Harvard Women's Health Watch

Dry skin? Moisturizers can help

Many products are designed to absorb water into the skin, keep it from evaporating, or both.

moisturizer
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If you grew up watching Doris Day movies, you may have assumed she was privy to skin treatments that weren't available to the general public. However, as she revealed in her autobiography, Vaseline (petrolatum) was the key to keeping her skin soft and smooth.

Things have changed quite a bit in the last 50 years. Petrolatum is still a popular staple, but there is now a dizzying array of newer moisturizers, many with a baffling list of ingredients on their labels. However, they all are designed to either add moisture to the skin or keep it there. Many do both. "Think of moisturizers as putting a barrier between your skin and the cold, dry air," says Dr. Kenneth Arndt, professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and faculty editor for the Harvard Health Publications Special Health Report Skin Care and Repair (www.health.harvard.edu/SCR.)

What to look for in a moisturizer

Moisturizers generally contain the following three types of ingredients:

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