How to Choose the Right Moisturizer to Get Dewy, Glowing Skin - The Essential Guide

Attaining gorgeous, luminous skin is no small feat for today’s skincare fan. A super busy schedule and environmental factors can make the maintenance of healthy skin a challenge. And when we say “environmental factors,” we mean pollution of all kinds: air clogged with soot, acid, and smoke; light damage caused by UVA and UVB rays from the sun, as well as blue light emanating from our electronic devices; and the toxins and heavy metals present in our water systems and food supply. It’s why the right moisturizer is your secret weapon for the ultimate dewy skin.

Inevitably, a gorgeous dewy glow comes from raising and maintaining hydration levels in your skin so that light reflects from its surface. Dewy skin is so plump with hydration that it appears to be moist: this is why people use the word “dewy” to describe it. The right moisturizer is the key to locking in that essential moisture level. Here’s how you can choose the best dewy skin moisturizer to get the look of perfect, glassy skin.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • How moisturizer helps your skin
  • Which type of moisturizer is best for your skin
  • What ingredients should your moisturizer have
  • Tinted vs non-tinted moisturizers
  • And, how to get dewy skin at home!

How does moisturizer help?

First, let’s talk about how moisturizer helps achieve that natural dewy look you’re seeking. It all starts with the skin’s moisture barrier.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. Its main means of protection is its moisture barrier — a layer of lipids that lock hydration into the body. At the same time, the moisture barrier helps by providing protection from harmful foreign matter. An intact moisture barrier is not only one of the most important aspects of overall health, it’s also a sign of youth and vitality. Hydrated skin appears youthful, and that’s what you’re aiming for: skin that’s supple, bouncy, soft, and rich in moisture balance.

how to get healthy dewy skin

Many cultures are obsessed with this youthful skin ideal.

We’re also still apt to try to achieve it long after it’s naturally available to us. Recently, the use of injectables to recreate the appearance of mid-face plumpness and volume lost in the aging process has exploded — the generic facial injectables market in the United States alone is estimated to hit $5.8 billion by 2024. In addition to injectables, cosmetic procedures like chemical peels and microneedling (in which a roller of small needles is used to produce tiny wounds that expedite healing and skin cell production) are increasing in dermatologist offices and esthetician locations across the country. These procedures are meant to smooth the skin from the top while plumping it from underneath, giving it that smooth, youthful bounce and resilience.

Despite all these prickings, peels, and injections, there’s one true key to maintaining the youthful resilience and elasticity we seek: Lock water into the skin, and the body will do the rest.

The main product used to create dewy skin? Moisturizer.

The word “moisturizer” seems self-explanatory, yet when we think about this product, most of us merely consider it a skin softener. However, the main goal of a moisturizer is to ensure that the moisture inside the body stays there. When the moisture stays locked in, our skin glistens.

A diet that contains plenty of hydrating foods and a healthy amount of water for your body is critical to create the right conditions for internal hydration. Water escapes the skin when there’s no external sealant to help prevent it, leading to dryness, irritation, and a host of other skincare issues. A moisturizer acts as both nutrient delivery system and hydration sealant and is the key to youthful, supple, dewy skin.

Moisturizer also helps supply the skin with the nutrients it needs to function properly. A combination of key ingredients, such as healthy lipids, vitamins, and minerals — as well as factors that boost collagen production and skin repair — creates the ideal environment through which skin can do what it does best: repair itself and glow with health.

