Middle-of-the-Road Skin continued...
When you step out of the shower, moisturize within three minutes. Post-shower dampness is good for your face if you seal it in; let it evaporate, and you'll end up even drier, says Susan C. Taylor, M.D., director of Society Hill Dermatology in Philadelphia. Try Clinique Continuous Rescue Antioxidant Moisturizer ($40) or Nivea Body Essentially Enriched Daily Lotion ($7).
Skip hot baths—they drain the water out of your skin. A better choice: quick, lukewarm showers. In fact, ask yourself whether you even need a daily shower. "Research shows that skin loses 25 percent of its natural moisturizers with each wash," says Melissa Katz, an R&D scientist and cleansing manager at the Unilever North American Regional Technical Center.
Flaking, itchiness, inflammation—you've got it all. And you probably look older than your better-hydrated counterparts. So what's making you so parched that you want to crawl out of your skin? The problem: Your skin barrier—the wall of cells and fat that keeps moisture in and irritants out—is probably impaired and, as a result, unable to retain water. Other Sahara-skin factors: age (if you're over 40, your body is probably producing less of its own oil), genetics (predisposing some people to dryness, allergies, and severe skin irritation like eczema), or skin-care mistakes (like too-aggressive cleansing).
Your plan: You can't boost your own natural oil production, but the good news is you can repair your barrier, says Dr. Wechsler. That will help you hold on to moisture and oil—and you'll look younger in the process.
To do: Follow the moisturizing advice suggested for the middle-of-the-road group, with one big difference: Choose products with heavy-duty hydration properties, and use them more frequently. A rich cream provides the ingredients your skin barrier lacks (like fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol); apply it at least three time daily. Try Nivea Q10 Advanced Wrinkle Reducer Night Cream ($11).
Moisturize your body (not just your face) with the same types of rich ingredients mentioned above. "You can't over-moisturize if you're in this group," says Dr. Baumann. And since you probably haven't had acne in years, don't shy away from oils, says Dr. Jaliman. Try Dove Pro-Age Body Cream Oil ($7) or Decléor Aromessence Nourishing Concentrate ($62). Tip: Prevent irritation that can leave behind lasting spots by moisturizing any area where you feel the urge to scratch.
Be wary of bar soaps, foaming or gel cleansers, and toners, all of which can be drying. Instead, use soap-free products to keep your skin's moisture level intact. Try Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser ($11).
Coat your driest parts (like soles of feet, where skin is three to five times thicker than on the rest of your body) with a thick, even greasy, cream as often as possible. Try Cur é l Targeted Therapy Deep-Penetrating Foot Cream ($8). Tip: Apply cream and cover your skin in plastic wrap and a sock overnight.