Best way to hydrate skin (hint: oils aren’t the answer)

I love oils. What pagan worth her salt doesn’t venerate this sacred liquid gold for its herbal, spiritual, and practical properties? I use them in every single natural skincare product I make, and on myself and my child. I literally couldn’t do any part of my job without oils. But they are ~not~ the end-all, be-all when it comes to moisture or hydration that many would have you believe.

Moisture mistake

Later, I learned that I was actively sabotaging my hydration efforts.

Before I started hand-crafting skincare products, before I learned the unique needs that our skin has and how to care for it naturally, I made a lot of mistakes

One assumption I made was that oils were the best way to moisturize dry, tight skin.

I would slather facial oils on morning and night, certain I was providing my skin with deep hydration and moisture. I would practically bathe in body butter, in the pursuit of soft, supple skin.

Needless to say, none of these approaches worked, and I couldn’t figure out why. Should I use ~more~ body butter? Heavier oils? Why wasn’t my skin magically silken?

Later, I learned that I was actively sabotaging my hydration efforts.

What is hydration? (hint: it's water)

Water, then, is the key to hydrating your skin. In fact, ONLY WATER HYDRATES. Let me repeat that. Only water hydrates.

Hydration is the act of combining water with another substance (in this case, it’s the act of introducing water to your skin). Water, then, is the key to hydrating your skin. In fact, ONLY WATER HYDRATES. Let me repeat that. Only water hydrates.

We want hydrated skin, because well-hydrated skin is soft, supple, and firm. It quickly sheds dead cells, and regenerates new cells easily. It’s bright. It’s plump. It’s soft. It’s what we crave.

Are oils hydrating? (hint: no)

Oils and butter, while rich in vitamins, minerals, nutrients, fatty acids, peptides, and emollients, do. not. hydrate. Only water hydrates. (See above.)

You are sabotaging hydration by putting oils or butters on dry skin.

When you add oils or butters to dry (as in not damp or hydrated) skin, without adding any water first, you are actually sealing water OUT of your thirsty skin. Water can’t penetrate that oil barrier in either direction. So any water you hope to attract from products, the air, or the environment to your skin is effectively locked out. You are sabotaging hydration by putting oils or butters on dry skin.

Try this

Don’t believe me? Next time you get out of the shower, apply lotion to one leg while it’s still wet. Dry off the other leg thoroughly, and then apply lotion to that leg. A couple hours later, look at both your legs, and tell me what you observe.

It might take an extra minute for the lotion to sink in to damp skin. Your silken skin will thank you for that time investment almost immediately.

Then when can I use facial oil or body butter?

Oils and butters absolutely serve a purpose, as long as they’re used properly. For your body, use body butters as your final layer: After showering, apply lotion to your skin while it’s still damp. After it sinks in, indulge in that rich, fluffy body butter and watch your skin glow all day. (You can skip the lotion if you choose, but make sure you apply body butter to DAMP skin, in order to seal in that water.) It might take a little longer to absorb, and you can thank me for that later.

The same goes for facial oil. After cleansing, layer your usual products on your damp skin (oil-free hydrating serum first, then any other treatments you might use, then a moisturizer). Finally, apply a thin layer of facial oils formulated just for your skin type. This is a great bedtime routine. Our bodies rest and regenerate while we sleep. By giving your skin a bedtime snack, it can make use of the powerful vitamins and nutrients in the oil.

In summary

Apply your products while your skin is still damp. Don’t apply oils or butters to dried skin. The more water that’s on your skin when you apply your products, the more hydrated it will be. Apply oils as your final layer, over all your other products (except sunscreen). Anoint yourself properly and bask in the glowing compliments that flow your way.