One glimpse into the lotion aisle at your local grocery store can be enough to make you give up trying to understand lotion. Thankfully, you don't need a degree to figure it out, just a bit of basic information.
Moisturizers are made up of two key types of ingredients: humectants and occlusives. Both work very differently in the way they deliver moisture to your skin.
Occlusives form a seal on the surface of your skin, locking in moisture. This is a handy feature, because dry air, wind and water are all pretty effective at sapping that moisture right out of your skin. Lotions with occlusive properties may be thicker and greasy, and are sometimes irritating to sensitive or oily skin. They're most effective when you apply them to damp skin. Some popular occlusive ingredients are lanolin, silicone, petroleum, petrolatum and paraffin.
Humectants work to draw moisture from the air into your skin, as well as from the tissue under your skin. These lotions are thinner, since they aren't oil-based. They're not as greasy or irritating, but they don't have a lot of staying power either. Humectants are most effective when you apply them several times throughout the day. Some of the most common humectants are glycerin, glucose, urea and lactic acid.
Both occlusive and humectants have their benefits and drawbacks, so your best bet is to find a moisturizer that uses both. The perfect combination of occlusive and humectants will be able to deliver moisture and protect your skin, all without leaving you feeling sticky or feeling the need for several applications.
The next time you're at the grocery store, don't panic in the moisturizer aisle. Instead, read the bottles and look for a combination of both types of ingredients.
And don't worry that it'll cost you an arm and a leg. Some of the best moisturizers that include occlusives and humectants are low to moderately priced, like Vaseline's Total Moisture product line. These products use ingredients like glycerin, lactic acid and petrolatum to deliver to you the best of both worlds, without leaving you feeling sticky.
When you get out of the shower, pat yourself dry -- don't rub. Apply lotion to your skin while it's still damp.
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