The Best Hydrating Moisturizers and Creams for Melanated Skin Tones


By now, we know the basics when it comes to taking care of your skin during the bitterly cold winter months: limit super-hot showers that could dry you out, increase fish and olive oil consumption for healthy fats, exfoliate bi-weekly, and drink so many electrolyte supplements it flows out of your ears. But this season has been especially rough and drying on the skin—even in Los Angeles, where Mother Nature seems to have forgotten that California is her Golden State, not the North Pole. As a result, folks’ hands are cracking, foreheads are flaking, and the arms and legs have become starved of moisture. But did you know that not all skin types are created the same when it comes to hydration? Those with Brown and Black skin tones have a thicker outer layer of skin, which protects against pollutants, pathogens, and water loss—but makes it more difficult to retain moisture. Plus, individuals with Black skin produce less sebum—a natural oil that lubricates and protects—which can lead to a more noticeably dry face or body.

We reached out to a handful of the country’s most prominent medical professionals to weigh in on their favorite winter skincare products, especially for melanated tones. These products are not just topicals they recommend to their patients, but products they themselves use and rely on for their own healthy skincare regimen. And although they can be used by any person, they are especially effective for people with deeper skin tones.

“Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream is the best there is for extreme conditions,” says Dr. Elyse Love, an Alabama native now based in New York City using clinical research to modernize the dermatology visit. “It takes a little time to rub in, but does wonders for preventing and treating dry, callus hands. Apply under gloves during the day and before bed at night. Second, consider some Vaseline Pure Petroleum Jelly. I love this everywhere during extreme conditions. A thin layer after a hydrating serum and moisturizer on the face for very dry skin or a thin layer on the body after moisturizer for very dry body skin can work wonders. It can also be used selectively on the under-eye area, around the nose, and on the lips for more mild conditions. Lastly, Avène’s Thermal Water and its Cicalfate cream are both perfect for sensitized skin, to use on the face and body. This keeps skin softened throughout the day, even in the coldest climates.”

“Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore is an excellent go-to for winter if you’re looking to restore moisture on the face,” says Hartman, who is also a specialist in Botox and other injectibles. “The combo of ceramides, lipids, and fatty acids are just the right ratio for virtually all skin types. There’s a reason everyone tries to dupe it, because it’s that good!

“Also, La Roche Posay Lipikar Triple Repair Moisturizer is my go-to for body lotion. It contains ceramides, shea butter, niacinamide, and glycerin, glides on smoothly, and leaves no greasy residue. It can’t be beat, especially during this time of year.”

“I often see a lot of patients with eczema and psoriasis. That means quite often, their skin barrier is compromised,” explains Mitchell, a board certified dermatologist based in Ohio. “I love the ingredients in CeraVe Moisturizing Cream because the ceramides and hyaluronic acid assist in repairing and maintaining a healthy skin barrier, which improves those skin conditions. Furthermore, I love to recommend this product to all my patients—but knowing that ceramides are naturally lower in Black people, (hence drier skin) this cream works great to strengthen the barrier and lock in moisture for these patients. Hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient for moisture retention as well, and these key ingredients work well in tandem. I even personally use this product after the shower. My skin is then well-conditioned, so daily use is sufficient. If you are one of those individuals with very dry skin or other conditions, I recommend at least twice daily use.”

“I personally use the Rhode Barrier Restore Cream religiously throughout the winter months,” says Bhanusali, a celebrity dermatologist who has worked with Kerry Washington and is involved in the development of Hailey Bieber’s Rhode beauty company. “I tend to need something on the richer side, so the combo of emollients and niacinamide (anti inflammatory) help keep my skin hydrated. I’m on the formulation team and have seen the beneficial studies, so I know this one very well.”

“It’s important to note that menopausal skin during winter can be even drier than usual during the colder months,” Downie, a New Jersey-based dermotology expert, tells W. “A product that I frequently recommend to perimenopausal/menopausal female patients in the winter is Emepelle Night Cream. The brand’s products are formulated with MEP technology, which is non-hormonal. This rich and creamy formula helps to improve the loss of the skin’s collagen, dryness, dullness, thinning, and wrinkling of the skin—which can all be further triggered by cold weather. I also recommend sun protection—either ZO Sunscreen or Skinmedica Total Defense and Repair SPF— every day, regardless of your ethnicity and the time of the year.”

Dr. Usha Rajagopal, MD

“I have normal to slightly oily skin, so my favorite products are the ZO Gentle Cleanser that I use daily, along with their Daily Power Defense,” says Rajagopal, who works out of Northern California. “I also use their sunblock every day, even in winter. If for any reason I tend to have dryer skin or go to a climate that is much colder than the San Francisco Bay Area, I like to use something that is even more gentle on my skin like a milk. One great product that I like is the Dermaviduals Cleansing Milk, which I continue to use alongside the daily skin defense from ZO and the sunblock.”



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