Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Nov

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Face MaskConventional wisdom (our dear, dear friend) tells us that without the constant application of skin creams and face lotions and mineral moisturizers, we’ll become haggard parchment people with wrinkled mugs that’d put an elderly Sharpei to shame. It seems to have worked, too. Most bathroom mirrors conceal impressive caches of creams, lotions, and oils, and many people instinctively and compulsively lather the stuff on any chance they get (similar to our infatuation with Purell, but that’s another post altogether). But, as we’ve often wondered, is confronting a totally natural occurrence – dry skin – with unnatural methods and products really such a good idea?

As you know, we here at Mark’s Daily Apple tend to prefer the natural to the artificial – but that’s only because we’ve found that following nature’s way and listening to biology and evolution often go hand in hand. It’s not a dogmatic ideology of naturalism we espouse here; it is a pragmatic approach to life that tells us the natural way most often is the best way, but that also allows the use of artificial aids, if they are safe and effective. With that in mind, we weren’t all that surprised to read about a recent scientific study that discovered using lotions and skin creams can actually weaken your skin’s resistance to the elements and create a dependency on skin products.

Swedish scientist Izabela Buraczewska found that creams can actually make the skin drier in the long run. Basically, once you start using a cream or lotion to combat dry skin, you have to keep using it or your skin will regress to a point even drier than it was before you started using the cream. She used several different kind of creams and oils to test her results, and she found that even different pH levels didn’t change the effects on the skin. Both mineral and vegetable oil were tried, and both resulted in the skin having less resistance to drying elements. Strangely enough, however, using a complex cream had less of a drying effect. To Buraczewska, this meant that a blanket assignation of blame to all creams and lotions simply isn’t realistic. The problem wasn’t with the idea of artificial skin creams; the problem was that an effective skin cream simply hadn’t been created that could deal with the drying effects.

Tissue samples taken from patients suggest that the application of skin creams affects the activity of certain genes that regulate the production of skin fats, which figure prominently in the skin’s moisture levels. If we can isolate the compounds in the creams that do dry the skin, perhaps new moisturizers can be developed without the bad stuff.

So maybe smearing raw avocado and palm oil on your body isn’t the best Primal moisturizer. Maybe using unnatural oils and creams will eventually be a better way to fight dry skin. There’s a lot of things you can call us, but rigid isn’t one of them. Better living through rigorously tested and nearly perfected chemistry? Sure, we’ll take that every time.

only alice Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

We Like Drugs – Fair and Balanced

How to Get that Natural Glow

10 Rules of Aging Well

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for the post. I never use hand lotion in the same why I don’t use chapstick. I always felt that they both have an addictive trait about them and it just always seemed pretty useless. Now I’ve got some ammo for that argument. Thanks bud!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on November 8th, 2008
  2. I’ve found that my dry skin issues have abated substantially since I switched to taking cold showers. I never take hot showers anymore. I believe there are other benefits too, consistent with Mark’s post on the subject some time ago.

    Ed wrote on November 8th, 2008
  3. “So maybe smearing raw avocado and palm oil on your body isn’t the best Primal moisturizer. Maybe using unnatural oils and creams will eventually be a better way to fight dry skin. There’s a lot of things you can call us, but rigid isn’t one of them. Better living through rigorously tested and nearly perfected chemistry? Sure, we’ll take that every time.”

    Are you promoting the use of chemicalized creams? I am not really sure to make of this blog.

    Earth Beauty wrote on November 8th, 2008
  4. You want to know what the best lotion/moisturizer that I have ever found is? Vaseline. Simple, plain, good ‘ol Vaseline. And its cheap!

    Son of Grok wrote on November 8th, 2008
  5. I thought that mineral oil based lotions and creams were the bad ones. Seems that stuff sits on the surface of the skin instead of penetrating deeper.

    Rachel/Fit Mom wrote on November 8th, 2008
  6. Vasoline is petroleum based.

    Earth Beauty wrote on November 8th, 2008
  7. Coconut oil is wonderful for just about everything– skin, hair, etc… and you only need just a tiny bit.

