8 May
2009

This entails the use of creams, oils or lotions to relieve dryness and make the skin feel smoother. Skin varies in its degree of oiliness from person to person, depending on age and the climatic conditions. For example, adolescent skin is oilier than that of the elderly. Also, during the winter, and in air-conditioned buildings, the skin tends to become dried out. Conditioning products usually called moisturizers or emollients, are designed to prevent these drying processes. They are sometimes described as skin foods providing nourishment for the skin. This of course is nonsense. The only nourishment possible is from the inner blood supply—the outer, horny akin layer is inert and lifeless.

All conditioning products, whether they be called moisturizers, lubricants, skin food, night creams or foundation creams, etc., are mixtures of an oil and water. Other ingredients are often added to prevent spoilage, to keep the oil and water well mixed, and to provide perfume. Many different kinds of oil, some with fancy sounding names, are used; there is, however, no evidence that one kind of conditioner is better than another. The various products available may feel, smell and look different, and prices may vary dramatically, but basically they are very similar. They are all variations of the formula for old-fashioned cold cream—modified because their primary purpose is to smooth and soften, rather than cleanse, the skin. Because they are to be left on rather than wiped off after application, they are made to be less greasy than cold cream. If the oil used has a low melting point, the oily film on the skin will feel greasy. If the oil has a high melting point, it will not fee] greasy when rubbed onto the skin: rather it will become colourless and seem to vanish. Hence products using the latter type of oil may be termed foundation creams (or vanishing creams) and are likely to be preferred for daytime use under make-up.

Conditioning creams act by leaving a thin oily film on the skin which retards the evaporation of moisture from the outer skin layers. However, it is not possible for externally applied oils or the skin’s natural oils to keep the skin hydra ted, soft and flexible without the aid of water. This water, however, is the fluid produced by the skin itself as sweat, as well as the fluid emanating from the blood and lymph which surround all the living cells of the body. No drops of water from the outside ever reaches the skin’s living cells, which is just as well, otherwise we would become waterlogged after a bath or swim! Indeed, loss of water, not oil, from the outer layer of the skin is the basic cause of dryness. Wetting the skin for two or three minutes night and morning is clearly not going to replace the water lost by natural hydration. Even in a temperate climate, invisible perspiration of approximately half a litre daily traverses the skin, quite apart from visible sweat. The only way to prevent the skin from drying out is to trap some of this natural body fluid, which is where the oil in the cream, or the fat in the sebum, are useful: they act by inhibiting, through their impermeability, the evaporation of water trapped in the superficial skin cells.

Conditioning creams also make the skin look and feel soft by cementing down the rough, scaly surface, and smooth it by decreasing the ‘drag’ felt when touching the skin.

Astringents and skin fresheners or toners are liquids made up of alcohol, glycerine and water. They are useful for the quick removal of make-up and the cleansing of oily skin in particular; more generally, they are used for their cooling or refreshing effect. Astringents have a slightly higher concentration of alcohol than skin fresheners and may contain a few additional drying ingredients. They give the skin a tighter feel to it, on account of which they are often promoted, falsely, as products which close the pores’.

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