By Sharon Gnatt Epel
If you are an American woman, chances are that you grew up watching your mama apply lotion to her face and body, but if you hail from Europe or Asia, you are more likely to be familiar with using oils to hydrate and nourish your skin.
There are many pros and cons to using each of these, but the main physical difference between them comes down to percentage of water content.
Lotions need water to emulsify (combine oils and liquids that normally resist being mixed together) and generally require heat to bind the ingredients so that they won’t separate. The downside of this process is that exposure to high temperatures can destroy whatever therapeutic properties are contained within the natural oils. Lotions are also looser in consistency, giving them a lighter, less-greasy feel on the skin. If you tend to have an oily complexion this may not be a concern, but a lighter weight also means that the lotion’s moisturizing effects may not last very long.
If you have dry skin, live in a cold or arid climate, or spend most of your time working indoors in an artificially heated or air-conditioned office, you probably want to use a moisturizer that will last all day.
Whether you prefer to use a lotion, cream or oil, another important consideration is permeability: whether or not the moisturizer will just sit on top of the skin, or be easily absorbed within a short period of time. In order for a moisturizing agent to do any good, it must be able to penetrate the top layer of skin. Oils in general have a good history of doing this but can be a bit too oily for some people’s personal tastes. Lotions, on the other hand, usually won’t leave behind an oily residue, but their moisturizing benefits seem to evaporate within ten to fifteen minutes, leaving your skin as bone dry as it was before you applied the lotion.
If you are concerned about oils being comedogenic (causing acne or breakouts), you may be surprised to learn that many natural oils can actually be helpful to acne prone skin and will not cause clogged pores. It is the type of oil that determines the likelihood of breaking out, so it is a good idea to read product labels very carefully and research any ingredients that you are not familiar with. Even when a product is labeled non-comedogenic, it is not a guarantee that it is free of all comedogenic ingredients. Retin-A cream contains Isopropyl Myristate, a highly comedogenic and occlusive substance, yet in spite of this, many dermatologists prescribe it for acne-prone skin.
(By the way – if you tend to break out on your neck and back, the true culprit might be residue from your shampoo or conditioner. Make sure to rinse all hair products off your body to reduce the likelihood of irritating skin and clogging your pores).
Ultimately, the best way to figure out what will work for your individual needs is to buy small trial sizes or – preferably – samples of the products you are considering. Be sure to use them one at a time until you find the brand that suits you best. This method of trial and error takes a little time and patience, but is the most sure-fire way to discover which type of moisturizer and brand name will ultimately help protect your skin and keep it young-looking and healthy. Looking beautiful requires dedication and consistency, but when you consider that you have only one body to last an entire lifetime, it is a labor of love that is well worth the effort!
– Sharon Gnatt Epel is the CEO/Founder, La Isha Natural & Organic Skincare.