    Ellen wrote on November 9th, 2008
    • I have very dry skin with a side of acne (I’m a 35 y/o woman). The dry skin is genetic. My mother and her two sisters, and her father had it too. I drink lots of water, eat avocados, coconut oil, bacon grease, olive oil, nuts, take fish oil supplements but my dry skin was getting worse over time, not better. I’m glad coconut oil works for you, but I tried coconut oil on my face and it left my skin simultaneously slick/oily and flakey. I moved on to Jojoba oil, which absorbed better, but what I found that trumped even Jojoba oil was Jason: Age Renewal Vitamin E 25,000 IU crème. Some folks may get all up in arms because it’s a processed, less natural skin treatment, but I’ve been using it for a couple weeks and my facial skin looks and feels WAY better and has less acne. So, I’m happy. Now if I could find a treatment for my dry brittle nails.

      Amanda wrote on March 31st, 2015
  8. I use only soap and occasional natural oil, and it has kept my skin in good shape. And nothing after bath, just comb my hair and beard. Tried many shampoos for removing dandruff, but oil works best for me.

    Jayadeep Purushothaman wrote on November 9th, 2008
  9. Did this study include grape seed oil? I’ve read a gew studies in the past that found grape seed oil to be beneficial to the skin. So I’ve been using it – but sparingly. Just in the eye sockets, lips and the tops of my hands. My husband says he’s noticed a difference – less wrinkles around the eyes. At any rate, it works better than any moisturizer I’ve used in the past.

    Ailu wrote on November 9th, 2008
  10. I think a big reason people have problems with dry skin is the wide-spread use of liquid “soap” which is typically actually a detergent (and often a rather highly effective one like sodium laureth sulphate.)

    I’ve found that just getting such things on my hands once a day is enough to crack the skin of the cuticles, yet on the other hand, I can use soap (real soap, made of saponified fats) several times a day without problems and totally skip the hand lotion.

    Mike wrote on November 9th, 2008
  11. The best moisturizers I have found are neither plant nor mineral. They are squalane (shark liver oil) and emu oil.

    Judy Barnes Baker wrote on November 9th, 2008
  12. Interesting about the squalane and emu oil, Judy. What do you like best about each of them?

    Ailu wrote on November 10th, 2008
  13. Son of Grok,
    I use vaseline, too. My winters are so cold and i use vaseline instead of chapstick and it immediately relieves dry hands from cold days when i’m outside. I like it.

    Donna wrote on November 10th, 2008
  14. I barely use soap anymore.

    Earth Beauty wrote on November 10th, 2008
  15. I do use soap, but NOT “anti-bacterial” soap. The anti-bacterial soap takes off also the good bacteria, which you don’t want.

    Donna wrote on November 10th, 2008
  16. In answer to Ailu about what I like about squalane and emu oil:

    Pros and Cons
    They are both anti-inflammatory oils.
    They are both fairly expensive.
    I have to order both online (although I sometimes find emu oil at local farmer’s markets in my area).

    In general, I prefer the squalane because it is very light and absorbs quickly. I found a place in CA that offered a “buy 3 get 4” special the last time I ordered it. It is still expensive, but costs less than the total of all the products it replaced, and it has simplified my routine to use just one thing twice a day rather than several.

    If you have more questions, contact me through my website at

    Judy Barnes Baker wrote on November 10th, 2008
  17. Oh my God! I love lotions and creams.. I can’t just get rid of it that easy.

    Stairmaster 7000 wrote on November 12th, 2008
  18. I love Bronner’s soaps! I used to have cracked and bleeding hands from November to April. Since I have been taking Marks Master Formula multi-vitamin, eating a primarily Phase 1 diet, using Bronner’s soaps, and taking Omega 3 capsules, my hands have never looked or felt better! I have been doing this for almost 2 years now.

    Terrilee wrote on November 13th, 2008
  19. I’ve found that my skin feels better and seems less dry when I am getting in my healthy mono fats. Most noticeable when I start adding 1-2tbsp daily of oil like flax, but taking my fish oil pills would probably be the same (I’m just not as consistent about that).

    I saw a woman today at the cafe who looked absolutely stunning – shoulder length grey hair, generally slender, aging but not sagging or overly wrinkled face…. I guessed her at mid-50’s, until she said she voted for Kennedy and was 69. Wow.

    Andrea wrote on November 16th, 2008
  20. Wrinkling in the skin is caused by habitual facial expressions, aging, sun damage, smoking, poor hydration, and various other factors. The best for preventing wrinkles is drinking a lot of water. Then use a quality cream as this.

