A daily coating of lotion or cream can mean the difference between dull skin and smooth, supple skin. Moisturizers can treat dry skin, protect sensitive skin and even improve tone and texture. In fact, moisturizing year-round can help improve the quality and appearance of your skin. Moreover, the right moisturizer can provide relief to cracked, itchy skin during winter months.
Moisturizers often include one or both of two specific types of ingredients: humectants and emollients. Humectants such as alpha hydroxy acids, glycerin and urea work by absorbing water from the air around you and drawing it into your skin. Emollients include ingredients like lanolin, mineral oil or petrolatum, which fill in spaces between skin cells to smooth the appearance and feel of rough, dry skin [source: Mayo Clinic].
To find a moisturizer that will be the most beneficial to you, you need to consider your skin type. Use a water-based product if you have normal or oily skin, an oil-based moisturizer for dry or mature skin, and a product free of fragrances and dyes for sensitive skin [source: Mayo Clinic]. Once you find something that works, stick with it. However, if it starts to fall short, don't hesitate to find something new. For example, during the winter months, you might find that your skin is super dry and the lotion you loved all summer just isn't doing the trick. So, for the winter months, you might consider a richer product like a body cream. Just be careful to review the ingredients and continue to consider your skin type. If you have oily skin, that doesn't preclude you from taking advantage of a heavier cream during the winter. Just make sure it's made up of noncomedogenic ingredients (things that won't clog your pores) like avocado oil, almond oil or mineral oil [source: Davis].
When it comes to moisturizers, other than selecting products suited to your skin type and avoiding ingredients you're allergic to, there are no fixed rules. You should try a variety of products until you find one that leaves your skin feeling fresh and silky smooth.
Finding the right product is only one part of moisturizing. Timing is also key -- keep reading to find out when to moisturize.
When to Moisturize Your Body
Now that you know that moisturizing is essential to healthy looking skin, you may be wondering exactly when you should slather on your favorite product. Dermatologists say that the best time to apply a moisturizer is right after leaving the shower or bath. When applied immediately after bathing, the product is able to trap some of the water still on your body and use it to hydrate your skin [source: Mayo Clinic]. Before applying moisturizer, be sure to pat your skin with a towel until it's almost dry instead of rubbing it, as toweling dry vigorously can irritate sensitive skin.
That said, bath time isn't the only time of day you can moisturize. Especially during the dry winter months, you may find that you need to apply a lotion or cream several times over the course of the day. It's best to apply as needed in these conditions. Don't forget about your hands, which may be under extra stress due to repeated washings with harsh soaps as you try to ward off germs during cold and flu season [source: Mayo Clinic].
In addition to moisturizing after bathing, you should always moisturize after exfoliating or shaving. These practices can be hard on your skin and strip away its protective barrier of natural oils. Applying a moisturizing product to your skin can help replenish that natural barrier until your body is able to regroup [source: Mann].
There is plenty to know about moisturizing your skin. In fact, all sorts of different tricks can help you get the most out of your moisturizer. Visit the next page for a variety of moisturizing tips.
Tips for Moisturizing Your Body
Whether you're new to moisturizing or you've been doing it for ages, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of this skin care ritual:
- When you're ready for a soothing bath, don't pour that bath oil into the water. Instead, put it where it really needs to go -- on your skin -- before submerging yourself in the tub. This way, you know the oil's made it onto your skin and is not just floating around it. Furthermore, the warm bath water will enhance the oil's hydrating effects [source: Dakss].
- Don't overlook your legs, arms, elbows and knees. These areas tend to dry out easily and may need an extra coating of a rich body balm to keep them hydrated.
- Exfoliate before you moisturize. By removing the dead skin cells, you're essentially clearing the way for the moisturizer to do its job.
- If you're looking for a heavy-duty moisturizer that can tackle tough winter dryness, search for creams that come in tubs or pots, which are thicker and more moisturizing than lotions that come in pump containers [source: Bruno]. Or, better yet, raid the maternity skin care aisle; these products are designed for exceptionally dry skin and often have few ingredients, making them less likely to cause a skin allergy or reaction [source: Dakss].
- Dreading what condition your skin will be in after that 10-hour flight? Do your homework the night before you leave by applying an intense moisturizer just prior to bedtime. In the morning, apply your usual moisturizer, but skip the foundation, which can cake or flake mid-flight [source: Bouchez].
There's no doubt that healthy skin is hydrated skin. Using a moisturizer is a simple but effective way to bring out the best in your skin. For more information on moisturizing, peruse the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Skin Care Questions
- Bouchez, Colette. "18 Travel Beauty Tips -- to Go." WebMD. 2/22/08. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/18-travel-beauty-tips-to-go
- Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for a Soft Body." WebMD. 8/6/09. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/moisturizer-toning-cream
- Dakss, Brian. "Moisturizing Your Dry Winter Skin." CBS News/The Early Show. 1/3/06. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/01/03/earlyshow/living/beauty/main1175347.shtml
- Davis, Susan. "10 Winter Skin Care Tips." WebMD. 12/21/07. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/ten-winter-skin-care-tips
- Mann, Denise. "Summer Skin Makeover." WebMD. 7/2/08. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/summer-skin-care-8/5-skin-care-tips
- Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers 101: The Basics of Softer Skin." 12/16/08. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/SN00042
- Wu, Jessica. "What Kind of Moisturizer Is Best for Cold Weather?" Everyday Health. 10/10/08. (Accessed 9/10/09)http://www.everydayhealth.com/dry-skin/dry-skin-cold-weather.aspx