If youâre like us, you have a drawer filled with lotions and creams that are doing nothing for your dry hands and feet. Itâs one of lifeâs mysteries.
Steer clear of moisturizers that contain mineral or vegetable oils, Beckman says.
Susan Bard, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist, suggests looking for humectant-based moisturizers containing ingredients that pull water into the skin, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, without leaving behind a greasy residue.
Wear loose clothing â binding clothing may rub and dry out your skin â and bundle up to protect from the cold, windy air outside. While we hate this advice, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, you really should stay away from the fireplace, as this can dry your skin.
Follow these good practices for keeping your skin moisturized.
Also make sure to apply moisturizer at least 20 minutes before going outside to allow maximum penetration, he says.
Bard has similar favorites. For dry hands, she likes Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream (.99 at Target), OâKeeffeâs Working Hands (.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond) and Aveeno Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm (.56 at VitaCost).Â
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But humectants arenât all you need, says Fayne Frey, a dermatologist and founder of FryFace. Moisturizers that are formulated with humectants and occlusives are preferable, Frey says. Effective occlusives include petrolatum, mineral oil and silicone-based derivatives like simethicone. Effective humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid and propylene glycol, she says.
The key is to buy a formulation which agrees with your skin, as everyone reacts differently to each cream.
âThick, emollient moisturizers tend to contain occlusive ingredients such as dimethicone, beeswax, lanolin, ect. That helps prevent moisture loss from the skin,â Bard says. âThey can feel sticky and also clog pores leading to folliculitis and miliaria on certain parts of the body.â
We spoke to dermatologists to better understand what heals dry, cracked skin and identify the best cheap moisturizers. (Spoiler: You can find many of them in drugstores.)
You can find many of these at drugstores.
According to a report from Harvard Medical School that was updated in 2019, there are some free ways to deal with dry, winter skin. First, turn down your thermostat, as hot air tends to be drier than cool. Then, pop on your humidifier.
These actually arenât interchangeable terms, regardless of how people use them. A moisturizer is a mixture of water and oil-soluble components that tackle the outermost layer of your skin. Typically, petroleum jelly, mineral oil and waxes are used in moisturizers. Lotions are more watery and have many ingredients. The higher the water content, the easier it is for bacteria to get in, thus the greater the need for preservatives such as parabens, salicylic acid and benzyl alcohol. For that reason, lotion should be used on parts of the body that arenât very sensitive. (Never use it on your face.) Cream is simply a thick moisturizer designed for very flaky areas, such as elbows and heels.
Beckmanâs must-have moisturizers for winter use are Theraderm Extreme Dry Skin Therapy (.95 at Theraderm.net) and Theraderm Body Restoration Creme (.95 at Theraderm.net). âTheyâre designed to restore function as well as feel, replenishing deficient skin oils with natural lanolin, a true skin oil, from Sheepâs wool,â Beckman says.
Petroleum jelly â aka Vaseline â is the gold standard occlusive, preventing 98 percent of water loss from the skin into the environment, Frey says. Many users find it to be too greasy. âBut it works,â she says.
âI always say to my patients that the difference between an inexpensive and expensive moisturizer/ lotion/cream is not necessarily the ingredients included, but the branding and the marketing behind the product,â says Vikram Rajkomar, a dermatologist with Pall Mall Medical.
âThese only coat the skin surface, and easily disappear as soon as the skin is washed,â he says.
And while you may think that youâre helping your skin by taking the hottest shower possible, you should actually be taking a warm shower. Hot water removes the fatty substances in your skin that retain water. When youâre in the shower or bath, close the door, as this will get the humidity factor really going, but limit the time in the shower to 5 or 10 minutes. Blot your skin with a towel instead of rubbing it dry, and apply moisturizer immediately following the shower.
The lotion, cream or moisturizer you choose isnât going to do any good if itâs applied onto dry feet, says James Beckman, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Therapon Skin Health. Beckman suggests applying after showering but before drying to allow an even spread while your skin is still damp.
But as much as we want some relief, weâre not interested in spending a ton on products that may or may not be worth the money.