Cooler, dry air has hit San Diego, and it is making my patients’ skin dry. Many tell me that their skin remains scaly and itchy despite moisturizing daily. The best advice I can give is to teach them to moisturize properly.
The first question I ask is: Are you using a lotion or a cream?
The difference between the two comes down to the water content. Creams and lotions are mixtures of oil and water. It is the oil component that is most important for your dry skin.
Lotions are droplets of oil mixed in water. They have a high water and low oil content. As such they are easy to spread on dry skin. However, the water is not well absorbed and quickly evaporates, which actually dries your skin further.
In contrast, creams are droplets of water mixed in oil. They have a high oil and low water content. They are more difficult to smear on dry skin but apply easily to moist skin. Therefore, they are best used immediately after your shower or bath when your skin has soaked up the water like a sponge. Applying cream then creates a layer of oil that locks the moisture in your skin. The water does not evaporate, and your skin stays hydrated.
This is why in the wintertime I advise patients to use only creams. In the warm, humid summer, lotions are actually better.
Or, if your budget is a bit tight this winter, even old-school, plain Vaseline Petroleum Jelly works quite well. Rub some onto your hands then apply a thin coat all over your body.
Photo credit: FCC, Mandarin Strawberry.