Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Low-Down On Lotion

It's a pretty safe bet that most of us use hand/body lotions. Some of us have numerous bottles of lotions around for one reason or another - wanting a variety of fragrances, trying to find one you like or that works for you etc. Some even have different lotions for different parts of the body; one for hands, one for feet, one for face... 

Really, the different lotions for different body parts thing isn't necessary EXCEPT for a separate lotion for the face. I'll give you that one as those moisturizers tend to be lighter and contain SPF. But separate lotions for your feet and/or hands? Not necessary. Use the same one you use on the rest of your body!

You slather it on day after day after day, it takes a long time to get results or if you miss just one day you are right back where you started. Lotions can be greasy or leave a residue on the skin; it doesn't sink in; it just plain doesn't work. The list of "problems" people have with lotions just goes on and on. But, most lotion-users probably are not using the lotion properly to make the most of it's moisturizing abilities. Oh that's not to say there aren't some poorly constructed lotions out there - they DO exist. But they are few and far between. And you do NOT have to shell out big bucks for the more expensive brands of lotion to get desirable results. Sometimes cheaper is just as good, or even better!

Bear in mind I'm no expert. I have made my own lotions before though, and it is something I greatly enjoy. I don't do it more simply because of a lack of finances to keep the supplies stocked; and the convenience of just going to the store and grabbing something that's already been made. But in learning how to make my own lotion, I learned about the various ingredients and what they do, and why they're necessary. I learned how lotions really work, and that's a great thing. These little tips for keeping your skin moisturized are just things I have picked up on over the years from experience, so make of it what you will.

1. Water is important. No, I'm not talking about water in the lotion (though this is a key ingredient in all good lotions) I'm talking about water as in drink lots of it every day. Just because you can use products to make your skin soft and seemingly moisturized doesn't mean that you can neglect keeping yourself moisturized on the inside by drinking plenty of water! Drinking enough water each day is so very important for lots of reasons. Sometimes dry skin can be eased simply by drinking more water, though this does take time to have an effect. 

2. Water, part two, and why you need oil. Before you apply lotion, pat some water on your skin. Don't put so much water on that you're soaking wet, just a light little pat of water will do so your skin is slightly damp. Lotion on it's own is ok, but if you really want to maximize it's moisturizing effect you need to dab some water on first and then apply the lotion. Why? Easy. Lotions contain oils (if this doesn't sound right to you, sorry but it's a MUST, it wouldn't be lotion otherwise!) and those oils help keep existing moisture in your skin by providing a sort of "anti-evaporation" barrier. If you apply lotion on dry skin, well sure the hydrating elements of the lotion will sink in and do a bit of moisturizing, but it will be much more beneficial if there is more moisture there to begin with before applying the lotion. Applying lotions right after your showers/baths is a good idea because you've just exposed it to water (more on this one a little further down, there are some important things to note on this one!) so step out, towel off a bit but do leave a little water on your skin and then apply your lotion. You've got about 20 minutes post-shower when your skin is going to have a higher moisture content thus being the best time to apply your lotion. If you're skeptical of this one, do a test. For a period of at least two weeks, use just your lotion on half your body, and on the other half of your body pat on water first then apply lotion. (For example if you only put lotion on your feet, do lotion only on the right foot and water + lotion on the left.) You'll notice a difference.

3. Less is more. Most people actually over-do it with the lotion and use WAY too much of it at a time. Hence complaints of the lotion not sinking in, or being sticky, leaving a residue etc. True there are some lotions out there that just weren't formulated well and are in fact sticky/greasy/etc. but for the most part if your lotion is leaving anything undesired behind on your skin, it's because you're using too much! Cut back on how much you're using and that should help. If it doesn't, inspect the ingredients list and do some research on the ingredients if necessary, and consider trying a new lotion with a different formula.

4. Take your time. Don't just slap the lotion on and call it done. You need to actually take a little time to massage the lotion in to get the most of it's moisturizing properties. This also helps with the "it just sits there and doesn't sink in" complaints some folks have about lotions. Don't think of applying lotion as a pesky chore, think of it as valuable "me time" and take a few minutes to really massage in the lotion. You'll not only be soft and moisturized for it, but you'll probably feel more relaxed too. Who doesn't love a massage?

5. Long, hot showers and baths are relaxing, yes. But they're a big culprit of dry skin! How's this possible? Didn't I just say something about put lotion on after showers or baths? Well yes I did. But that fact needs a little elaboration. See, when you're in a shower or tub of hot water your skin's moisture will evaporate. I know, this doesn't seem to make much sense but it's a proven fact; even though you're IN water, especially if it is hot water, it's causing your pores to open, which makes evaporation happen faster. And the longer you're in the water the more the water in your skin will evaporate, leading to dry skin. So, to combat this cause of dry skin is simple - cut back on the length of your showers AND cut back on the heat as well. Try to keep your showers and baths at a cooler temperature. Though surely nobody will fault you for some occasional long, hot showers or baths after a particularly stressful day!

Basically, you need two things to have soft, hydrated skin: water and oil. The oil itself is not a softening/moisturizing agent. That is what the water does. But water evaporates pretty quickly. Oil on the other hand acts as a shield to help temporarily keep the water from evaporating; it helps to hold the water in longer than the water would last otherwise thus helping get/keep your skin moisturized. So - hydrate with water first and then lock that moisture in with oil. And again, all good lotions and creams and such contain various oils (and water, too) as this is what really helps them to do their job in moisturizing your skin, but don't expect them to do the job all on their own. You will get maximum results if you hydrate with water first before putting on the lotions and creams.

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