients like zinc and titanium oxide are formulated to sit on top of the skin to create a barrier that protects us from the harmful effects of the sun. However, when it comes to active ingredients like vitamin C andE, we want them to penetrate deeper to help support the collagen production happening in our dermis. Yet, how can vitamin C, for example, reach the dermis when the mineral sunscreen is designed to sit on top of our skin? The answer is, that it doesn’t. As we can see, different products need to reach different layers of the skin to be effective.

So when it comes to serums, moisturizers, and sunscreens, how should we apply them? After cleansing your skin, I suggest applying your serum as that needs to reach the deeper layer of the skin. From there, I would apply your moisturizer. This goes for both day and night. In my skincare line, every skin system also has a serum followed by a moisturizer or hyaluronic acid, as a last step before sunblock application. The hyaluronic acid serum acts as a moisturizer with its high concentration of hyaluronic acid and [inaudible 00:06:04] mushroom extract, which holds thousand times more water than hyaluronic acid alone. All of this helps to protect the skin’s moisture and in turn, the skin barrier.

So without further ado, let’s get into the most popular moisturizers, their pros and cons, and whether I recommend them. First, let’s tackle CeraVe. In the US in particular, CeraVe is having a moment. Gen Z shoppers are stripping the shelves clean, fueled by a slew of high profile influencer endorsements on TikTok. Demand is so rampant that there are now shortages in some states prompting parent company L’Oreal to send production into overdrive.

In the UK, Sarah Ray sales rose 596%over at [inaudible 00:06:54] between February and March of 2021, and the brand is now as well known as long-established High Street staples. The gentle formula is mostly water and petroleum jelly with a pinch of collagen and skin barrier building active ingredients. This cream has been hyped up by young shoppers and influences for its gentle formulation and low price, but it is not for most consumers.

Why? First, let’s get into who it’s actually right for. Those recovering from an allergic skin reaction and those younger than a teenager. In the case of a reaction, use Sarah Ray only for a week or two to let the skin calm down and then move on to a more nourishing cream. I see a lot of patients with acne or in their forties who are using Sarah Ray because their dermatologist recommended it in the context of a skin disease, but they do not realize that it fails to deliver some essential qualities needed in a moisturizer to promote healthy skin. Today we have so, so many options that if you have sensitive or eczema prone skin, you can still take advantage of moisturizers that deliver more. Sarah Ray is cheaper in price because it mostly contains water and petroleum jelly.

Another popular option is the Ole Regenerist Micro Sculpting cream. I believe this product is better than CeraVe. What I like about it is that it contains niacinamide and green tea, albeit at lower concentrations. The con is that it’s a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. It includes sunscreen in the form of titanium dioxide, and as we said earlier, if you pack too much into one cream, you are simply diluting the benefits of everything in it. This cream is already mostly water and by packing in green tea, niacinamide and sunscreen, there is barely any room for effective doses of any of those ingredients.

Additionally, the Olay cream contains synthetic fragrance, which can cause skin irritation. Creating skincare without synthetic fragrances is difficult because you need a very high concentration of botanical active ingredients that are good for your skin to make the formulation smell neutral or pleasant. While developing my line, I made a conscious decision to not use synthetic fragrances and instead only use the highest concentration of high quality botanicals to make my product smell pleasant and neutral. This is not easy to do and definitely not cheap but worth it.

Overall, I would say that the Olay cream is better than Sarah Ray, especially if you’re in your twenties or early thirties. However, it does not have the high concentration ofactive antioxidant ingredients to fight age-related skin changes. When we return, I’ll share my thoughts on some higher end options.

Next, I want to discuss the Tatcha Water Cream Moisturizer. What I like about this product is that it contains a high concentration of a natural antioxidant called sacro mycosis ferment filtrate, which soothes the skin and has antioxidant properties. This product is focused on moisturizing and has the high moisturizing ingredient contents to support that. However, it does contain a synthetic fragrance, which again can cause skin irritation. Overall, it’s a good choice for normal, combination, oily or acne prone skin.

Last and the most expensive on our list is the Crème de la Mer Moisturizer, which is priced at $380. La Mer does not reveal how it created its miracle broth, but we do know that it is a mix of marine algae and minerals from the sea, that in general are skincare superstars in terms of antioxidant delivery and collagen building. These star ingredients help fight oxidative stress from the environment and are a key consideration in fighting signs of aging. However, this product contains a lot of lipid, which is great for dry or mature skin, but it isn’t a great match for oily skin types. If you have oily skin, you are likely going to break out with such a high amount of lipids.

Additionally, I want to say this, I’m all for investing in skincare and your skin health. However, there are many great moisturizers that don’t cost a fortune and can still deliver similar results. For example, my ultra-low moisturizer is priced similarly to the Tatcha Water Cream Moisturizer, but does not contain synthetic fragrances. Not only does it contain peptides to help collagen production, it also delivers a high dose of lipochroman, which is one of the strongest antioxidants available in skincare today.

We are so lucky that today we can take advantage of such a variety of cutting edge skincare products, but finding the right ones can be overwhelming. I hope you enjoyed and find this episode helpful in choosing the right moisturizer for your skin. If you’d like more of this content, let us know. We are a woman of color owned brand, and any likes, reviews, ratings and shares truly help to boost the podcast and get in front of others like yourself. Thanks for listening, and until next time, love the skin you’re in and celebrate your beauty.

If you’d like to learn more about science backed skincare or medical aesthetic treatment, please subscribe to and turn on notifications for the Skin Report, so you always know when a new episode is up. We have a newsletter that you can sign up for on, so that you can stay up to date on all our latest products and more.

Additionally, if you have a skincare question or want to make an episode topic recommendation, please message me at, which is linked in my show notes, and I’ll be sure to answer your question in an episode soon. We’ve received some great questions so far and I will try and answer them at the end of every episode, so keep them coming.

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