The season for dry, flaky skin is upon us. But before you reach for that bottle of lotion, consider this: Some ingredients in moisturizers can actually make your skin drier, interfering with the barrier on your skin that prevents moisture from dissipating.
"Skin creams can actually increase signs of aging," says David Pollock, a beauty-product developer turned consumer advocate and author of the book Just Stop the Lies! Secrets the Beauty Industry Doesn't Want You to Know. Emulsifiers, binding agents that allow oil and water to mix in moisturizers and lotions, leave a residue on the skin that disrupts your skin's lipid barrier, allowing water to evaporate from the skin faster. "You get a fast shot of moisture that eventually fades," he says. So you use more lotion, and your skin gets drier, and the cycle just continues.
Not only does that expose you to dozens of unregulated and untested chemicals that are ingredients in lotions, but it's costing you money, too. The cure? Look no further than your kitchen cabinet. The very same oils you use for cooking are some of the best moisturizers for dry skin—much more effective than expensive lotions and creams at just pennies an ounce, says Deborah Niemann, author of the new book Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life and the blog The Thrifty Homesteader. It's one of the most amazing beauty tricks you may have never heard about. "You can go all out and use something exotic, and it's still going to cost you pennies," she says.
But not all vegetable oils are good for your skin, she warns. Some can actually dry your skin out, while others, such as canola, corn, and "vegetable" oils, are likely derived from genetically modified crops that have been sprayed with heavy doses of harmful pesticides. To keep your skin soft (and pesticide free), here are the four best moisturizers for dry skin that Niemann recommends:
A by-product of wine-making, grapeseed oil comes from the seeds of pressed grapes and, says Niemann, is reputed to work as well as over-the-counter creams that cost hundreds of dollars per bottle. Many holistic beauty care experts consider it the best oil for skin, regardless of your skin type. "It's especially good for thin skin around your eyes and neck," she says, and can even reduce fine lines. Not only that, but grapeseed oil is also high in vitamin C, which brightens your skin.
This is a great oil if you have really dry skin—there's a reason Mediterranean women have used it as a moisturizer for centuries. It provides intense moisture, Niemann says, and the rich antioxidants that make it so good for your insides benefit your outsides, too, fighting free radicals created by exposure to sunlight.
Just as good as olive oil, Niemann says, but a little less expensive. In addition to being a good moisturizer, she adds, it makes for a good massage oil because it's thinner and more slippery than some of the other cooking oils you can use. It also absorbs into the skin more quickly.
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