You may be surprised to know but the job of a moisturiser is not to moisturise your skin but to help your skin retain its own natural moisture levels.(1) A good moisturiser acts as a surface barrier preventing your skin from losing too much moisture and protecting it against external pollutants and factors such as heat or cold. However, a moisturiser is also an excellent medium for carrying other active ingredients that can have beneficial effects for your skin.

How can you tell if the moisturiser you are using is right for you? If your face cream keeps you feeling comfortable in your skin all day long then you’ve made the right choice. However, if you feel the need to reaply your cream throughout the day because your skin feels tight, or if your cream leaves you looking like an oil slick, then you need to think again.

What is Actually a Moisturiser?

All moisturisers are made of the same basic ingredients: an emollient to keep skin soft (e.g. a vegetable or mineral oil), water to hydrate (e.g. flower water or distilled water) and an emulsifier to bind the oil and water (e.g. beeswax). Once you have your cream base other active ingredients, such as essential oils, can be added to enhance the product’s actions.

Shop-bought moisturisers will also contain preservatives (often in the form of parabens) to prevent the cream from becoming contaminated (which is essential in any product that contains water) and to prolong its shelf life. If you are going to buy a moisturiser it is best to purchase it from a company that avoids using harsh chemical ingredients in favour of plant-based ones, as you will find that this is gentler on your skin.

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Essential Oils for your Day and Night

During the day, and especially during summer months, your moisturiser should contain an SPF to protect it from sun damage. At night, your body – and your skin – regenerates while you sleep, and a good night cream will work with this natural process by nourishing and rejuvenating your skin.

Day Creams and Sun Protection

Most dermatologists will tell you that the most effective protection against skin aging is a good SPF and to limit your exposure to strong sunlight. Therefore, it is important to heed this advice and to wear a day cream with a good SPF throughout spring and summer. Some beauticians would advise that you use a moisturiser with SPF all year round to further limit damage to your skin from UV light.

Unfortunately there are no natural substitutes for chemical SPFs, and you won’t be able to make an effective sun cream at home. But there is a new range of mineral-based sun creams that use natural sun blocks such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.(1) These are gentler on your skin than chemical-based sun creams, and less likely to lead to skin irritation or sensitisation.

Night Creams

If you would like to make your own face cream it’s best to make a night cream. All you will need is a vegetable oil (e.g. sweet almond oil), water (e.g. rose water) and an emulsifier (e.g. beeswax). These ingredients are available from aromatherapy suppliers and some health stores. To make your cream measure:

  • 20g beeswax
  • 80ml sweet almond oil
  • 40ml rose water.
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Follow this method:

  1. Gently heat the oil and beeswax in a heat-resistant bowl standing in a saucepan of shallow water. As the water heats up so the ingredients inside the bowl will begin to melt. Stir in the beeswax gently until it has completely melted in the oil.
  2. Now add the flower water drop by drop and stirring in vigorously (using an electric whisk on a low setting is best).
  3. Once all the flower water has been added and thoroughly mixed in quickly transfer the oil/water mix to a dark glass jar (it should be able to hold about 100ml of cream). This must be done quickly as the oil/water mix will start to solidify.
  4. Leave to cool; do not cover as this will cause water droplets from condensation to contaminate the cream.

A home-made cream like this should be stored in a cool dark place once it is set, and kept covered. Its shelf life will be about two to three weeks, after which it must be discarded.

Adding Ingredients to Suit Your Skin Type

To enhance the action of your night cream, add essential oils to the mix. In the method described above, at stage 3, add your essential oils once you have stirred in the flower water. You must do this quickly as the cream will set fast.

The recipe makes about 100ml of cream. To add a 3% dilution of essential oils pour in 60 drops; to add a 2% of essential oils (if you have sensitive skin) pour in 40 drops.

For example: dry, dehydrated and mature skins could add 20 drops each of frankincense, rose and neroli oils; oily, problem and combination skins could add 20 drops each of lavender, palmarosa and tea tree oils; sensitive skins could add 20 drops of chamomile oil and 20 drops of neroli oil.

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You can also substitute the vegetable oil and flower water in your recipe to those more suitable for your skin’s needs. For example, if you have drier skin choose a richer nourishing oil such as avocado, or if you have oily skin use an infusion of rosemary flower water.