Moisturizer mythbusters

"You have no idea how hard it is to find a good moisturizer," explains Leslie Brown of Boston. "Ever since they discontinued the one I used, I've tried everything." She settled on Mary Kay Intense Moisturizing Cream to soothe her very dry, sensitive skin. But it's no BFF in a jar. Like many people, men and women alike, she's still on the hunt for the perfect cream.

Fellow Bostonian Jeff Alden, who has been moisturizing religiously since his late 20s to prevent the effects of aging, knows that real men moisturize. The question is, with what? He's bounced from Olay to Garnier to L'Oréal and back again.

We feel their pain. After all, complexions are complex, and finding a magic moisturizer that addresses all your skin's issues can seem like an impossible feat.

"[Choosing a moisturizer] is a very individual process," says Laura Small, licensed esthetician and skin-care trainer at facial-centric spa skoah (641A Tremont Street, Boston, 857.350.4930). "It's all about finding the right level of hydration for your skin and making sure the rest of your routine allows your moisturizer to really work."

But to find that perfect match, you've first got to navigate some persistent moisture misconceptions. So face up to these top five myths and check out the accompanying product picks; your skin will thank you.

Myth #1: Oily skin doesn't need moisturizer.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, oily skin actually needs moisture. "Without it, the skin becomes dehydrated, and the body will compensate by producing extra oil, leading to more congestion," says Small. "Creams specifically for oily skin protect and hydrate as they regulate the overproduction of sebum," adds Alaina Keyes, esthetician at G2O Spa and Salon (278 Newbury Street, Boston, 617.262.2220). A good choice for slick-free moisture is Peter Thomas Roth Oil-Free Moisturizer ($42), available at Sephora (800 Boylston Street, Boston, 617.262.4200).

Myth #2: Thicker is better.

"Thick does not necessarily mean better, but generally it means more hydrating," says Small. "If you have really dry or more mature skin (skin that can handle more oil), you'll need a heavier moisturizer. But it's really about good ingredients, not heavy fillers. People get fooled because they think it's doing something for their skin because it's super thick, but it's really not penetrating." To get into the thick of things, try Epicuren Evening Emulsion ($34), available at The Spa at The Sports Club/LA (4 Avery Street, Boston, 617.375.8580).

Myth #3: Only women need to moisturize.

Men have the same considerations as women, like dry skin and aging, says Keyes. Plus, those manly-man-fragranced (and usually alcohol-based) aftershaves can leave skin tight and thirsty. Flaky men aren't sexy men. Give the Jack Black men's line a try; it features alcohol-free products like the Line Smoother Face Moisturizer ($28) and the Double Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20 ($27), both available at Sephora.

Myth #4: Men's and women's moisturizers are created equal.

"Men can use the same products as women, but chances are they're not the most suitable. The skin on a man's face is thicker and oilier, so they have different needs," says Keyes. "They tend to need a lighter moisturizer," adds Small. "Since men usually prefer not to look too dewy, one with a matte finish is better." Molton Brown's Ultra Light Bai Ji Hydrator ($38), available at Neiman Marcus (5 Copley Place, Boston, 617.536.3660), goes on matte, according to Small. Since some men's products add alcohol to combat this extra oil, men with drier skin still might want to try their ladies' moisturizers. Alden grabs his own at local drugstores, with a regimen that includes Garnier Moisture Rescue ($5.99) and Olay Complete Ageless Skin Renewing UV Lotion ($11.99).

Myth #5: Mineral oil and petroleum are great for hydrating.

They leave you slippery and smooth, but they don't actually hydrate. "These sit on top of skin and prevent your own oils from surfacing, essentially smothering your skin," warns Small. Instead, look for ingredients like polysynlane (highly refined olive oil), shea butter, and hyaluronic acid, an über-hydrator that holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water. "These are natural ingredients that the skin easily digests and leave you more hydrated." Small suggests skoah's Face Kream ($40) with polysynlane and shea butter, while Keyes loves the Yon-Ka Crème 28 Protective and Hydrating Cream ($50) at G2O for its lecithin, another go-to ingredient for skin nourishment. And use Philosophy's When Hope Is Not Enough Replenishing Hyaluronic Acid/Peptide Capsules ($50), available at Sephora, under your moisturizer for an extra blast of hydration.

Cheryl Fenton is a freelance writer who also blogs at