Soften Up With Moisturisers

Facts you need to not picking up the right one for your skin type

Dr. Deepti Dhillon, Cosmetologist AND AESTHETIC PHYSICIAN, Appleskin, New Delhi

Available in a mind-boggling range with the best of ingredients such as Vitamins, Minerals, Sunscreens, Almonds, Milk Cream and plant extracts like Vanilla, Liquorice, Berries, Cherries and even exotic herbs…they serve our skin well, soften it up and help in maintaining our skin’s healthy glow. Yes, moisturizers are available in a plethora of variants today; some claim to brighten your skin tone, some work hard to reduce the flakiness, some come with anti-ageing properties; whatever be their USP the bottom line is moisturizers increase the skin’s water content and encourage an orderly shedding of cells in the topmost layer resulting in silk-smooth skin.

They also protect our skin from drying up. When used regularly, they help in slowing down the skin’ aging process. A dry skin is more prone to wrinkles. Since in dry skin the normal barrier function of the skin is disturbed, the layers of lipid in the stratum corneum are not formed normally. This means that water can more readily evaporate from the skin’s surface allowing the cells to dry out. It further leads to cracking and shrinking of a skin surface and reduces the ability of the skin to act as a natural barrier against the entry of allergens, irritants, and microbes in our body.

Mechanism of Moisturisers

Irrespective of the variety, most moisturizers work in one or more of the following ways:

Occlusive: Contain oils such as liquid paraffin, soft paraffin, lanolin, coconut oil or emulsifying wax. These provide a layer of oil on the surface of the skin that prevents water from evaporating from the skin surface. These will not absorb fully into the skin and may make clothes greasy but they are very effective, particularly if applied overnight.

Humectant: These contain ingredients such as urea, glycerine, lactic acid, glycolic acid or sodium PCA. These penetrate into the skin where they attract and retain water, thereby increasing the capacity of the skin to retain water. They are particularly useful for very dry skin.

Keratolytics: Such moisturizers have higher concentrations of urea, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. They break down a skin protein called keratin. Keratolytic moisturizers break down the keratin in the hardened and thickened skin, helping to shed skin cells from these areas and soften and improve the appearance of dry, scaly skin.

Choosing the right one

Moisturizers come in varying formulations and types. There are two basic types of moisturizers: water in oil (W/O) and oil in water (O/W). Depending upon the concentration of oil and water different forms of moisturizers are available – lotions, creams, and ointments. Although there is no ‘right’ moisturizer for everyone, and it may take a bit of trial and error to find the right kind that suit you best, knowing the difference between various forms certainly helps.

Lotions: Light and non-greasy, these are mixtures of oil in water and have a cooling effect. They are easily absorbed and good for mildly dry skin. They are also particularly suitable for hairy areas of skin such as the scalp or chest.

Creams: Creams are slightly thicker than lotions. They are generally non-greasy and get quickly absorbed and are often preferred to ointments for monsoon reason.

Ointments: Thick, occlusive oil-based moisturizers that are best for very dry areas of skin, though many people don’t like them as they find them too greasy.

Quantity wise

Most of the people are perplexed over the number of moisturizers to be used. ‘How much and how often to use’ depends upon the state of your skin. Generally, it is recommended that you should apply moisturizers liberally and regularly (at least twice a day) to prevent the skin from drying out. They are most effective when they are applied on moist skin, for example IMMEDIATELY following a bath or shower TO LOCK-IN MOISTURE WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROVIDING MOISTURISATION LATER ON DRY SKIN, but they should also be applied at other times depending on how dry your skin is. The particularly dry skin may benefit from the frequent application of greasy moisturizer every couple of hours. Besides using moisturizing bath additives LIKE BATH OILS IN WATER and soap substitutes LIKE SHOWER GELS when you wash, will often provide maximum rehydration for the skin and help restore its barrier function.

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