Dry skin is just the dead layers of skin cells called keratin at the top of the epidermis that hang on before they fall off as dust in the environment (Yuck, I know). Dry skin can be genetic and/or environmental. It occurs when there is a lack of the body’s natural oils or when the dead skin hangs on too long. If you’re genetically programmed to produce less oils or if your skin has qualities that cause it to be more adherent (there are actually proteins in skin cells that “glue” skin cells together), your skin will be more dry. Lack of humidity also contributes to this, and that’s why dry skin is often worse during the winter months and in places where the climate is more arid.
Moisturizers help in two ways. They are a supplement to the body’s own oils, even though there is no real substitute for your own internally produced oils. In addition, they create a barrier that helps the body retain its own oils and moisture, and this barrier also protects against arid environments drawing moisture out the skin. Because they are not constantly produced internally, however, moisturizers are only a temporary fix, and that’s why your skin looks great immediately after you put it on but later in the day you’re likely to be dry again. Part of the reason moisturizers make your skin look better is that they instantly hydrate dry ruffled dead skin cells on the surface of the skin.
There are many good moisturizers out there, and you have to find one that suits your unique skin. Some of the moisturizers I recommend are Cetaphil, Eucerin and Aveeno. My personal favorite is CeraVe. I have very dry skin, and I like CeraVe cream because it’s a heavy moisturizer while not being greasy and it spreads easily. I use it on my face and body every night. On my face I put it on top of my retinoid after my retinoid has dried. If you are looking for a lighter moisturizer, try CeraVe lotion instead of cream.