Skin Softeners are products made from plant or mineral oils that help protect, nourish and moisturize very dry, itchy, or irritated skin. Often, they contain no scent or other potential irritants, so are safe for many people with very sensitive skin such as eczema or psoriasis sufferers – if you are very sensitive, do try a skin test on a small area for a few hours before fully applying it, to make sure none of the ingredients make any skin problems worse.
Consistency and Main Ingredient of Skin Softeners
Skin softeners are often clear oils – Johnson’s Baby Oil might be considered a skin softener, especially if applied while you’re still wet from showering, as it forms an oily barrier that helps your skin retain moisture. Vaseline is another brand that makes a lot of ‘pure’ skin products that are (mostly) without colour or scent.
Dead Sea Spa Magik Skin Softener is also based on mineral oils, although this company claims healing properties for the ’21 Dead Sea Minerals’ found in the oil.
Oilatum’s light liquid paraffin is a gel, rather than an oil, and I used this when I developed sensitivity (and a lot of itching! Ouch!) to the chlorine at my local swimming pool – I’d apply a handful of the gel to the skin of my arms, legs and torso after my after-swim shower whilst I was still dripping wet, and all irritation stopped immediately (and, yes, my skin was extremely soft and smooth when I was using this every day).
Most skin softeners are simply refined mineral oils that are considered among the safest skin products for human cosmetic use. They don’t clog pores, and although occasionally users have found that mineral oils have increased skin irritation, the majority of consumers have found the oils to be very beneficial.
Liquid Paraffin After-Shower Gel
Who Should Use Skin Softeners?
Everyone! They are for the most part very inexpensive, and sloshing on some baby oil or any other mineral oil-based product is an easy and quick route to soft and healthy skin. However, although I have used several of the products mentioned above when my skin has been very dry and irritated, if you have a rash or broken skin it is not recommended that you use any products at all – take your doctor’s or your pharmacist’s advice before using any products if you have ever suffered from skin allergies, or conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
How Often Should You Apply a Skin Softener?
Many women apply Baby Oil to skin every day, and even those with ‘problem’ skin find that over time skin starts to feel soft, pampered, and that problems like hard or dry skin can begin to fade away. It is worth noting that mineral oils don’t directly have any ‘healing’ properties or any antiseptic qualities, they simply retain moisture and natural oils that are already in the skin, although this ‘retaining’ property in itself can be very nourishing and healing – helping the skin keep its delicate balance. Skin softeners can be applied as often as needed – if my skin is feeling particularly in need of some pampering and TLC, and is a little itchy, I apply it morning and night after a warm shower, and dry off the oil as well as the water with a thick towel.
How to Use Skin Softeners
- Apply the oil or gel generously onto the skin after a shower and before you towel-dry yourself (making sure you’re on a non-slip surface like a bathroom mat as any dropped oil is extremely slippy, as I can attest to with a bruise or two in the past!).
- If you don’t want to coat yourself with oil all over, apply to dry skin areas only – knees and elbows, for instance, or to any areas that you feel would benefit from more moisture – calves and forearms can be quite a dry area for some people.
- Add a little to a warm bath – about a capful should do it, and will make the water feel wonderfully ‘soft’ and luxurious. Be careful getting out of the bath, though, as it will be coated in oil, as will you, and things will be very slippery and unsafe.
What Else can Soften Dry or Hard Skin and Reduce Itching and Irritation?
If itching or redness is accompanied by a rash, or lasts longer than a couple of hours and has no immediately obvious cause, seek medical advice, as it could be caused by something serious like infection or severe allergic reaction. But if your irritation is mild but persistent, or you simply want softer and more radiant skin, these are the things that will help your skin glow:
Exfoliate (but only if you do not have broken or red skin, a rash, or any active skin problems) - use a netting bath puff, or a cream/gel body scrub, or for feet use pumice stone to rub away dead skin before you apply a skin softener or other moisturising cream or lotion. You'll feel the difference immediately and your skin will love you for it!
Fruit and vegetables – not only do they contain vitamin C and other nutrients that can help your immune system reduce the effect of allergies and fight off infection, but they also contain water, and natural oils that will help keep your skin clear and naturally moisturized. Eat more than your five a day, and eat a variety of fresh fruit and veggies whenever you can. And on the subject of water, have more of that too - about 6-8 glasses a day.
Exercise – as well as keeping your immune system fit and well, exercise increases blood flow. A sluggish blood flow can cause skin problems, especially on hands and feet, and patches of dry or hard skin can develop, so try to at least go for a brisk walk for half an hour every day.
Oily foods – provide your body, skin and hair with the oils it needs by eating oily fish, avocados, olive oil, and unsalted nuts.
Hot or warming spices like chili and ginger – spicy foods may increase blood flow, so toss a few spices into your evening meal – the flavour explosion will also mean that you won’t need as much salt (or even any salt!), which would be another bonus for your skin.
Drink White tea –or green tea, both of which have been found to have a positive effect on skin condition. These teas, like fruit and vegetables, can also help with allergies, and help to flush out toxins in your body.