What can an old boot tell us about caring for dry skin?
 
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Ever been out walking when it’s wet underfoot? Notice how your boots can really soak up the moisture. Of course, how saturated they get depends on how well protected they are. Neglect them and you can bet your blisters they’ll be sopping wet, especially if they’re made of leather.

It’s not so different with your own skin. The dryer your skin becomes, the thirstier it gets. Give that parched skin the chance to absorb some moisture and it’ll lap it up.. But is water what dry skin really needs?

Well, it seems there’s a lesson to be learned from those boots. Make a habit of drowning them and leaving them to dry out and pretty soon the very same leather that was once so soft and supple turns hard and rigid and starts to crack.

How do you give those boots TLC? You give back one vital ingredient the leather had when it was protecting the animal it came from. Oil. Oil does more than lubricate. It softens, protects and conditions.

You’ll have noticed that while the boots were wet, the leather was more pliable and softer than when it was bone dry. But the effect is short-lived. Worse than that, every time you leave those boots to dry out, they seem to leach yet more moisture into the atmosphere.

There’s a parallel here with our own skin.

Just as leather left to dry in the open air ends up drier than it was before it got wet, so your own skin will show increasing signs of dryness if exposed to the same process. If you leave water to evaporate from the surface of your skin, you’re asking for trouble. So always dry your face thoroughly after stepping out of the bath or shower or rinsing off cleanser.

But that’s just for starters. The real lesson is far more of a shocker.

While your skin needs moisture to keep it soft and supple, water cannot penetrate the skin’s outer layers. Conventional cream moisturisers, which contain more water than oil, soften these outer layers, so your skin looks and feels smoother and plumper. But from the moment you apply any moisturiser that contains more water than oil, the water starts to evaporate. All you’re doing is temporarily hydrating those outer layers of skin. You’re doing nothing to condition and improve the long-term health of the living skin cells below.

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Worse, most conventional cream moisturisers are water-in-oil emulsions. This is bad news on two counts. First, soaking your skin daily in this way can dilute the free amino acids, lactic acid, urea and salts which are an integral part of your skin’s moisture management system. Second, water-in-oil emulsions emulsify fats. Which means they draw out the very substances you need to hold onto most.

Keep applying a conventional cream moisturiser and you may actually be setting yourself up for dry skin, flakiness and visible signs of ageing that could easily have been avoided.

The answer? Look to those boots one more time.

Your body produces its own ‘oil’ – a waxy substance called sebum. Unfortunately, as we age, our sebum-production ‘factory’ starts to slow down and we lose moisture more rapidly than when we did in our younger years.

What to do? That’s right. Give your skin the same loving care you’d give your faithful footwear. Put the oil back in. A good massaging in of cold-pressed, plant-based oils and butters, preferably organic, will work wonders. Oil is the best and only way to condition your skin and keep it in great shape for decades to come.

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