When Oil and Water Mix

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As discussed yesterday, dry winter skin plagues millions of Americans. So, how do you select the right moisturizer from available brands?


“There are plenty of choices in the marketplace,” says Jeffrey C. Moore, an instructor in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. “Most of the time, it is just a question of personal preference.”

Most lotions and creams contain an oily agent, a watery agent or both. Products vary based on the percentages of these agents (commonly referred to as “phases” by formulators). Some products contain more of one phase and almost none of the other, or phases can exist in equal amounts.

“In many cases, the feel of a lotion or cream may run from very oily to not oily at all,” Moore says. “It all depends on the relationship of the two phases.”

During cold winter months, air loses humidity and dehydrates the skin, and creams and lotions with an oily feel can come to the rescue. The oil provides a covering that slows moisture’s escape from the skin’s exposed surface, allowing rehydrating from below.

“We say oil-based lotions and creams have an ‘occlusive’ function, in that they cover the skin and allow healing like a Band-Aid,” Moore says.

You’ll find many “oily options” at large natural and organic-focused stores like Whole Foods Market.

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