winter is coming...eventually

Why 5-Minute Showers Are Best for Your Skin

Photo: Frank Rothe/Corbis

Newsflash: Moisturizers don’t moisturize. This is not to say that moisturizers don’t work, but their moisturizing properties don’t come from adding moisture to the skin, but by locking existing moisture in. If you’re plagued by various dryness during the cold winter months, then the concept of “locking in moisture” is especially essential for preventing cracking, scaliness, and irritation.

To find out the best ways to cuff yourself to moisture this winter, the Cut spoke with Dr. Patricia Wexler, who delivered some additional tips on how to make your skin less thirsty. As she explains, locking in moisture is about “creating an environment to sustain moisture in extremely dry skin or hair over time.” Here’s why hot showers and baths aren’t great for your skin, and why you only have five minutes to moisturize.

1. Don’t make your showers too hot. The ideal temperature is lukewarm, like your feelings for Ariana Grande until this year.

2. Don’t shower too long. The best showers, Wexler suggests, are “tepid, short showers,” so shower like you’re in a European youth hostel.

3. No baths. Excessive heat dehydrates the skin. Sorry.

4. Apply moisturizer when your skin is damp. The prime time for moisturizing your body is within five minutes of getting out of the shower, says Wexler. Pat yourself till you are lightly damp and then begin slathering moisturizer yourself like you are on the clock. Don’t stop for anything. You can answer your texts later.

5. Avoid beeswax lip balms. Dr. Wexler explains, “Lips respond well to paraffin (not beeswax) ceramides” because they last longer in a moist environment. She likes Kiehl’s Lip Balm for its combination of emollients like squalane, lanolin, wheat germ oil, and vitamin E.

6. Try creams, not lotions. Lotions have a higher alcohol content and can be more drying.

7. Look for creams that contain ceramides. In layman’s terms, Wexler explains a ceramide is a “glue” that holds skin cells together, helping skin maintain its appearance while protecting it. She calls products that contain them “great barrier repair” that bind in moisture and water. Her favorites are CeraVe moisturizing cream and Nia 24 Skin Strengthening Complex.

8. Don’t expect your face oil to moisturize. Wexler explains that oils can seal in moisture, but can’t lock in moisture that isn’t present. To effectively incorporate a face oil into your routine, she suggests moisturizing first with a cream or lotion, and using the oil on top.

9. But use oils on your cuticles. Dr. Wexler recommends oils that are infused with jojoba and vitamin E.

10. Don’t use soap. Use gentle, soap-free, fragrance-free body washes, limiting the use of detergents and glycerin which can irritate and dry out skin.

11. Exfoliation doesn’t really do anything for moisturizing. Exfoliation can remove dead skin, which can help moisturizers penetrate better, but doesn’t actually help with locking moisture in.

The Best Products for Locking in the Moisture

KIEHL’S SINCE 1851 Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1
$10 at Sephora

It’s full of moisturizing ingredients that work like a salve on cracked lips, including squalane, lanolin, and Vitamin E.

Unscented CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Normal to Dry Skin
$13 at Target

It’s chock full of ceramides (three different kinds) and hyaluronic acid. Plus, it’s unscented.

Necessaire The Body Wash
$25 at Necessaire

A unscented body wash that actually looks sexy in your shower.

This post was first published in December 2014.  If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

Why 5-Minute Showers Are Best for Your Skin