How to Find the Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin
Dry skin is a problem faced by millions of people worldwide. Barney Kenet, MD, a dermatologist from New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center, estimates that there are 100 million people with dry skin living across the world. Many consumers aren’t aware of the causes and triggers of the condition because they simply want to focus on finding the best moisturizer for dry skin. However, knowing the why behind dry skin can help people learn how to alleviate it.
The most common causes of dry skin
Aside from certain medical conditions such as eczema, there are two very common causes of dry skin.
Dehydration is the most common cause of dry skin, and analysts estimate that a shocking 75% of the population is dehydrated. It might sound silly because most of us always walk around with a cup or bottle of something. But how often is that ‘something ‘ water?
Today, most Americans do not consume the recommended 10 cups of water a day, meaning that much of our population is chronically dehydrated.
Think about it. Most of us wake up and go straight to the coffee maker. Then we head to work, where we likely have more coffee, and perhaps some juice or soda. Even when we’re thirsty, we are more likely to reach for a sugar-laden energy drink than a glass of water.
However, our bodies are made up of 60% water. We absolutely need it to thrive—and so does our skin!
2. Chemicals in moisturizers
Those of us with dry skin are always told one thing: Moisturize! After hearing this, we head to the store and buy a lotion or cream that claims to ‘penetrate the layers of the skin’ or ‘maintain the skin’s moisture.’ But did you know the exact opposite could be true?
Many lotions and creams on the market contain chemicals that deplete our skin of its own moisture, rather than restoring it. The term ‘humectant,’ for example, has been used to trick consumers for years.
A humectant does indeed attract moisture from the air into the skin. But, some synthetic humectants actually cause our skin to lose moisture over time, causing dryness and more apparent signs of aging.
Many humectants used in moisturizers draw water from deeper layers of our skin without replenishing it. This process can make our skin look hydrated for a little while, but as the moisture evaporates, our skin becomes dehydrated. As a result, our skin can look dull, dry, and lack elasticity. Examples of synthetic humectants that cause more harm than good include:
- Propylene glycol: It can dry out the deeper layers of our skin, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, and dull skin in the future. People with sensitive skin should proceed with caution where propylene glycol is concerned, as it can be irritating.
- Polyethylene glycols (PEGs): Propylene glycol is one kind of PEG. PEGs are petroleum-based and may contain carcinogens.
- Silicones: Most of us are aware of the drawbacks of using silicone on our skin and hair. Silicone forms a film on our skin, which prevents it from breathing, and this process can lead to acne and dryness in the future. However, because silicone makes our skin feel instantly soft, it is a common ingredient in skincare products.
- Urea: This chemical can cause contact dermatitis, and release formaldehyde.
Medical conditions that cause dry skin
Even if you hydrate regularly and are aware of the chemicals in moisturizers, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience dry skin. Sometimes, you can encounter a medical condition that damages your skin and takes out its moisture.
Dermatitis, for example, is the most common condition that results in chronic dry skin. However, there are three main forms of dermatitis:
- Atopic dermatitis: Atopic dermatitis is also known as eczema, a common skin condition in adults and children alike. It causes dry, scaly patches on our skin and is often itchy. The patches can be unsightly, causing many of us to feel embarrassed and insecure, which can decrease our quality of life.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is commonly known as dandruff and is usually found on the scalp. This kind of dermatitis occurs when our skin overproduces oil, leading to red, scaly, itchy, and flaky rashes.
- Contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis occurs when our skin reacts to something it comes into contact with. People might notice inflammation, but it will be limited to the point of contact.
Common symptoms of dry skin
Even though the signs of dry skin can vary based on age and general health, there are a few common symptoms of dry skin. Some of those symptoms are:
- Skin that feels tight, especially after a hot bath or shower, or even a cold swim
- Rough skin
- Itchy skin
- Flaking, scaling, or peeling skin
- Fine lines
- Gray, ashy skin (even though it is regularly moisturized)
- Cracks that may bleed
To avoid or lessen these uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms, it’s essential to drink plenty of water and find a safe moisturizer that works well for dry skin.
How to find the best moisturizer for dry skin
Given the conflicting information out there, it can be a difficult task to find the best body and face moisturizer for our dry skin. But there are a few strategies that can help us become savvy, moisturizer shoppers.
1. Ask yourself, “How is the extract actually extracted?”
Sometimes, natural ingredients that are good for the skin can cause future problems if they are not extracted in an effective and healthy way. For example, if an ingredient like calendula (which is great for sensitive skin) is extracted using harmful synthetic means, it will no longer be safe to use on your skin. This unfortunate fact is why you must learn how each ingredient was extracted to create the moisturizer.
2. Research the ingredients
Don’t assume a long, scary-looking word is always a harmful chemical. While some ingredients might sound like toxic, the opposite could be true. For example, cetyl alcohol usually sounds alarming because of the word ‘alcohol,’ which in skincare, we have come to associate with ‘drying.’ But even though cetyl alcohol has an alcohol-style chain, it isn’t alcohol at all. In fact, it is a multiplier. It helps bring water and oils together to replenish the skin.
3. Check if it’s safe
The Derm Review is a great site that can help you ascertain whether certain ingredients in a moisturizer for dry skin is helpful or harmful. By typing in a product’s ingredients, you can learn whether it’s safe, FDA-approved, and natural. This information will also help you demystify the ingredients in moisturizers and make better decisions regarding your skin.
How often should you moisturize your skin?
Once you find a moisturizer that you like, you want to make sure you know how often to use it. Usually, this tip will be on the product label, but you should only use this as a guide.
How often you moisturize your skin could vary depending on how oily or dry your skin is and the humidity and dryness in the environment. If you’re using other products that affect your skin barrier, that can also play a role in how often you moisturize.
Still, with all of that in consideration, you might only need to use your moisturizer twice a day after cleansing your skin.
How much moisturizer should you use?
Determining how much moisturizer you should use isn’t as cut and dry either. The amount can vary depending on how dry your skin is and what moisturizer you’re using. However, a good rule of thumb is to use about a nickel-size amount.
Tips for moisturizing your skin
Keeping your skin moisturized doesn’t just depend on the product you choose. How you apply your moisturizer is also critical to consider. Before you start using your moisturizer for dry skin, consider these tips to get the most out of your product.
- Use moisturizer when your skin is damp. A good time is after you take a shower or bath.
- Always do a patch test before you use a new product. That way, you know how your skin will react.
- Try to avoid extra hot water when taking a shower and washing your face.
- Drink plenty of water. Having eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day will keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
- Stay away from the lunchtime soda and sugary energy drinks. Those wreak havoc on your skin.
- If you have a humidifier, use it at night to keep moisture in your room.
- When your skin is feeling extremely dry, mix a little oil like rosehip or jojoba into your moisturizer.
These quick, simple tips will go a long way in enhancing the impact of your product and locking in moisture. So, make sure to keep them in mind if you want to see long-term results from your product.
Vigilance is the key
Consumers with dry skin have to work hard to keep their skin healthy, glowing, and hydrated.
An important first step is to ensure you are getting enough water every day. Try to replace one cup of coffee with a glass of water and swap out the lunchtime soda with a few more glasses. Drinking water probably won’t heal your dry skin completely, but it will help!
It’s also vital that you become vigilant about what you put on your skin. Researching ingredients is a must, as well as being able to distinguish between safe and toxic nutrients.