A Guide to Dry Skin Moisturizers

Dry skin moisturizers are also called emollients in medicalese. Ever wondered how or if they work? Let's start by answering the first part of the question - the how.

Moisturizers are multitaskers. They cut down on water loss and drying by producing an oil film on the top layer of the skin (the epidermis). They also protect the skin from irritating and allergy-causing substances, and they reduce itching.

OK, that's how moisturizers work. Do they work - I mean, really work? Glad you asked.

My answer to that is: don't take my word for it, or anyone else's for that matter. Try using moisturizers and see if they work for you like they've worked for me.

You see, not everyone agrees that moisturizers for dry skin are effective. Health care professionals are divided on this subject. Well, the taste of the pudding is in the eating, so if you have dry skin, just go ahead and use a moisturizer. Decide for yourself whether it's effective or not.

Do watch out for moisturizers that contain ingredients like urea and antibacterial agents. You may just happen to be one of the people who react to these additives.

Dry skin moisturizers come in many forms. The main difference between them is in the ratio of oil to water. There are many types available.

Creams contain more water than oil. They are better for the face (they're less likely to cause breakouts) and are especially good for infected skin. They can also be used in place of soap.

Lotions contain more water and are good for broken areas of the skin.

Ointments contain more oil than water and are thick and greasy. They are considered (often by people who don't actually use them) to be the most effective type of dry skin moisturizer. You can tell that's not my personal opinion, but I feel obliged to give you the medical "party line".

Sprays are mostly water and are very soothing, but have no long-term effect.

OK, we've looked at the different types of moisturizers. Let's talk about how to apply them to the skin.

Apply after a bath when the skin is more absorbent. Apply frequently and gently - don't rub the moisturizer in vigorously. Continue to use a moisturizer even after your skin has improved. This will help to prevent dryness from recurring.

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