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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 08 2008

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

By Worker Bee
34 Comments

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

TAGS:  Aging, skin/hair

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34 thoughts on “Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize”

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  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

  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.

  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.

  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!

  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.

  6. Coconut oil is wonderful for just about everything– skin, hair, etc… and you only need just a tiny bit.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Interesting about the squalane and emu oil, Judy. What do you like best about each of them?

  11. 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.

  12. I do use soap, but NOT “anti-bacterial” soap. The anti-bacterial soap takes off also the good bacteria, which you don’t want.

  13. 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 http://carbwarscookbook.com.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

    Thanks!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. THE MORE OIL BASED THE DRIER MY SKIN GETS. THAT’S HOW I FOUND THIS BLOG. DESPRATELY SEARCHING FOR AN ANSWER.
    USED TO THINK IT WAS JUST BABY OIL BUT NOTICED THAT THE ORGANIC COCONUT OIL I WAS USING WAS ALMOST JUST AS BAD!! EVERY LOTION REALLY. SO ODD!
    I’LL TRY FLAX SEED OIL SUPPLEMENTS VITAMIN D AND LOTS OF WATER. I REALLY THINK MOST SOLUTIONS COME FROM INTERNAL NUTRITION. 64 OZ OF WATER A DAY WITH 1 FULL CUP OF ORGANIC LEMON JUICE NOT FROM CONCENTRATE DID WONDERS!! FOR MY SKIN…BUT IT’S EXPESIVE AND HARD TO KEEP UP.
    VASELINE IS BAD FOR YOU! PETROLEUM BASED IS TOXIC AND YOUR SKIN IS YOUR LARGEST ORGAN. YOU DON’T WANT THAT IN YOUR BLOODSTREAM – NO MATTER HOW CHEAP IT IS OR SEEMINGLY EFFECTIVE…

  23. 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.

  24. 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.