In search of the best moisturizers

Consumer Reports News: October 04, 2011 12:38 PM

In the quest to find the moistest moisturizer, Consumer Reports asked me and 25 other female staffers to do things we wouldn’t normally do: We periodically skipped showering and shaving our legs. When we did wash, we used non-moisturizing bar soap. To make sure our skin was truly crackly, we couldn’t use body lotion a few days before the test. But the sacrifice was worth it.

While store brands often do well in many of our other product tests, that wasn’t the case this time. Among the 14 brands that were dabbed on our legs in a humidity-controlled lab, name-brand moisturizers came out on top. Three of the four store-brand look-alikes we tested were slightly less effective than their brand-name counterparts. The one exception was a Walmart lotion, a copycat of our top pick, Cetaphil.

The best bargain among the top eight performers (those that were rated slightly more moisturizing) was Suave Advanced Therapy, which costs $3.25 for 18 ounces. But that contains an ingredient called retinyl palmitate, which has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer in animal studies, and it can convert to retinoids, associated with a risk of birth defects. The next-cheapest option among the top eight without retinyl palmitate: Walmart’s Equate Moisturizing ($6.50 for 16 ounces).

Another thing to watch out for is fragrance, since it’s the No. 1 cause of irritation to sensitive skin, according to Amy Newburger, M.D., a dermatologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Also watch out for potentially irritating preservatives like sorbic acid, citric acid, benzyl alcohol, and parabens.

And why all the fuss about moisturizers in the first place? Your skin loses water throughout the day, especially now that the weather is getting colder, and you could end up dry and itchy if you don’t put on lotion, Newburger says. And that goes double for adults in their 70s, since they don’t produce new skin as quickly as younger adults. Some medications, like cholesterol-lowering drugs, remove lipids from the skin. And women going through menopause might notice that their skin is extra dry thanks to decreased estrogen.

Sue Byrne

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