Women are at a disadvantage when it comes to skin care. Men have thicker, oilier skin that stands up better to harsh elements in the environment. Women have thinner skin that dries out more easily. As a result, women need to work harder to keep skin moisturized and prevent damage from the sun and other harmful effects [source: Healy]. It's easy to see that skin care companies use this fact to target the messages in their advertisements.
Skin Barrier Cream
Now that you understand the structure of the skin, it's time to explore whether you can help maintain this important organ by using skin creams. Many people have succumbed to the ambitious claims of beauty products. Abandoned skin care products quickly fill bathroom cabinets as they are discarded when their promises of health, beauty and vitality prove false. But you can make smart choices about which products you use if you understand the role of the skin barrier and look for products that enhance this skin function.
Start by considering the purpose of a skin barrier cream. You want a cream that is going to help the epidermis retain water. According to researchers, a good skin cream acts as a sort of short-term shield that helps back up the skin barrier. To get the most out of your moisturizer, apply it just after a bath when you've towel blotted your skin. This will help trap water in the surface cells of the skin.
The best kinds of creams contain ingredients that block water from exiting the skin's surface, such as glycerine, silicones, dimethicone and mineral oil. There are also some products that contain synthetic lipids, or fats, that imitate those found naturally in skin. These creams help draw water into the skin and keep the skin moist [source: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology].
In choosing a skin barrier cream, pick one that does not contain fragrances, since they can cause skin allergies or irritation. Preservatives, which are found in moisturizers that contain water and oil, can also cause irritation. Beware of skin care products with ingredients that claim to improve skin's flexibility or reduce wrinkles or stretch marks. These types of products have not as yet been proven to work [source: Mayo Clinic]. And always bear in mind that it's better to choose a product for its effect on skin's function rather than for its beauty claims.
Read on for some guidelines on choosing a skin cream and information on techniques for maintaining your skin barrier and improving the function of your skin.