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Chapter 3: Moisturization: An Essential To Tanning

Your client's skin is gasping for moisture like a flower in the desert. All winter, the elements have taken their toll. For at least three months the dry winter wind has sucked moisture from the delicate skin surface, while the cold temperatures blocked the production of natural oils and emollients. Your client's skin is dry to the touch and tight in appearance. You must come to the rescue with a good moisturizer.

Moisture is critical to good skin health because it helps maintain a good skin barrier and creates a flexible, pliable skin that is soft to touch. Moist skin will tan better and more evenly than dry skin. Your skin knows that moisture is important and uses a variety of methods to retain moisture in its surface.

Moisturize With Oils

Your skin retains water within its natural oils to help them maintain an ordered structure around each skin cell. Each skin cell is surrounded by a variety of different natural oils. Together, the skin cells and the natural oils help form the acid mantle or barrier in the stratum corneum. Water helps increase the flexibility of the oils so the oils can surround the cells to maintain an adequate skin barrier.

During cold winter months, the skin's ability to make natural oils for the stratum corneum is greatly reduced. We have known for many years that cold weather causes skin to become dry and brittle. Recently, scientists discovered that one of the reasons is a decrease in the production of natural oils when skin is exposed to cold temperatures. If the skin is not producing enough natural oils, then we can help by adding oils.

A good moisturizer not only will add moisture to the skin, but also add some oils to the skin. A client with severe dry skin requires a moisturizer with more oils than a client with slightly dry skin. For your clients with severe dry skin, recommend a moisturizer with a greasy feel. Clients with slightly dry skin can expect improvement with a less greasy moisturizer.

However, be careful to remember that the best moisturizer is one that your clients will use. The moisturizer has to be enjoyed by your client; it has to be used regularly. If your client will not use a greasy moisturizer, then the moisturizer will sit in the bottle and you may lose future sales.

Moisturize with NMFs

Your skin retains water within its natural proteins to keep them flexible. Each stratum corneum cell is a flexible sack of proteins. Without water, the proteins lose their flexibility and become rigid. The skin becomes rough to the touch, even cracking in severe cases. Water helps increase the flexibility of the proteins so the cells can relax to a smooth surface that begs to be touched.

Normally, skin creates natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) to hold moisture in the stratum corneum and increase the water content of the skin. In dry winter conditions, the skin cannot make NMFs because the water content of the skin is too low. Also, NMFs are stripped away by the use of hotter bathing water and strong detergents.

A good moisturizer will add moisturizing factors back to the skin where they can lock moisture into the skin. Sodium PCA, or sodium pyrollidone carboxylic acid, is one of the most efficient NMFs because it binds lots of water.

Moisturizing lotions also may contain moisturizing factors that are not natural, but moisturize much the same way. Some examples are sodium isethionate, glycerin and panthenol.

Moisturize With Vitamins

The reduced barrier function of the skin caused by the dry cold winter allows a variety of environmental pollutants to enter the skin. These pollutants can deplete the antioxidant system of the skin, making the skin more susceptible to oxidative damage. Vitamins can reduce or eliminate this damage.

A good moisturizer will help replace the vitamins skin needs. Vitamin E, or tocopheryl acetate, is a potent antioxidant that should be found in a good moisturizer. Vitamin C, frequently included as ascorbyl palmitate, acts in concert with vitamin E in a healthy antioxidant system. Scientists have found several situations where these vitamins are more powerful together than alone.

Moisturize With AHAs

AHAs have been used for more than 3,000 years to improve the condition of skin. Scientists are not sure if the AHAs affect the structure of the natural oils or the proteins, or some other system yet to be discovered. They have shown that AHAs increase the flexibility of the skin much like water. Skin treated with AHAs becomes softer, more supple, and the color improves over continued use.

A good moisturizer for your tanning clients will contain a low level (less than 1 percent) of AHAs to generate good moisturization in the skin. A moisturizer with a high level (greater than 1 percent of AHAs) will decrease the melanogenesis process, causing your client to lose their tan.


Dry, cold winter prevents skin from maintaining a moist healthy condition due to the loss of natural oils, natural moisturizing factors, and vitamins. A good moisturizer will contain these three items with a low level of AHAs. Your clients need to use a good moisturizer regularly and to apply it generously. Moisturizing skin helps replenish and retain the normal moisture content of the stratum corneum, keeping the skin soft and supple. Moist skin is healthy skin and healthy skin will tan better and more evenly than dry skin.

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