When it comes to my face, I am devoted to my skin-care routine. Not a morning or night goes by without slathering on serums, creams, and oils to keep my complexion looking and feeling its best. But body care is a totally different story. I can go days without touching a bottle of lotion. I hate putting it on, and typically only do if a body part will be visible or my skin is so dry it hurts...which I know this can't be good for me. If you're like me, and wondering what happens if you don't put lotion on your body, Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Pasadena, California, the answer isn't good, especially in the winter.
"When you have a colder climate, the heat turned on, and less humidity in the environment, it really pulls water out of your skin. So it makes your skin a lot more dry," says Dr. Lee. "That matters because our skin is our natural protection, our natural barrier against the outside world."
When your skin barrier is compromised from significant dryness, you're more likely to experience itching, rashes, and skin infections. "When we're drying out that skin barrier, we're more likely to have those little microscopic breaks in the skin barrier. So it's less effective in terms of either preventing infection. That's why sometimes we can get superficial infections from really dry skin," says Dr. Lee. "A lot of people will call it winter itch, we call it asteatotic dermatitis. And this is a type of eczema that results from dryness. I see this very often this time of year on the lower leg and sometimes on the back."
Luckily, this is all preventable by establishing a moisture-promoting body-care routine.
How to establish a moisture-promoting body-care routine
Keeping your skin moisturized starts in the shower. The first thing you want to address is the temperature and duration of your showers and/or baths. "Hot showers can really draw out the moisture in your skin," says Dr. Lee. The longer you spend in that hot water, the more moisture your skin loses. She also says to use a moisturizing body wash. "Most of the body washes that are in the market nowadays not only cleanse the skin, but they also leave a little layer of moisturizer on the skin," she says.
Best moisturizing body washes
Once you're nice and clean, Dr. Lee says to apply a body moisturizer. "Moisturizing ingredients that are most effective are ones that include ceramides, or hyaluronic acid," she says. "Those are great moisturizing ingredients that really help lock in that moisturizer in your skin."
Best body lotions
To build the habit of regularly applying body lotion, Dr. Lee says to put it somewhere you'll see it. "I usually put it right next to my shower, so I remember to apply it right when I get out of the shower," says Dr. Lee. "That doesn't mean I'm 100 percent in terms of daily use, but if I see it, I'm more likely to use it and create that habit."
Once you start using body lotion regularly (yes, this means every day), you can start to see results quite quickly. "Even with use over two to three days, you'll notice a dramatic improvement in terms of the texture," says Dr. Lee. "Your skin will feel a lot more supple and a lot more pliable." But because the skin cell turnover cycle takes about 20 days, full hydration throughout all the layers of the skin will take about a month."
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