Supple Summer Skin

While cooler months are behind us, our skin’s need for softening is still present. Moisturizers improve skin’s barrier function, minimize surface water, and keep the skin’s top layer softer and suppler. Though hot days may make us want to skip some grooming steps, moisturizing remains important. If the skin loses too much water, it becomes dry, flaky, and prone to both infection and inability to regulate body temperature.

Though one of the most prescribed products in dermatology, moisturizers contain so many different ingredients and make so many antioxidant, anti-aging, and other “anti-” claims that their therapeutic effects have come under scrutiny in recent years (the lack of well controlled studies has confused dermatologists as well as consumers). One exciting development is the addition of naturally occurring skin fats and other barrier elements (sterols and ceramides) to over-the-counter moisturizers. There are also new anti-inflammatory prescription moisturizers (primarily used for dry skin conditions such as eczema) which are extremely effective for dry skin under the guidance of a dermatologist.

The moisturizer you choose depends on your skin type. Those with dry, sensitive skin may choose a moisturizer that is cream based, with a physical (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) sunscreen component rather than chemical blockers. More oily skin types should pick less-greasy moisturizers such as lotions or gels. Your dermatologist may make specific recommendations.

In cooler weather, I often recommend a daily routine that includes applying cream based moisturizers with sunscreen SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15, but preferably 30. As days turn hotter, switch to less-thick moisturizing lotions in SPF 30 or higher (lotions are more elegant and dry faster during hot, humid weather). If you’re on the boat or at the beach, change up the moisturizer for a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or more.

While there is no set rule, I advise applying moisturizer with sunscreen before make-up, unless you are using topical medicines for conditions such as acne or dermatitis (then apply the medicine before anything else). Most moisturizers are water based and won’t block the pores of those with acne. In fact, you will be more likely to tolerate acne medications and improve compliance.

If you apply a high SPF sunscreen on hot humid days, bypass the moisturizer in the morning. As sun exposure for even short periods tends to dry out skin, apply your moisturizer after returning home and washing your face. Don’t use a moisturizer with sunscreen twice a day, as it may lead to skin irritation—the wrong result of a good skin care routine!

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