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Moisturize Away Dry Skin

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Dry skin and an irritating itch often go hand-in-hand during the winter months

Dry skin and an irritating itch often go hand-in-hand during the winter months. Moisturizing can sometimes help.

Moisturizers are specifically designed to alleviate dry skin. However, it's not possible for moisturizers to work anti-aging wonders, given that they are only able to reach the surface of the skin. Luckily, they are able to smooth out those tiny lines around your eyes called crinkles.

The top layer of skin is called the stratum corneum or horny layer. It's made up of 10 to 30 per cent water and is protected by a thin lipid coating which comes from oil gland secretions and natural moisturizing factor substances. This layer has highly compacted skin cells that shed. Normally with smooth, supple skin, the cells shed one at a time. If this skin layer is not able to retain enough water, large clumps of cells will flake off at once. So, why do some people suffer from dry skin more than others?

Dermatologists look at many different factors that influence dry skin. They include seasonal weather, indoor heating and air conditioning, stress, illness, medication, age and skin type. Indoor heating systems play havoc with skin. The low humidity levels in the house (60 percent or lower) cause skin to lose water to the air. Chapped skin also originates from the low humidity levels of cold winter weather. Additional culprits are harsh alkaline soaps, over-washing, soaking in a hot tub, sweating and irritating cosmetics. Medications for acne tend to dry out skin, as does crash dieting. Diuretics used to control heart disease and high blood pressure contribute to water loss.

Severe dryness leads to flaking, itching and a thickening of the horny layer. This thickening causes a further increase in moisture reduction, resulting in cracking and fissures.

Moisturizers work by simply adding water to the skin and keeping it there. The more water
content in the skin, the more flexible it is, leading to a silky-smooth appearance. The two main ingredients in moisturizers are humectants, a substance that is used for moistening, and occlusives, a substance used to keep the moisturizing ingredients on the skin. Moisturizing ingredients such as cocoa butter, almond, jojoba, sesame or apricot oil will draw the water to your body, while occlusives, such as natural amino acids and proteins, bind the water to the skin. The best time to moisturize is after a shower or bath to keep the moisture in.

Choosing the right moisturizer for you depends on your preferences and requirements. There are oil-based and water-based creams and lotions. The water and oil work together to allow the water to soak into the skin. Oil-based products contain more oil than water and should be avoided by individuals who are acne prone, given that they clog pores.

Facial skin is different than the rest of the body. It is usually less dry since it has more oil glands than your extremities. The body's sebum provides a film that ensures the moisture from your sweat glands doesn't disappear. Therefore, you only need a lotion for your face.

Eye creams are an exception to the rule. They are designed to smooth out very thin lines around the eyes, and reduce swelling. How do you tell if moisturizers are oil- or water-based? It's easy. Oil-based moisturizers feel warm on your skin because they trap in your body's heat. Water-based lotions cool the skin as the water evaporates. Use a light, all-purpose lotion for your entire body and apply it more often on areas that appear rough and dry.

Homemade Moisturizer

You can also make your own herbal treatment by using moisturizing essential oils, such as lavender, camomile or rosemary separately or in combination. Just put 10 drops of the essential oil into a quarter cup of either almond, sesame or olive oil. Apply on slightly damp skin.

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