If you looked through a beauty or fashion magazine, you’d likely believe that every woman (and man) walking around was cursed with dry, cracked, flaky skin. Ads abound for moisturizers for seemingly every part of the body, and I got to wondering if moisturizing is as critical as these ads make it seem. After all, our ancestors didn’t have access to $80 bottles of facial moisturizers.
Your skin needs hydration
It’s pretty common knowledge that we can’t live without hydration. Every part of our bodies – including our biggest organ, the skin – requires hydration to function. In fact, as the organ responsible for protecting pretty much every other organ in your body, it’s especially important to keep your skin healthy and hydrated.
If you wash your face, you need to moisturize
With the dirt, germs, and pollutants we encounter on a regular basis, it seems like a pretty good idea to wash our faces regularly. But washing our faces is one of the main reasons we need to moisturize.
Our skin contains sebum – skin’s natural oil that is produced in the hair follicles. Sebum works its way from the hair follicle up to the surface of the skin, where it forms a protective layer against viruses and bacteria. When you wash your face, you strip your skin of this oil, making it necessary to moisturize.
Some have suggested that moisturizing would become unnecessary if we were to just stop washing our skin. To a degree that is a valid argument. After all, with proper diet the skin does a pretty good job of taking care of itself in most cases. However, we are exposed to many factors that make cleansing desired – if not absolutely necessary. Discontinuing washing your face/skin is ill-advised.
What does a moisturizer actually do?
There are two types of moisturizers: humectants and emollients. Humectants draw water from the middle layer of the skin to the outer layer of the skin. They also draw water from the environment. Emollients help to “seal” moisture into the skin, while at the same time making the outer layer of the skin feel soft and smooth. Most products that are considered moisturizers contain both emollients and humectants.
Moisturize for your skin type
There are many different types of skin: dry, oily, sensitive, acne-prone, etc. – and some of us fall into more than one category. It is important to choose a moisturizer that benefits your skin type.
Dry skin is the result of skin that doesn’t produce enough sebum. If you have dry skin, you may need to moisturize more frequently, or use a “heavier” moisturizer that will allow your skin to attract and hold more moisture.
Oily skin has the opposite problem – an overproduction of sebum. But this doesn’t mean you can skip the moisturizer. You may require a stronger cleanser to reduce the oil, but you will still need to moisturize to keep your skin healthy and protected. Even acne-prone skin should be moisturized – even though many people think it’s counter-productive. Skipping the moisturizer won’t diminish acne, and a light moisturizer that doesn’t clog the pores can actually help the skin become clearer and healthier.
If you are unsure about your skin type, a visit to a dermatologist can be a good starting point (adults should have a full-body skin check annually to check for irregularities, skin cancer, etc.). A dermatologist can help you determine a good skin care routine.