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Moisturizers Do More Than Just Soften Your Skin

Published on 2006-03-03. Author : SpecialChem

SAN FRANCISCO -- Moisturizer is one of the most effective and versatile cosmetics on the market. Depending on its ingredients, it can soften and soothe the skin on your face, body and hands, while also protecting it from the sun and camouflaging its imperfections. Now more than ever, there are moisturizers available to meet almost all of your skin's needs.

Speaking today at the 64th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, M.D., clinical associate professor in the department of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., discussed how the ingredients in today's moisturizers work.

"There are four categories of moisturizers: facial moisturizers, lip balms, body lotions and hand creams," stated Dr. Draelos. "Their primary function is to keep skin moist, minimize wrinkles from dryness, smoothe and soften skin, and to deliver other ingredients, like sunscreen, that benefit the skin."

Facial Moisturizers

Facial moisturizers are designed for use in the morning, following cleansing. In the current marketplace, all facial moisturizers are formulated to not clog pores, cause acne or an allergic reaction. The differences are in how they are created to work with different skin types and whether they have additional beneficial ingredients.

Moisturizers for dry skin are comprised of ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, glycerin and cyclomethicone, all of which are thick and physically prevent water loss from the skin. Moisturizers for normal skin are usually lighter and contain such silicone-derived ingredients as dimethicone, cyclomethicone and lightweight oils such as cetyl alcohol. Moisturizers for oily skin usually are very light and primarily use dimethicone as their active ingredient. "It's important to understand your skin type when selecting a moisturizer so that you get the full benefit of the product," Dr. Draelos noted.

Facial moisturizers also may contain sunscreens and foundation, making them great multi-tasking products for women with hectic schedules. "You can cover flaws, protect yourself from the sun and keep your skin soft and younger-looking with one step," Dr. Draelos said.

When looking for a facial moisturizer that contains sunscreen, it is important to select one that offers protection from ultraviolet (UV) A rays which can cause long-term damage to the skin's underlayers, resulting in wrinkling and other aging effects. New products will soon offer ingredients that block UVA rays chemically and provide longer-lasting protection.

Lip Balms and Lipsticks

Lips tend to dry out faster than the rest of your skin because they contain very few oil glands. Therefore, products to keep them moist must be thick and prevent water loss as well as add moisture. Traditionally, lip balms have been made from petrolatum and wax. Today, products like dimethicone, a skin protectant, and sunscreen have been added to many of the lip balms on the market.

"Lip balms also are formulated to provide a smooth feel to the lips," Dr. Draelos said. "While some people believe that you can become 'addicted' to lip balm, there is not anything in the actual product that is addictive. People may feel that they're 'addicted' because they enjoy the feeling of smooth, moisturized lips."

Lipstick is basically lip balm with added color. Manufacturers use less stiff waxes, like carnauba or candela, to make them glide smoothly over the lips. Lipsticks also contain ingredients that offer the consumer color, coverage, sun protection and moisture at the same time.

Body Lotion

Body lotions are usually made from a mix of water, mineral oil, dimethicone and glycerin. Newer ingredients may include hyaluronic acid and ceramide 3, which soothe irritated skin. Manufacturers are now providing novel approaches to deliver these ingredients to the skin, such as time- released moisturizers.

"Petrolatum is still the gold standard to which all other moisturizer ingredients are compared," Dr. Draelos said. "What's important is that the lotion is one that you like so that you will keep applying it, because no moisturizer is effective if it's not used."

Some manufacturers also add dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a sunless tanner, to body lotions. When DHA is applied to the skin, it creates a reaction that turns the skin brown. Three to five percent DHA is needed to tan the skin and protein often is added to make the color deeper.

"It's important to remember that a sunless tan provides no sun protection factor (SPF) whatsoever, so it's important to use a broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB) sunscreen of at least sun SPF 15 when you are planning to be outside," Dr. Draelos said.

Hand Cream

The skin on the hands often is exposed to harsh products, like soap and cleaning supplies, that strip away the natural oils, making the skin much drier than the rest of the body.

Creams that are formulated for hands typically use a combination of ingredients such as petrolatum, glycerin, dimethicone and/or mineral oil. They go on thickly to help create an artificial barrier against water loss and to protect the skin from further damage.

"People who suffer from dry, cracked or chapped hands may find that applying a heavy moisturizer and then wearing cotton gloves at night can be very helpful," Dr. Draelos said. "You also should put moisturizer on your hands after every time you wash them to help minimize water loss."

Dr. Draelos noted that the cosmetics industry continually develops new moisturizer formulations, adding new ingredients that benefit the skin and can save the consumer time. "Because there are such a wide variety of moisturizer options available, a dermatologist can help you determine which ingredients will work best for your particular needs," stated Dr. Draelos.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 15,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails.

Source: American Academy of Dermatology

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