Using a ton of lotion doesn't guarantee moisturized skin.

By Claudia Fisher
May 29, 2018

Slathering lotion all over your body has become second nature to those of us worried about drying out our skin, especially after showers when you're supposed to try to trap as much moisture in your skin as humanly possible. Unfortunately, winding up with enough lotion on your body for a DIY Slip 'N Slide isn't necessarily the same as moisturizing.

You're right that you should be applying moisturizer immediately after showering, but you could be wrong about the type of moisturizer you're using. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a group of over 20,000 practicing dermatologists, you should be using an ointment or cream rather than a lotion to get the most moisturizing benefits post shower. If you have dry skin, the differences between lotions, ointments, and creams are particularly crucial.

Dr. Kenneth Mark, a board certified dermatologist and Mohs skin cancer surgeon, told me that while ointments can be less appealing to some people because they're oil-based, and therefore greasier, "They have the greatest emollient effect." (Emollients are substances that help soothe skin and increase moisture levels.)

He added, "They also can create a barrier between the skin and the environment to help seal moisture into the skin."

Dr. Mark recommends Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($11; amazon.com) for severely dry skin.

Creams fall after ointments in terms of moisturizing benefits. Dr. Mark explained, "Creams are water soluble and more hydrating than a lotion, but less so than an ointment." Many people find creams preferable to ointments because of the texture and consistency. As Dr. Mark puts it, "A cream even implies a certain texture to it, by definition."

The National Eczema Society also points out on its page about emollients that creams have another benefit of feeling light and cool on irritated or dry skin. Try Cerave Moisturizing Cream ($13; amazon.com), a longtime drugstore staple and dermatologist-recommended brand.

That brings us to lotions. The AAD and the National Eczema Society say lotion is more irritating and less effective than creams and ointments for moisturizing dry skin. Dr. Mark added that you can think of a lotion as similar to "a powder in a liquid" because its emulsion properties are more diluted than those of creams and ointments. The one time a lotion might come in handy is when you're moisturizing hairy areas of your body where runnier consistencies are easier to spread out and rub in.

Other than that–as you gear up to finally wear those skirts and shorts that have been in storage for far too many months–ointments and creams are the way to go to nix dry skin.

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