A Winter Skin Guide to Locking in the Moisture

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Photo: Frank Rothe/Corbis

Newsflash: Moisturizers don’t moisturize. This is not to say that moisturizers don’t work, but their moisturizing properties do not come from adding moisture to the skin, but by locking existing moisture in. If you’re plagued by various dryness during the cold winter month, then the concept of "locking in moisture" is especially essential to prevent cracking, scaliness, and irritation. To find out the best ways to cuff yourself to moisture this winter, the Cut spoke with Dr. Patricia Wexler, who delivered some additional tips on how to make your skin less thirsty. As she explains, locking in moisture is about “creating an environment to sustain moisture in extremely dry skin or hair over time.”

1. Don’t make your showers too hot. The ideal temperature is lukewarm, like your feelings for Ariana Grande until she got slapped in the face with a Victoria’s Secret Angel wing.

2. Don’t shower too long. The best showers, Dr. Wexler suggests are “tepid, short showers,” so shower like you are in a European youth hostel.

3. No baths. Excessive heat dehydrates the skin. Showering will have to be your cardio.

4. Apply moisturizer when your skin is damp. The clock for locking it in post-shower begins at five minutes, so moisturize like you are on the clock.

5. Avoid beeswax lip balms. “Lips respond well to paraffin (not beeswax) ceramides,” Dr. Wexler clarifies, which last long in a moist environment. She likes Kiehl's Lip Balm for its combination of emollients like squalene, lanolin, wheat germ oil, and vitamin E.

6. Try creams, not lotions. Lotions have a higher alcohol content and can be more drying.

7. Look for creams that contain ceramides. In layman’s terms, Dr. Wexler explains a ceramide is a “glue” that holds skin cells together, helping skin maintain its appearance while protecting it. She calls products that contain them “great barrier repair" that bind in moisture and water. Her favorites are CeraVe moisturizing cream and Nia 24 Skin Strengthening Complex

8. Face oils don’t moisturize. Dr. Wexler explains that oils can seal in moisture, but can’t lock in moisture that isn’t present. To effectively incorporate a face oil into your routine, she suggests moisturizing first with a cream or lotion, and using the oil on top.

9. But use oils on your cuticles. Dr. Wexler recommends oils that are infused with jojoba and vitamin E.

10. Don’t use soap. Use gentle, soap-free, fragrance-free body washes, limiting the use of detergents and glycerin.

11. Exfoliation doesn’t really do anything for moisturizing. Exfoliation can remove dead skin, which can help moisturizers penetrate better, but doesn't actually help with locking moisture in.