So What's in All Those Bottles and Jars?

These days, you probably know that label-reading is the key to putting the right things in your body. But it's also crucial to putting the right things on your body.

After all, moisturizer sales total $1 billion in the U.S. each year - not surprisingly, you're faced with quite a few products to choose from. Let's look at the basic components of any good moisturizer:

• Humectants: Quite simply, humectants replenish the moisture dry skin has lost. These water-soluble ingredients can actually attract moisture to the skin, both from the environment and from the underlying epidermis (the latter is less than ideal, though, which is why humectants should typically be combined with other agents). Common humectants include glycerin, sorbitol, and alpha hydroxy acids.

• Occlusives: Once you get moisture back into your skin, you want it to stay there! Enter occlusives. These typically oily ingredients form a barrier that slows your skin's loss of water. But believe it or not, occlusives can prevent too much loss (and feel unpleasantly greasy), which is why they're typically combined with humectants. Common occlusives include petrolatum, paraffin, soybean and grapeseed oils, and even beeswax.

• Emollients: Moisture-loss causes skin cells to curl up at the edges and feel rough; consequently, most of us turn to moisturizers for an immediate soothing, smoothing effect. That's the job of emollients, which fill the space between those dry cells and create softer, more luminous skin. Many overachieving moisturizer ingredients are both emollient and occlusive or humectant.

In my next few entries, I'll take a closer look at some of the most common skin care ingredients. Throughout my blog, I hope to empower you with the know-how to make positive decisions for your skin - and avoid tossing out unsuccessful products.

Wishing you great skin!

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Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book, " The Skin Type Solution." To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site,

All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.
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