Perhaps you've spent your fair share of hours in the cosmetic aisle of your local drug store, looking for dry skin remedies for you and your family. But for every product you slather onto your skin, you're also slathering on layers of unregulated chemicals. Patent laws protect cosmetic manufacturers from listing all of their ingredients on the labels, and the Food and Drug Administration has only tested and approved a small percentage of the common ingredients in cosmetics. Before you fly into the arms of your doctor, know that you probably aren't going to drop dead from a little moisturizer, but you might have some unexpected skin reactions. Natural lotions ditch the chemicals in favor of ingredients less likely to leave your skin red, itchy or swollen, all while doing the same moisturizing duty of those unnatural treatments.
Navigating Natural Lotions
"Natural" isn't a term regulated by the FDA, which means any company can use it if some of the ingredients are naturally derived. Unlisted chemicals often are hidden under the ingredient "fragrance," so there's no telling what you're really getting. Look for the 100 percent Certified Organic seal handed out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Organic ingredients are required to be natural, so if you can nail down one of those distinctive green seals, you've got the real deal. Any lotion with more than 95 percent organic ingredients can claim to be "organic" -- as long as those other listed ingredients are natural, you're still in the clear.
Once you find a natural lotion, scan the labels for the most skin-nourishing ingredients for your dry skin. Shea butter is a nut fat that delivers seriously high levels of moisturizing lipids. Honey isn't just for sweetening your morning tea -- it's a vitamin-rich exfoliant that sloughs off dead skin and replenishes your skin's nutritional bank. Seed and nut oils including hemp, coconut, sunflower and almond oils use natural fats to hydrate and nourish your dry skin. Even ingredients that make you raise an eyebrow, like sorbitol or tocopherol, are natural skin savers: Sorbitol is derived from fruits and gives your lotion that natural creaminess, and tocopherol is a skin-boosting form of vitamin E that will nourish your skin in the long term.
If you want to guarantee that your dry skin treatments are totally natural, make them yourself. Your kitchen is stocked with ingredients that can deliver some serious repairs to dry skin. For a quick lotion, beat an egg yolk in a bowl with 1/4 cup sesame oil and 1/8 cup each of avocado and almond oil. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and give it a whip. The thick lotion will keep for a few days stored in a sealed jar in the fridge. If you're looking for longer-term lotions that you can make in bulk and use regularly, you'll probably need a few specialty ingredients like beeswax and glycerin to stabilize the concoctions.