Skin-Care Tips

I Tried Sephora’s Best-Selling Moisturizer for a Month To See if It’s Really Worth the Hype

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My skin is dry on even the hottest, most humid days of the year, which means that when temperatures drop to below 50,  I'm screwed. By the time the holidays roll around, I usually wake up with a complexion that looks (and feels) like sandpaper... and stays that way all day long.

I've tested hundreds of moisturizers over the years in an attempt to give my skin a better shot at standing up to the elements, and though many have been great, I've yet to find a true holy grail that actually works during the winter months. In most cases, a moisturizer will make my skin feel all kinds of moist and wonderful immediately after I apply, but a few hours later my skin is back to its same parched self.

After hearing countless derms and reviewers on Sephora sing the praises of First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Cream ($36) for helping with skin issues nearly identical to my own (read: dryness and irritation), I decided to give it a try. And nearly a month later, my skin is practically unrecognizable in the best possible way.


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What makes the moisturizer so great

There's a reason why this heavy-duty cream has earned itself more than 5,000 five-star reviews and a regular spot on Sephora's list of "best-sellers," and its $36 price tag is just the beginning. Designed with parched skin in mind, its formula targets both dryness and the uncomfortable side effects that come with it, like itching and sensitivity. It's gentle enough to be used on all skin types, and is super effective at relieving irritation that it can even be used to treat eczema and skin rashes.

First up on the ingredients list is colloidal oatmeal, which acts as a sort of protective barrier for your skin—think of it as a puffer coat for your complexion. One study found that a 1 percent colloidal oatmeal cream helped reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis and eczema, and the ingredient has also been shown to effectively reduce inflammation and itching.

Next, there's shea butter, which is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that help to moisturize and strengthen your skin barrier. It's rich in both vitamins A and E, which soothe irritated skin, and (much like colloidal oatmeal) forms a protective barrier on the surface of your skin to inhibit transepidermal water loss and keep your complexion hydrated. Finally, there's allantoin, a naturally-derived skin-soothing agent that acts as a humectant, drawing water into the skin to aid in hydration.

In addition to this triple-threat of hydrators, the formula also comes with a hefty dose of ceramides, which are extra important for keeping your skin strong during the colder months of the year. Ceramides act as the first line of defense in protecting your skin from the environment, locking in moisture and defending against external irritants like pollution. "Ceramides are like the spackle between skin cell tiles," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. "They fill in cracks between cells in the outer skin layer to prevent loss of hydration and protect the skin from the environment." Though we have naturally occurring ceramides in our skin, these reserves deplete while we age, which is why supplementing them with a topical (like the First Aid Beauty moisturizer) is critical.

Despite its heavy-hitting ingredients, the moisturizer somehow absorbs quickly—so much so that you'll forget it's there within seconds after applying. "I love it because it hydrates but doesn’t grease," says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut. "And it's not too often that you can get intense hydration without unbearable slickness."

What happened when I tried it

Upon first application, my initial reaction was, "holy crap, a little bit of this stuff goes a long way." It is thick, and you only need a little bit to cover your whole face (I started out with a big ol' glob, which I quickly realized was enough to coat my entire body with—a pea-sized amount should do the trick). As promised, it absorbed into my skin almost immediately, and when I put it on before bed I didn't have to worry about it streaking all over my silk pillowcase, which is a definite plus.

The next morning, I was shocked by how soft, smooth, and hydrated my skin still felt nearly eight hours after application. Usually, I wake up with parched AF cheeks and an oily T-zone (my theory is that my skin dries out when I sleep, and my body starts to produce more oil because of it), but for the first time ever it felt soft and even. I was hesitant to use the moisturizer again in the morning because I worried that it would be tough to layer foundation over (like I said, it's thick), but it once again absorbed quickly and created a soft, supple canvas for me to apply my makeup on top of.

It's been nearly a full month since I first tried the product, and I've been using it every morning and night since. I've noticed a significant difference in both how my skin looks and feels, and there are no more "ups and downs" in its hydration levels. Not only does it feel amazing immediately after I apply the moisturizer, but it actually stays that way for 24 hours and beyond. Even when I step outside into whipping wind and 40-degree temperatures, my complexion never seems aggravated or irritated—a stark difference to the parched redness I'm used to dealing with come late November.

Having tested hundreds of moisturizers in my pursuit of finding one that works for my dry skin, I can now confidently say that my lifelong search is over.

For more intel ingredients that will help your dry skin stand up to the winter months, check out the video below. 

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