Moisturize, moisturize and moisturize more

Your skin changes as you age, making it difficult to find the right products or know when to change products, according to physician and skin-care specialist Renee Moss, 45, of Williamsburg. She's at Reneau Medical; call 757-345-3064.

"The Skinprint Analysis that we perform in our office allows us obtain imaging and specific measurements of the various properties of your skin – hydration, sebum, barrier function, pH, elasticity, pigmentation," she says.

"Then a skin care regimen can be developed specifically for your skin. Repeating those measurements allows us to make changes in your skin care products as your skin changes. We adjust the products changes in your skin in winter and summer, as skin ages and as it repairs."

Some myths and realities about hydration?

First, drinking eight glasses of water does not keep your skin moist. It is, however, healthy to keep your body hydrated. The outer layer of skin is made up of dead skin cells and oil layer and does not absorb water from within.

Second, misting your face with water does not hydrate the skin. Evaporation actually pulls water off the surface of the skin.

Third, hydration is not just a function of water. It is also a function of the oil/lipid layer of the skin as well as the dead skin cells that make up the outer layer of the skin.

Why is winter so harsh on skin?

In winter, the low environmental humidity dries out the skin the most. Cold air cannot hold as much water as warm air. Central heating draws the moisture out of the air, reaching a level of relative humidity as low as 5 to 10 percent. When this dry air surrounds our bodies, it draws moisture from the skin's top layers.

Do any foods dry or hydrate skin?

There are not specific foods that dry out the skin. However, you should avoid foods that increase inflammation and free radicals that can damage skin cells. Coffee and alcohol are diuretics, which cause you to lose water.

There are not specific foods that hydrate the skin. You do want to include in your diet plenty of yellow and orange vegetables, which are high in antioxidants to combat free radicals. You also want to include Omega 3 fatty acids to decrease inflammation and provide the building blocks for that lipid component of the skin. Foods rich in sulfur, like garlic, onions and eggs have been shown to be helpful in skin repair. Vitamin B5 and zinc help convert fats and oils to be used properly by your skin.

Do women have more dry skin problems than men?

The difference for men and women occurs when women become postmenopausal. With the drop in estrogen there is a decrease in the sebum (oil) gland production. The oil is necessary to provide an adequate barrier. Less oil, less effective barrier, more water loss.

What makes a moisturizer good?

A good moisturizer is a combination of an emollient and a humectant. An emollient fills in the spaces between the cells and produces an occlusive barrier. Ingredients in emollients may nclude petroleum, dimethicone, mineral oils or natural plant oils. A humectant attracts and holds moisture from the air. Humectant ingredients may include glycerin, hyaluronic acid or urea. These ingredients can come in different forms:

Ointments have the greatest ability to trap moisture but feel greasy

Oils are less greasy but still effective

Creams are white and disappear when rubbed in, no greasy feel

Lotions are suspensions of oily chemicals in alcohol and water, least greasy, can be drying because of alcohol content Typically the greasier the feel, the better the occlusive properties.

What "locks" in moisture?

Oil in the moisturizer helps trap and keep water in the stratum corneum, the outer layer of the skin. Thick greasy moisturizers work best. Applying moisturizers when your skin is damp, within three minutes of getting out of the water, help to trap water before it evaporates.

What soap is best for dry skin?

Avoid soap as much as you can, it strips the skins barrier. If you need soap, use products that are mild, pH balanced and have added oils and fats.