How to Hydrate Your Face Without Making It a Total Grease Pit

It's a science, people

We're just a couple weeks into fall and already we're feeling the drying effects the weather is having on our skin. And while a heavier cream might help soothe the flaky patches on our cheeks, it's doing no favors for our shiny forehead. Here, the smartest ways to moisturize so that everything looks (and feels) just right all winter long.

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Check Your Cleanser

Rule number one: Keep it simple and scale back. That means washing your face with a gentle cleanser at night only. No fancy formulas that foam and tingle, and no need to double up on the stuff in the morning. You want to remove any makeup and surface grime from the day—not the natural oils your skin needs to stay soft and healthy.

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Exfoliate Regularly

No amount of lotion will work properly if it’s applied on top of dead skin cells (which explains the oil slick on your face). To get the most out of your moisturizer, try combining both physical and chemical exfoliants. Every two or three days, layer a glycolic acid serum under your night cream. This will help dissolve the keratin protein or "glue" that binds the dead cells together. Once a week, use a mild facial scrub to loosen and lift those cells from the top layer of your skin. Now your moisturizer can actually sink in.

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Upgrade Your Moisturizer

It’s not as simple as swapping out a lighter lotion for a heavier cream. You need to look at the label. Ingredients like petrolatum and even our beloved coconut oil can be too greasy on skin and clog pores. On the other hand, creams with humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid draw water into your skin and keep it soft without smothering it.

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Use Less Product

Though you probably want to slather on as much cream as you can, more product doesn’t mean more hydration. In fact, if you use too much of the stuff, your skin won’t be able to absorb it, leaving the excess sitting on your face. Start with a dime-size amount of moisturizer and add more as needed.

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Reverse Your Application

Most people start at the center of their face and work their way out to the edges. This actually deposits the majority of the cream on your T-zone, the area that is most prone to midday shine. To get smooth (not slick) skin, apply moisturizer along the perimeter of your face first and work your way in.

Top It Off

During the winter months when your skin is extra dry, you should consider adding a few drops of facial oil on top of your moisturizer. This not only provides an extra boost of hydration but also helps seal in everything you just put on. Press the oil onto your skin using your fingertips and keep to the driest spots, like your cheeks and around your nose.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...