Moisturizer and your skin type

  • For dry skin, a moisturizer is critical, as this skin type has a harder time maintaining its moisture barrier. A rich moisturizer that replenishes and creates a slightly heavier, nourishing seal for internal hydration is crucial for dry skin’s health and dewy appearance.
    • Dull skin is caused by dead skin cells. While youthful, hydrated skin cells refract light, old skin cells don’t, causing a dull, “dusty” appearance.
    • Used in conjunction with cleansing and exfoliation, moisturizer helps replenish the newer skin cells underneath and give skin a vivacious, glowing appearance.
    • Moisturizer protects the hydration levels of the newer, more youthful skin, creating a dewy appearance.
    • While applying moisturizer to dull, dry skin helps revive it temporarily, the goal is to reveal new skin cells and bulk up the skin’s moisture barrier to provide you with the supple, hydrated skin you really want — the type that looks like you’re spotlit from within.
  • For oily and acne-prone skin, moisturizer is the magic bullet you’ve been looking for, too.
    • Oily skin is typically caused by skin becoming dry and/or irritated, which causes the skin to overproduce sebum to “hydrate” and protect the skin.
    • By maintaining your skin’s moisture balance with the right dewy skin moisturizer, in conjunction with the proper skincare regimen, your oil production will be less likely to kick into overdrive.
    • A dewy complexion can be yours — quite possibly without blemishes or the slick appearance of excess oil — if you use a regular moisturizer that is not too thick or too heavy.
  • Pregnancy is renowned for the natural glow it creates, but it comes with its own set of skincare challenges. For skin for pregnant women, you may find some comfort in the right moisturizer to help as hormonal changes impact their skin.
    • Pregnancy causes a massive fluctuation in hormones which can cause dryness, excessive sweating, chapping, and any number of skin maladies, including hormonal acne.
    • During pregnancy, everything you consume could also impact your baby, so this is a time to be mindful of ingredients more than ever. Retinol/retinoids and hydroquinone are contraindicated (i.e. discouraged) during pregnancy since they can cause birth defects. You’ll want to avoid products that contain them. Salicylic and glycolic acids are also not advised during pregnancy unless expressly prescribed by a dermatologist or physician.
    • This is also a great time to forego heavy perfumes, dyes, and synthetic materials. Moisturizers that deliver and lock in moisture via natural butters, oils, and lipids are your best bet, and, when layered over wet skin, can deliver the soothing relief you need.
  • Those with inflamed skin need to be careful when it comes to moisturizer. You don’t want to exacerbate your condition, but the right moisturizer can have a huge impact on your skin’s condition, as well as your own personal comfort.
    • Affecting millions of people, skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis may present a bit differently but all have the same root cause: inflammation. When the skin’s moisture barrier becomes compromised, allergens and foreign bodies inflame the skin.
    • Inflamed skin is sensitive skin, so anyone with these conditions should avoid perfumes, dyes, and synthetic materials in their moisturizers, as well as potentially irritating ingredients like salicylic and glycolic acids and retinoids.
    • The best way to calm inflamed skin is to soothe inflammation and keep it hydrated. Seek out gentle moisturizers specifically formulated for these skin conditions.
    • Dermatologists recommend water-based, sensitive skin moisturizers that hydrate without aggravating the skin condition. Brands such as Cetaphil and CeraVe have created some of the most widely used products to help moisturize and soothe irritated skin. However, neither of these are natural.
    • Colloidal oatmeal, aloe, and soy are also incredibly helpful in soothing upset skin so it can heal into its dewy, healthy state once again. There are a variety of great natural skin care products that include these natural ingredients.

Dewy skin moisturizers — the ingredients

It’s clear how a moisturizer helps boost and lock in hydration, but how exactly does it create that dewy, healthy look? This is where the right formulation is critical. A few glow-inducing ingredients create healthy skin that repairs itself, manufactures newer skin cells, and is hydrated from the inside out.

Dewy skin moisturizers should contain skin-boosting vitamins.

Skin essentially “eats” whatever you apply, so it stands to reason you’d want to give it the best possible nourishment. This is where you want to remember to take your vitamins:

  • Vitamin C is a super vitamin found in abundance in healthy, functioning skin, but as we age, our levels decrease. This critical vitamin helps eradicate UV ray exposure and it helps regulate the production of collagen.
  • Vitamin E is critical for repairing skin and making it glow from within. It also boosts skin’s resilience to UV light exposure, as well as touting anti-inflammatory benefits. Additionally, it plays a critical role in wound healing, an important function of healthy skin.
  • Antioxidants protect us against the free radicals in our environment. Essentially, they help neutralize the damage done by air pollution, helping the skin repair itself quickly and act with resilience against repeated exposure.
  • Botanical ingredients like soy, aloe, and licorice extracts, along with various teas such as chamomile, help soothe inflammation and can really help with skin health and repair.

Dewy skin is fresh, healthy skin, which means you may want to also look for a moisturizer with an ingredient that helps remove dull, dead skin so that cellular turnover can happen. This is where it’s important to include a gentle exfoliating agent such as an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps reveal the healthy skin underneath.

Depending on your skin type, ingredients such as glycolic, lactic, hyaluronic, or salicylic acids can help you remove those dull skin cells and smooth fine lines so your glowing, dewy complexion can truly shine through. Enzymes, like those found in pineapple, pumpkin, cranberry, and papaya, are extremely effective natural exfoliators in a moisturizer. Just be sure to always combine with a sunscreen if using an exfoliant factor during the day. You want to protect that newly-exposed skin from the sun.

You also want to ensure that emollients — which help maintain skin’s healthy lipid barrier — are part of the picture. Although fats aren’t great for our waistlines, they’re critical for our bodies, from our organs to our brains. As the skin is our largest organ, it needs fat to keep it supple, strong, and hydrated. Look for botanical emollients such as plant and nut-based oils like avocado, jojoba, almond, and shea.

How to pick the right moisturizer for your skin

Most of us wonder if ads featuring top models are really advertising “the” best moisturizer for us. The answer to that question is simple: If that model has your same skin type, then yes. But how can anyone tell someone’s skin type from an advertisement? It’s better to know your own skincare needs first and buy products that suit you best.

The best moisturizer for glowing skin is one that addresses your particular skincare needs. In general, those with:

  • oily skin should go for a gel moisturizer, free of oils and rich fats that could clog pores.
  • dry skin should do the opposite — look for rich ingredients and oils that help seal in moisture and nourish the conditions caused by dryness.