    Ivory brites wrote on May 7th, 2009
  21. I have terrible dry skin in the winter, since moving back to NE. I used lotion all the time, over and over again. But now I try to wait on using them. There are two remedies I have found that comes close to completely illuminating the problem.
    One is when I work with almond meal/flour (when making the son of grok pizza)and gently rinse my hands with water, the natural oils get on my hands, and they feel like baby skin. It lasts all day, and even to the next day, depending on how much you wash your hands.
    The other is a product from a herbal company, Herbalife. The hand lotion is wonderful. After about 2 weeks after using it consistently, my hands were less and less dry and after about a month, I used it only occasionally. It’s expensive, but works well. It’s the hand lotion. I used it last year, but the almonds work so well that I might not go back, since I’m already using the almonds. Hope this helps.

    Esther Anders wrote on January 18th, 2010
  22. Vitamin D supplementation has helped me with my dry skin.

    Sandra wrote on February 12th, 2010
  23. I’ve read many good things about coconut oil for the skin. But I wonder, has anyone here used it for the face> Or would emu oil be better for that?


    Alain wrote on April 23rd, 2010
  24. I actually gave up soap 5 months ago. I bought a cheap pair of exfoliating gloves that I rub down with in the shower. I buy a lot of coconuts to eat but I use the coconut water and the meat of certain types of coconuts and blend them together and keep them in a small jar in the shower. After exfoliating with the gloves I grease up in the coconut.
    I haven’t used any shaving cream in 6 years. I shave my head and face in the shower after the water and steam have softened the hair.
    Afterward I grease down head to toe in virgin coconut oil. Combined with my primal diet I haven’t had any acne issues, jock itch, athletes foot, skin cracking, dry itchy skin, razor burn, or random rash style skin irritations.
    I use coconut oil for everything head to toe and it works beautifully. I’m sure I smell like I just came from the tanning salon but my skin is always soft and moisturized and my clothes don’t stick to my skin or absorb the oil and stain. I also gave up deodorant and antiperspirant 5 months ago and it has been wonderful as well. Its a little unnerving at first but soon you realize its just you and your pheromones and that’s not half bad.

    BenK wrote on June 2nd, 2010
  25. I don’t use creams, chapstick, or deodorant – and have no odor or dry skin problems. I live on the edge of the Mojave desert where the air os SO dry and the water so hard that when I first moved here I became scaly and my hair broke off in my hands.
    What do I do when I notice dry skin or chapped lips? I bump up my fish oil, and water. It makes all the difference in the world. I am 54 years old, and when my 31 yr old son and I go out, everyone assumes we are a couple.

    Betty wrote on June 2nd, 2010
  26. For about 6 months now I’ve used shower gel and shampoo/conditioner roughly once every 2 weeks and not used any face wash/scrub, moisturiser etc. I’ve noticed no difference at all as long as you scrub yourself with a flannel etc (cleanliness) and eat well (dry skin).

    Tried coconut oil, it’s too oily and greasy for my liking.

    Still use deodorant spray, although that’s mainly for clothes rather than my body.

    Jame wrote on November 3rd, 2011

    Jessica Walton wrote on January 4th, 2012
  28. I agree…i HATE the way lotions make my skin look and feel.

    I had skin problems (oilyness and excessive cell proliferation) which gave me “dry” flaky skin. Now that’s cleared up, i don’t slather cliniqe on my skin anymore….and my skin looks so much better for it. I use a little epyptian magic (all natural) on my lips and eye area and, if feel need it, on the rest of my face- but that’s rarely. I think these creams mess up our skin’s natural ability to care for itself.

    Lin wrote on August 25th, 2012
  29. I don’t know Mark, you who lives in the sun and don’t have the extreme dryness of winter…

    On another note though, maybe using a humidifier at night while I’m sleeping during those months might help.

    I thought coconut oil was OK. I can test run the humidifier sans lotion of any kind and I’ll report then; but that’s not for a while yet.

    Of course, water intake helps too. It’s easy to not drink enough water in the winter b/c one doesn’t ‘feel’ thirsty…but I find you need just as much as in the hot summer months, due to the extreme dryness.

    Zorica Vuletic wrote on July 23rd, 2013

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