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How to keep your skin happily hydrated

August 07, 2009 13:24 IST

Hansa Makhijani for Marie Claire magazine

Whichever part of India we live in, hydration is a daily requirement for all of us, come rain or shine. Yes, even when the heat is on or the humidity saps all our desire to take care of ourselves. Who wants to slather on dollops of moisturiser in such a scenario? Nonetheless, keeping the skin well-moisturised throughout the year is a pre-requisite for youthful, toned and supple skin. "Most people are not aware that proper hydration is essential for healthy, glowing skin," says Dr Rajiv Joshi, consultant-dermatology, Hinduja Hospital.

Simply put, hydration is the amount of water found in our skin. But it's not just about making it available to your skin by drinking liquids; it's also about the skin's ability to hold on to this water, known as the skin's moisture barrier, says Dr Colin D'Silva, principal scientist, P&G Beauty. It consists of the surface cell layers of your skin, held together by a mixture of oils and waxy substances. "In effect, hydration raises the skin's natural barrier," explains Natasha Shah, founder, The Nature's Co. Moisturisation is by far the easiest, most effective and yet the least glamourised way of keeping the skin smooth and wrinkle-free. Read on for quick tips to up your skin's moisture quotient.

Bath etiquette

While bathing eliminates dirt on the skin's surface, it also washes away natural skin lipids. "Certain soap bars contain a large percentage of alkali and additive sodium laureth sulfate, hence using soap can deprive the skin of its protective layer," says Dr Arihant Surana, medical director, Asian Roots Spa. At the same time, the skin needs to be clean for moisturisers to work. "Oil, sweat, dirt and even dead cells can prevent proper moisturiser absorption," shares Dr D'Silva. While bathing isn't best avoided, soap bars are. If you have to use a bar, try something loaded with oil, beeswax, moisturising cream or glycerine (found in Pears, Dove and Khadi soaps). Glycerine is found in the skin and is also available in skincare products, says Dr D'Silva. Soap-free face cleansers, shower gels and liquid washes are better alternatives to regular bars. We like Marks and Spencer Royal Jelly & Pure Honey Moisture Rich Cream Bath, Rs 495. Another excellent way of retaining moisture while bathing is by adding a little bath oil (The Nature's Co. Sandalwood Cinnamon Bath Oil, Rs 475) to the water as they help retain moisture without stickiness.

Something for everyone

No matter what your skin type, you need moisturisation. People with oily skin have a hard time keeping it shine-free. They believe that using a cream or lotion will only make them look greasier. This is a myth. "When skin is dry, your glands produce more oil to protect it. So, if you have oily skin and refrain from moisturising, the glands will work harder to produce oil, which will result in more shine," reveals Shah. Opt for an oil-free, gel-based moisturiser like Biotherm Aquasource Moisturising Gel, Rs 1,990 or Eminence Tomato Oil Control Gel, Rs 3,630. These also work well for combination skin types, especially when coupled with a soap-free cleanser and alcohol-free toner like Aroma Magic Aromatic Skin Toner, Rs 60.

Dry-skin damsels need to be even more careful. Products with emollients and natural humectants are very useful for such people. Cocoa and shea butter, jojoba oil, bitter almond and hazelnut are some natural emollients that keep the skin lubricated. Besides glycerine, honey (VLCC Honey Moisturiser, Rs 170) is also a natural humectant that acts as a 'water magnet', drawing water into the skin's surface -- provided the air isn't too dry, as is the case during extreme weather. It also makes sense to opt for a face cream rich in antioxidants that fights free-radical damage from environmental aggressors like pollution and harsh climate. Vitamin E is quite the hydration star as it has antioxidants, heals blemishes, regulates vitamin A and even fights ageing. Try The Body Shop Vitamin E Intense Moisture Cream, Rs 1,195, to reap its benefits.

In the buff

Hydration isn't just for the face. The skin on our bodies often bears the brunt of our negligence as we lavish more attention on our faces. That said, it's best not to use the same product on the face and body. "The skin on the face is more sensitive as it is always exposed to pollution, grime, and toxins. Therefore its hydration needs are different from the rest of the body," explains Dr Surana. The skin is the largest organ of the body and moisturising all of it is no mean feat. Start with gentle cleansing and then smooth over a suitable body lotion or cream. We like Mary Kay Red Tea and Fig Nourishing Body Lotion, Rs 620, Lancome Caresse Instant Silky Touch Moisturising Body Lotion, Rs 2,500, and Floris Fleur Enriched Body Moisturiser, Rs 1,650. Moisturisation works best right after a bath when the skin is damp. This locks in moisture as the skin soaks the product better. Using small circular motions also hastens absorption and even checks the development of cellulite on thighs and hips by aiding lymphatic drainage.

It's wiser still to plan an indulgence every once in a while in addition to daily hydration. Try a quick massage with a body oil before bathing. Follow it up with a loofah and shower gel bath. Apply generous quantities of a rich body lotion thereafter. But the real indulgence is a milk and honey bath, suggests Dr Surana. But before you jump into the Cleopatra-esque concoction, use a body scrub to do away with impurities. Milk softens and nourishes while honey works as a gentle moisturiser, elaborates Dr Surana.

Also, keep in mind that the skin's hydration needs change with age and vary from season to season. Everyone's skin is different and choosing the right products is as much a process of trial and error as it is that of figuring out your skin's changing requirements.

Problem spots

While all of our skin requires hydration, there are particular trouble spots that need better care. These include the skin around the eyes and mouth where most of our expressions leave an impact. Under-eye dark circles, crows' feet, dark patches with dry, scaly skin, lack of suppleness and loss of elasticity are signs of dehydration, which eventually lead to accelerated ageing. Lips tend to chap easily, while elbows and heels tend to get rougher and darker due to lack of hydration, affirms Dr Joshi. For these problem spots, we require specific products like lip balms and concentrated creams like Oriflame Tender Care, Rs 199. The neck, hands and feet in particular have no sebaceous or oil glands of their own and need to be lubricated, especially after every wash.

Guzzle up

Water in every form is vital to hydration, whether we consume it orally or spray it on as a face mist (Dabur Rose Refresher, Rs 65). It is equally important as a refresher, externally and internally. It carries oxygen and nutrients to all our cells. Without adequate water, a healthy diet is also wasted as we need this sparkling fluid to transport nutrients to the skin. However, as simple as the advice is, the only problem is that the skin by itself is virtually waterproof and water cannot penetrate its resilient surface. Therefore, the next best thing is to provide it with necessary water through oral intake and prep it up with external elements, advises Shah. They don't call it the elixir of life for nothing!

Moisture surge

Dr Arihant Surana of Asian Roots Spa shares with us some instances when we should reach out for that humble moisturiser with a vengeance:

  • On a flight: Pressurised air in the cabin dehydrates the body considerably and can cause skin to lose moisture.
  • After waxing: Waxing takes off the top layer, so it is essential to exfoliate and moisturise afterwards.
  • Smoking, before and after: Smoking causes dry skin. In fact, studies prove that even passive smoking could damage your skin.
  • In the pool: Summer activities like swimming contribute to dryness, as chlorine in pools and salt in ocean water cause skin irritation.
  • Scrubbing excess: Excessive bathing or scrubbing is one of the most common causes of skin dehydration.
  • Extremes: Prolonged exposure to the sun causes water to evaporate from the skin. Too much time in an airconditioned rooms also leaves it thirsty.