First, let's sort out the terms. Hydrating/moisturizing literally means feeding your skin water or something that will pull moisture into your skin. This category generally includes traditional lotions and creams. Softening your skin is a term that is more inclusive. You can soften skin by exfoliating, or sloughing off rough dead skin cells, as well as by helping your skin retain a healthy amount of water. Ingredients like sweet almond oil and rice starch are softening, rather than hydrating for skin. So, mix up your skincare to include products that do both in your routine. That way, you'll combat dry skin from multiple angles.
Second, don't put too put energy into piling on heavy creams. Your skin can only absorb a certain amount of moisturizer, so applying thick layers of your face cream means that it will just sit on top of your skin. Also, certain creams, especially ones that are not oil-free can clog your pores if you overdo it. Instead, think about the ingredients that you're using in your moisturizer.
Here are some common ingredients in skincare products today that will help optimize skin hydration:
- Ceramides are lipid molecules that are naturally occurring in the skin's intercellular matrix. They help protect your skin by acting as an adhesive that holds skin cells together and creates a protective barrier against water loss. Environmental skin stressors like dry air and sun damage can reduce your supply of ceramides. So, use the Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum ($72 on skinstore.com) before you apply your evening moisturizer to maintain a healthy level of ceramides, keeping your skin protected and hydrated.
- Glycerin is an emollient and a humectant (substance that attracts water). Thus, it helps maintain an appropriate water balance in your intercellular matrix. Glycerin also promotes cell turnover and repair, so you can use to reduce discoloration and even skin tone. If you've ever felt pure glycerin (which you can buy at most grocery stores), it has a thick, lubricating feeling that makes your skin feel instantly moisturized. To prevent chapped hands this winter, lather up with some Avalon Organics Glycerin Liquid Soap in Lavender ($8 in grocery stores).
- Shea butter, which comes from African karite shea tree nuts, is rich in fatty acids as well as vitamins A and E. This popular skincare ingredient locks in moisture and Tree Hut Shea Extra-Rich Lotion ($6.50 at Ulta).
- Hyaluronic acid is also naturally occurring in your body. It helps your skin retain water to maintain a supple, smooth, elastic appearance. You can actually even sort by products that contain hyaluronic acid on sephora.com. Just rub some JUARA Tamarind Tea Hydrating Toner ($29 on dermstore.com) over your face every morning and night, and your skin will feel instantly soft.
In addition to choosing your products wisely, make sure that you're using lukewarm water to wash your face and body. Afterwards, apply your moisturizer immediately after washing, (within the first 2 minutes after cleansing is ideal) to most effectively hydrate your skin. Moisturizers work by trapping moisture from the air into your skin. Plus, the water will allow for a smoother moisturizer application...it will be easier to rub into your skin, it will feel less greasy, and you will end up needing to use less lotion. I like to keep a bottle of moisturizer in the shower. After showering, I use my towel to pat myself dry (rubbing will removing too much water from your skin) and then quickly rub my lotion into my skin.
So this winter, remember to keep warm and keep soft :)