Moisturising your skin
We may not have had the hottest summer on record, but we have had some lovely warm days and also lots of windy days as well – factors that dry our skin.
Generally mild dry skin is not a major problem, although it can become uncomfortable and can also be very ageing. More severe dry skin though can cause a range of problems, from scales and cracks which can let in infection, to conditions such as eczema.
So all round, dry skin is best avoided, and today with so many products on the market, it really is easy to keep your skin soft, moist and beautiful.
Many people think that dry skin is due to the natural oils in the skin diminishing but this isn’t really the case; dry skin is mainly due to lack of water in the skin. Moisturizers generally keep the skin moist not by replenishing the oils but by maintaining water levels in the outer layers of the skin (the stratum corneum). However, oil is essential in skin and one of its benefits is to prevent water loss from the skin’s surface. So today, modern moisturisers often combine both water and oils.
The ingredients of moisturizers can be divided into three main categories: humectants, emollients and preservatives.
Humectant simply means a substance that promotes the retention of moisture. Humectants can include ura, glycerine and alpha hydroxyl acids that help absorb moisture from the air and hold it in the skin.
An emollient substance promotes softness and suppleness. Emollients such as lanolin, mineral oils and petrolatum are often used in moisturizers as they help fill the spaces between the skin cells, lubricating the skin and making it smoother.
The third main ingredient in many moisturizers is preservative. Preservatives help to prevent the growth of bacteria in the product. Some moisturizers use parabens. These are a class of chemicals that are used as a preservative but there has been concern about a link with cancer and many associations and medical groups now recommend parabens should be avoided.
On top of that, moisturizers often contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and plant extracts and often contain various fragrances as well to ensure the final product gives the best and nicest possible result.
While that is the basic make up of most moisturizers, the choice of moisturizers on the market today is enormous. Generally there are two main types, “oil in water” and “water in oil”, based mainly on how the various ingredients have been put together. Water based products containing just a little oil are often considered best for normal skins, while the oil based products, which trap moisture in the skin by forming a barrier film on the skin surface, are for people with skins that are naturally or excessively dry.
Moisturisers for the face come in an especially wide range and there are specific factors that need to be taken into consideration here. Often, the moisturizer is going to be used underneath a cosmetic foundation, so it has to work as a good base. Also, too oily a moisturizer could clog the pores leading to whiteheads. Here, noncomedogenic moisturizers have been developed. Comedones are hair follicles that enlarge when filled with oil and possibly dirt. Noncomedogenic moisturizers contain products such as avocado or almond oil or are totally oil free so that they won’t clog your pores.
There is also a wide range of specialist products for other parts of the body. For instance, products containing tretinoin, an acid that rebuilds collagen, is popular with some people to counter stretch marks resulting both from giving birth and also after major weight loss.
The key really to choosing the right moisturizer is to check your skin every so often and then read about the different ingredients before you buy. Throughout the year your skin will change (surprisingly it often dries more in the winter period because of central heating), so it is important to be aware of this and to select the best product for your skin type at that time.
Don’t forget skin is the largest organ in our body and provides wonderful protection against damaging elements in the outside world. It is worth taking the time to treat it properly and keep it in tip top condition.
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