Touch for Your Health

Skin is more “touchable” when it’s soft and smooth. Here are the products that will invite all kinds of caressing into your life (read: hand-holding, kissing, hugging, massaging, oh my).

1HAND-HOLDING:

The urge to hold hands isn’t just the stuff of Beatles’ classics. Nearly 60 percent of Americans wish they had more hand-holding, according to Floyd’s survey.

And it’s good for you: Holding a loved one’s hand lowers stress levels by dampening your body’s stress reaction. Hand-holding also serves an important social function, from the time we’re a toddler to when we’re old and gray. “It’s a connection we never grow out of,” Eells says. “Hand-holding visibly shows a connection: ‘I belong with this person right now.’”

RESEARCH: Touch Conveys Subtle Emotions

Keep lotion handy: Eos Everyday Nourish Hand Lotion, $3.99

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Slip these little guys in your bag and never be without soft hands. They’re full of vitamins, shea butter and oat extract, but free of parabens, dyes and other chemicals.

Banish super-dry hands: CeraVe Renewing Lotion, $15.99.

Salicylic acid and ammonium lactate help slough away dead skin so moisturizing ingredients can penetrate deep into skin layers.

2KISSING:

A great snogging session melts away your worries and boosts your mood. The good news is that you don’t have to have a movie-worthy makeout to get big benefits. Those pecks exchanged throughout the day just might be enough. Couples who kiss more often are more satisfied with their relationships and report lower stress levels. Research shows that kissing could even help reduce allergic symptoms.

Protect sensitive smackers: Nivea’s A Kiss of Recovery Medical Lip Protectant, $2.99.

Relieves chapped lips, while preventing sunburn and windburn.

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Paint a pretty pout: Clarks Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Tint, $19.

Packed with natural moisturizers and available in six shades, one hotter than the next.

3HUGGING:

Women who get more hugs from their romantic partners have lower blood pressure. Giving your best friend or sweetie a squeeze is associated with a lowered heart rate and a boost of the warm-‘n’-fuzzy feeling hormone, oxytocin.

But what if you’re wary of invading your friend’s private space with a bear hug? “When you see a friend upset, ask them if they’d like a hug,” suggests Eells.

MORE: The Other Side of Oxytocin

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Exude a fresh fragrance: Sun Kiss Eau de Toilette, The Body Shop April 2012, $25.

Smelling good makes people want to come closer. This fragrance has notes of sandalwood and jasmine, which are soothing and may even help reduce anxiety.

4MASSAGING:

Massage brings on waves of feel-good hormones—and just plain feels amazing. Getting a neck or shoulder massage from a partner is shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. What’s more, a good rubdown can even enhance the immune system.

A soothing environment is key, including dim lights and a responsive massage therapist or partner. Getting a massage releases a comforting hormonal response that’s akin to a baby being swaddled in a blanket, according to Michael Finkelstein, M.D., founder of SunRaven Center in New York. “The hormone response is the same,” he says. This includes the release of oxytocin during the relaxation response.

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Enhance the experience: Tranquil Blend Essential Oil, Jurlique, $24

Linalool, a compound found in many essential oils such as sweet orange and lavender, reduces stress. Ask the massage therapist if they have massage oils containing the compound or if you can add aromatherapy to the service. (Of course, you can always DIY at home with a willing partner.)

5SCRATCHING:

Trying to relieve an itch? The ankle has one of the most intense itches, according to research, and feels the most pleasurable place to scratch. Small nerve fibers contribute to the uncomfortable itchy sensation. Researchers are looking into whether there are nerve fibers associated with pleasure, which could explain why that back scratch feels oh so good.

But by keeping your skin moisturized and irritation free, you won’t even have to scratch in the first place. (Still, we’ll never turn down a back scratch offer.)

MORE: Some Body Parts Feel Better to Scratch Than Others

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Keep your gams moisturized: Alba Botanica Moisturizing Cream Shave, Mango Vanilla, $3.29.

Hydro-active technology helps prevent dry, itchy skin. Available unscented for sensitive skin.

Still have itchy spots? Neosporin EssentialsDaily Moisturizing Cream, $11.49

Clinically shown to squelch the itch on contact and restore healthier skin in three days.

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