The Best (and Most Questionable) Single-Ingredient Moisturizers to Apply on Dry Skin

one and finished? Dermatologists share their thoughts on single-ingredient moisturizers, from olive oil to Vaseline.

We’re now at that point in winter when there’s really no escape from dry, dehydrated skin. If your moisturizer suddenly doesn’t cut it or you’re looking for a natural and inexpensive skin lotion, you might consider incorporating products like Vaseline or coconut oil in its purest form into your routine.

We had the same ideas, so we asked two dermatologists to share their expert opinions on popular one-ingredient moisturizers and the pros and cons of applying them head on.

Related: I’ve used baby lotion as a moisturizer for two weeks and here’s what it did to my skin

olive oil

“Olive oil is a light moisturizer that anyone can use on the face,” says Dr. Adarsh ​​Vijay Mudgil, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. “A little is more – a few drops is all you need.”

In addition to its hydrating properties, the oil – organic extra virgin olive oil is best used on the face – is also rich in antioxidants that protect against environmental damage.

hyaluronic acid

You won’t find pure hyaluronic acid actually stocked in your kitchen or bathroom cabinet, but we do include it on the list because it’s a solid choice for those looking to use products with minimal ingredient lists.

“It’s a great moisturizer because it pulls a lot of water and is tolerated well by most people,” says Susan Bard, MD, another board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

Hyaluronic Acid 100% contains pure sodium hyaluronate, a form of ingredient that penetrates the skin better than others. Since the ingredient is hydrating and draws moisture from the skin to the surface, we always recommend applying a sealant on top to prevent that moisture from evaporating into the air.

Petroleum jelly (also known as Vaseline)

“Vaseline, [or petroleum jelly] It is occlusive which makes it the perfect heavy moisturizer to lock in moisture in very dry skin,” says Dr. Bard. I’ve noticed that it’s very sticky, so if texture is an issue for you, a similar, non-sticky option is glycerin.

The ingredient may also be too much for oily or combination skin types. Hear what happened when a writer with breakout-prone skin used Vaseline as a moisturizer here.

Coconut Oil

A couple of years ago, coconut oil was considered a miracle, an ingredient that does just about everything that could slip anywhere and everywhere. However, while it still holds a place in your medicine cabinet as a body wash or hair mask, it may not be the best facial moisturizing product for everyone.

Dr. Mudgil says he’s “not crazy” about the idea of ​​applying coconut oil to the face as a moisturizer. “I’ve seen a lot of contact allergy in my practice from patients who use coconut oil.”

Dr. Bard does not recommend it to patients because the oil “has a high comedogenic content [rating] Which leads to clogged pores.”

The face may be best used as an oil cleanser to remove makeup and sunscreen.

Shea Butter and Cocoa

These formulas have a comet index of zero, says Dr. Mudgil, which technically means they shouldn’t clog pores. However, he says, “I’ve had several patients who have developed clogged pores using these products so it’s very patient dependent.”

Perhaps one explanation is that it is too thick. For this reason, his advice is to use shea and cocoa butter to treat dry skin on the body and not the face.

If you want to try one of them out as a face moisturizer, start with a very small amount of the product and apply it as the last step in your routine.


The above products may be miracle solutions for dry skin for some, but they may also be recipes for pimples for others. If you’re considering incorporating any of these into your routine, patch test and start small to see how your skin reacts before you apply the ingredient all over your face.

It is also important to take into account the type of moisturizing factor that needs to be taken into account. For example, Vaseline is an occlusive substance, which means that it sits on top of the skin and works to lock in moisture, but it doesn’t necessarily moisturize outside the surface, so it’s best to use a moisturizing ingredient (like hyaluronic acid) or an emollient first for best results.

+ Have you used any of the above as a face moisturizer? Share your experience below! What other components do you have questions about?

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