Around this time of year, there are many changes that take place. The days become shorter, trees are bare and we trade summer dresses and sandals for winter coats and snow boots. This is also the time of the year when our skin goes from supple and plump to dry and depleted. What can be done to break this persisting winter trend? There are certain ingredients that will help keep skin from the inevitable winter dry out!
Occlusives- This category of moisturizers consists of ingredients that create a waterproof barrier on top of the skin preventing water from escaping into the atmosphere leaving skin dull and dehydrated. One of the all-time best occlusive moisturizers is petrolatum aka petroleum jelly. While not a popular choice in this day and age, its effectiveness is unparalleled and it is the top recommendation of many dermatologists. Mineral oil and dimethicone are also occlusive moisturizers. They are lighter in feel and have a more pleasing texture than petrolatum but are just as useful to reduce excess dryness. If these occlusives don’t give you the warm and fuzzies then try lanolin, beeswax and other natural oils to get relief.
Humectants- This category is more well known and most understand it to be ingredients that attract and hold onto water which is true but humectants draw water from the lower layers of the skin as well as the air. Humectants behave like nature’s irrigation system to hydrate cells from the bottom skin layers to the top. Glycerin is one of the most famous humectants although hyaluronic acid is quickly gaining popularity. Urea, allantoin and panthenol are common humectants used to combat dryness.
There is also a class of ingredients that reinforce the oily portion of the stratum corneum (uppermost layer our skin). Referred to as the lipid or skin barrier, this ever-important component can be the difference between healthy, radiant, plump skin or dry, irritated, cracked skin. The lipid barrier acts as the “cement” holding the cells together. What happens to a brick wall if the cement has degraded and crumbled? The wall is weakened and no longer provides the support or protection that it is designed for. Skin is our body’s layer of protection and if it is compromised then it can lead to not only dry skin, but cellular damage too. In an effort to replenish the lipid barrier, ingredients such as ceramides, fatty acids (e.g. stearic acid), and cholesterol come into play.
While each category of ingredients is effective in treating and preventing dry skin, the best option is to use a product that contains ingredients from each category. Long-lasting hydration is most often achieved when attacking dryness from each angle. Opt for a cream rather than a lotion for extreme dry skin. Creams tend to have a higher concentration of oils, waxes and oily emollients that create a thicker film on your skin to lock moisture in where it belongs.
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