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Best Lotions for Dry Skin (and More Skin-Health Tips)


What's the best lotion for dry skin? What's the best shampoo? How do you prevent hangnails? We asked six experts eight skin-health questions. Click on a category below or just scroll down for their tips for keeping your skin supple and gorgeous.



Dry Skin, Lotion Tips

Q. What's the best lotion for dry skin?
A. Glycerin is an imperative ingredient. As a humectant, it binds water to the skin. If applied to the skin while still damp (immediately after bathing), the lotion will work even better.

Other significant humectants include lanolin, squalene, petrolatum, olive oil and sesame oil.

For people with excessively dry skin (eczema, atopic dermatitis), the stronger but more expensive products containing the humectant lactate, urea or alpha hydroxyl acids (available over-the-counter and by prescription) are key.

Q. How do I prevent dry skin during winter?
A. Low humidity is the culprit. Humidifying your home’s heating system can help, as can applying moisturizing creams after baths or showers to help seal in moisture. Many people like to add bath oils or colloidal oatmeal (such as the line Aveeno sells) to their bath water. But be careful; they make the tub slippery.

Q. How do I prevent chapped lips?
A. Good old petroleum jelly (white petrolatum, or Vaseline) works well to prevent moisture evaporation. Many lip balms contain petrolatum. Apply liberally and often. And remember not to lick your lips. For one thing, this removes the barrier you’ve so dutifully applied.

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Scalp, Hair Tips

Q. What's the best shampoo?
A. Fortunately, most companies manufacture and label their shampoos for a variety of hair/scalp types, making it easier to choose one. Here are a few tips for specific situations:

  • People with dandruff do best with a shampoo that contains selenium sulfide, coal tar, pyrithione or ketoconazole.
  • Those who are allergy-prone should avoid shampoos with fragrance. (They may smell great, but the fragrance, natural or not, may aggravate allergies.)
  • Whether from genes or a bottle, blonds, beware: Avoid shampoos with color! The pigments could affect your hair shade.


Nail Tips


Q. Where do hangnails come from?
A. A hangnail is a little sliver of skin along the edge of the nail that splits off.

Q. What’s the best way to prevent hangnails?
A. Keep the skin around the nails well-moisturized, and avoid nail biting. Try soaking your fingertips regularly for about 10 minutes in warm water mixed with a teaspoon of sweet oil (a medical-grade olive oil).

Q. How should you remove hangnails?
A. Soften the skin by soaking it in the water/oil mixture, clip the hangnail with nail scissors you’ve wiped clean with rubbing alcohol, and apply antibiotic ointment and an adhesive bandage to prevent infection as it heals.


Q. Is there any way to treat toenail fungus other than the oral medicine?
A. There is: a prescription nail lacquer containing ciclopirox (Loprox, Penlac Nail Lacquer) that has to be painted on daily for almost a year. Although many people will see decreased symptoms, only one in every 15 who use it will experience a full cure, according to UpToDate, a service that summarizes clinical information. That’s why so many prefer the prescription pills. They usually take three to six months and have a 50 to 75 percent cure rate.

There is also a folk remedy that some of my patients swear has worked well for them: Apply Vicks VapoRub nightly to toenail(s), and enclose in clear plastic wrap. Cheap and safe, but they tell me that this, too, takes many, many months.

Medical Tips


Q. Is there any way to tan safely?

A. There’s no safe tan, other than self-tanning lotions or sprays. A tan, by definition, is the skin’s way of telling us its cells are being damaged by ultraviolet light. Therefore, any tan raises our risk for premature aging and skin cancer.

Q. Why do some people sweat more than others?
A. This seems to be related to your genes.

Q. Is there a deodorant that will make me sweat less?
A. I recommend antiperspirants with aluminum chloride, such as over-the-counter Certain Dri. If you sweat so much that it bothers you, you could have hyperhidrosis, meaning you sweat more than you need to. Talk to your health-care provider about possible treatment options.


Sarah M. Boyce, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic dermatologic surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Julide Tok Celebi, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, Columbia University Medical Center Eastside; assistant professor of dermatology, Columbia University.

Francesca J. Fusco, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology and assistant attending physician, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; assistant attending physician, Beth Israel Medical Center; associate dermatologist, Wexler Dermatology Group.

Susan Louisa Montauk, M.D., board-certified family doctor; professor of clinical family medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Charles D. Ponte, Pharm.D., professor of clinical pharmacy and family medicine, West Virginia University.

Erin M. Welch, M.D., board-certified dermatologist; assistant professor of dermatology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.



Last updated and/or approved: January 2011. Original article appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bios current as of those issues. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
Comments (2)add comment
Less Toxic Lotions for Skin Care
written by Jean , February 11, 2013

I think less toxic lotions would be better for babies and toddlers with eczema. There are plenty of natural organic brands available on the market. The Environmental Working Group has a database called Skin Deep that rates brands on levels of toxicity. Just something to think about with all the allergies and autoimmune issues people face today.
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Dry Skin, Lotion Tips
written by SEO Gloucester , April 04, 2012

I am suffered from dry skin more than 5 years, I did lots of things to reduce it such as drank plenty of water and applied dry skin lotion, but since last year I used to apply glycerin. Now I am totally cured from that dry skin problem.
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