If you're one of the lucky ones dealing with dry skin year round, you know when winter comes it's game time. There's no such thing as too many hand creams, lotions, and body oils. Perhaps you keep a stash of hydrocortisone and petroleum jelly, too, for those unbearably itchy days.
Here's the thing about moisturizing agents—whether or not they "work" depends on how they interact with your skin's natural barrier. "An ideal moisturizer would repair the skin barrier, increase water content, and reduce trans-epidermal loss," said dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D. Have you ever washed your hands shortly after applying lotion, for example, and experienced increased dryness afterward despite the fact that you moisturized? You're likely disrupting your skin's barrier with the wrong balance of ingredients in your skin care, which can lead to stripping when combined with hand soap (or worse, dish soap) and water, as well as dehydrating paper products and hand dryers.