Harvard Health Letter

Build a better skin barrier

Why an oil-based ointment is best for dry skin.

Dry skin becomes more common with aging, and problems with dry skin can be even more pronounced during the winter. "The air is dry inside because of heating, and outside because of a lack of humidity, and that takes moisture out of your skin," explains Dr. Kenneth Arndt, a Harvard Medical School professor. Dry skin can lead to itching, flaking, and even infection in severe cases.

But you don't have to suffer. Moisturizing is a simple way to keep your skin hydrated and healthy. "Think of it as putting a barrier between your skin and the cold, dry air," says Dr. Arndt. He advises moisturizing your skin after exposure to water. "If you soak in a tub or wash your hands, your skin gets very flexible and spongy. But afterward the water evaporates and you're worse off. So instead you should seal it in."

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