(InStyle.com) -- -- No one wants to be seen as flaky -- especially when it comes to skin. If you need a thicker moisturizer than you did five years ago, you're not alone. As we get older, skin can't cope as well with dry indoor heat and harsh cleansers. Here's why:
Run a humidifier while you sleep to keep skin as glowing as Joy Bryant's.
When estrogen levels start to decline -- sometimes as early as your late 30s -- collagen production slows. This reduces the skin's ability to retain the moisture the body produces.
Oil glands produce lipids (healthy fats) which seal water into the skin. As aging glands become less active, dryness increases, especially in areas with fewer glands, such as the lower legs.
As we get older, damage occurs, and dead cells don't always shed from the skin as effectively. Instead, these dry cells form clumps on the surface and later slough off in flakes. Watch tips on soft, smooth skin »
Prevent, treat dry skin
The no-fail fix for dehydration is pretty straightforward when it comes to your body: Exfoliate in moderation, wash gently and bring on the moisture.
Arms and legs
Shower savvy: To prevent skin from losing moisture, skip long, steamy baths. Instead, "take a short shower with warm water," says Chicago dermatologist Carolyn Jacob. Opt for a gentle, non-detergent liquid cleanser, such as L'Occitane almond shower oil.
Smooth it on fast: To keep water from evaporating, apply a moisturizer within two to three minutes of showering. Oil-based lotions, creams and gels (like Vaseline's) are designed to trap water in and work best when massaged into damp skin.
Try: Try L'Occitane Almond shower oil, $22/8.4 oz.; usa.loccitane.com or 888- 623-2880. Vaseline Cocoa Butter Gel body oil, $7/6.8 oz.; at drugstores.
Slough enough: Foot creams containing urea (like Curél) or lactic acid exfoliate. Plus, they "draw water up from the dermis to hydrate cells at the surface" says Jeffrey Dover, vice president of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.
Wax on: For chronic dryness or cracked heels, consider paraffin-wax treatments. The foot is first soaked in water, then the oily wax is applied to seal in the moisture.
Try: Curél Targeted Therapy foot cream, $5; at drugstores.
Slather on lotion: "Hand creams with silicone or petrolatum act like a barrier to prevent moisture from escaping," says West Palm Beach dermatologist Kenneth Beer. Or try creams with hyaluronic acid (like Estée Lauder Re-Nutriv), which binds water to skin.
Come clean: Choose a mild liquid cleanser and avoid antibacterial gels, which "literally draw water out" of the skin, says Beer.
Try: Estée Lauder Re-Nutriv Intensive Smoothing hand crême, $45/3.4 oz.; esteelauder.com.
Hydrate from the inside out
A healthy diet will help your skin maximize its moisture-producing potential. Avoid drying substances like alcohol and caffeine, and eat foods rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, soybeans and walnuts. You can also get those beneficial fatty acids in tablet form -- like Murad Wet Suit Cell Hydrating dietary supplement.
Try: Murad Wet Suit Cell Hydrating supplement, $43; murad.com. E-mail to a friend
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