After that, it’s just a matter of addressing any other concerns:

  • Aging and fine lines can be assisted by the addition of ceramides, which help maintain the lipids that hold the cells of the outer layer of the skin together. By locking ceramides into the skin with moisturizer, you help the skin repair and regenerate by giving it a booster shot of its own natural lipids. Copper peptides, which act as tiny semiconductors under the skin that tell it to produce new cells, are also used in moisturizers.  Finally, retinoids and plant extracts like apple help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Lack of luster and dullness can be addressed with brightening ingredients like Vitamin C along with natural extracts like mulberry that, partnered with hydration, can restore tired-looking skin to its former healthy glow.
  • Redness can be addressed through calming botanical extracts like chamomile and licorice that help soothe inflammation and return skin to a balanced, dewy glow.
  • Pollution protection is a newer beauty concern, but soot, acid, and smoke are causing extraordinary skin damage in women young and old, infiltrating pores and causing skin damage from the inside. Hyperpigmentation, dehydration, fine lines, and dullness can all be a result. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of the free radicals in pollution that can cause skin damage. Reap the rewards of these nutrients by adding moisturizers formulated for pollution protection to your dewy skincare routine.

Check the ingredients for possible allergens and discuss your skincare regimen with a dermatologist if you have any specific worries. Also, if you have sensitive skin, dermatologists will typically recommend a non-comedogenic formula free of dyes, fragrances, or other irritating ingredients.

Many people wonder about the difference between drugstore moisturizers and the higher-end formulas found in department and specialty stores. In general, any dewy moisturizer is better than no dewy moisturizer, but the difference lies not only in price, but the quality of the formulations and density of ingredients.

Mass-market brands found in drugstores are improving in quality every day, but most skincare experts prefer higher-end formulas made with greater concentrations of key ingredients and more sophisticated formulas — hence, the elevated price.

The best advice when it comes to buying a moisturizer? You only have one face, so you should always buy the best you can afford.

Your moisturizer follows that same old adage about your shoes and your coat: The investment more than pays for itself during repeated use.

That said, the key to your dewy complexion is a two-fold process when it comes to moisturizer — a morning routine and a night routine:

  • Morning moisturizer sets hydration levels for the day and protects the skin prior to exposure to the elements.
  • A night moisturizer helps promote healing and repair of the skin during the night, when the skin does its best work, as well as preventing nighttime moisture loss.

Therefore, if it’s dewy skin you want, using these two products in combination is a definite “dew.”

Sunscreen is also a must!

One more piece of advice: Sunscreen is a vital part of a dewy skin routine. Nothing tears apart a moisture barrier faster than sunlight’s damaging radiation — and very few things kill a dewy complexion faster than sun exposure. At the very minimum, you should be using SPF 25 daily for brief exposure and more powerful formulas like SPF 50 for longer times in the sun. Reapply as needed. A thin layer of an SPF 50 sunscreen under a day cream is a great insurance policy.

Tinted vs. non-tinted moisturizers

Now, let’s talk about the fancy extras: tinted moisturizers vs. non-tinted moisturizers. This is purely an esthetic choice:

  • Dewy tinted moisturizers are great for those who want just to add a little color to their face during the day (rather than the overall coverage of foundation) and come in a variety of formulas, some also including SPF.
  • There are also products that can turn any regular moisturizer or face oil into a tinted moisturizer — try products like Cover FX Custom Cover Drops.
  • Tinted moisturizers come in a variety of hues for a wide range of skin tones and can be a great alternative to wearing heavier makeup in warmer months and climates.
  • Some moisturizers feature pearlescent particles that provide the illusion of a shimmering glow, making them great for a quick cosmetic effect.

Over time, if you’re fastidious about the maintenance of your skin’s health and moisture balance, you shouldn’t require too much cosmetic assistance.

How to get glowing, dewy skin at home

The best way to get that gorgeous, glowing look at home is to combine your dewy skin moisturizer with the proper skincare and health routines. Overall health and hydration come from maintaining a lifestyle that not only supports dewy skin but your health overall:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink an abundance of water. (Sparkling counts; just avoid the artificial flavors and sweeteners.)
  • Keep your stress levels down.
  • A diet filled with rich, hydrating fruits and vegetables and gorgeous skin-boosting fats like nuts and avocado are the path to supple, youthful skin.
  • A dewy skin moisturizer is great for adding a glow to the outside of your skin, but true dew starts from internal hydration and health.

When it comes to getting gorgeous, dewy skin at home, your regular skincare regimen is also critical. Use a cleanser to remove dirt and debris, follow it up with nourishing serums, treatments, and oils partnered with SPF during the day, and seal it all in with the right dewy skin moisturizer twice a day (or more if you’re traveling or out in the sun).

And if you want the right results, the key is consistency — just like brushing your teeth.

Inevitably, the best dewy skin moisturizer for you is the right formula for your skin needs, filled with the best ingredients, and used in conjunction with a supportive regimen and routine. If you’re after supple, hydrated, skin with an almost otherworldly glow, the best path is the right moisturizer. You’ll love the results.