Skin Summer

You put lotion after lotion on your skin during the dry hot Arizona summers and, still, your skin gets dry, even scaly. Why is that, and what can you do about it?

Most lotions are water-based. You probably drink lots of water, especially during summer. And this is, of course, generally a wise thing.

But water evaporates quickly through our skin and is easily excreted. Water-based lotions act the same way: They go on, the water is soon eliminated from your skin, and you're drying out again.

Imagine this scenario: You put a barrel of water in a Valley parking lot in summer during the day. What happens? It soon evaporates.

Now take the same barrel of water and put oil on top of it. What happens? The water stays there. This same simple principle will make and keep your skin healthy, smooth and moist for life. Oil-based lotions are out there, but they're harder to find.

The easiest solution is to just put oil itself - olive oil, sesame oil, avocado oil or the like - on your skin, especially after you have used a water-based lotion. Then you have the best of both worlds - oil holding water in. Water hydrates and oil lubricates. You need both for truly healthy skin.

Also, it helps tremendously to take plenty of healthy oil internally. Fish oil, cod liver oil, olive oil, sesame oil, etc. can help a lot. Even if you do, you still need to put oil on your skin.

Coconut oil can be very beneficial for some people, especially for those who run a little colder than normal. If you run hotter than normal, coconut oil is best avoided since it will warm your core even more.

Other foods can also help. The best foods to add both hydration and lubrication simultaneously are those with a texture that is sticky but not too sticky and moist.

Examples would be pears, mangoes, peaches, plums and that sort of fruit. A somewhat oily stew or soup of meat and vegetables will also do the trick. Any foods with that sort of texture will have the same effect.

So stop spending so much on water-based lotions. They're excellent for skin hydration, but without protecting them with oils, you're throwing money away, and your skin is not getting the nourishment it needs.

Eating vine-ripened produce will also do wonders for skin health, since once plants ripen, they draw up their internal sunblock they've been preparing for the occasion. This is why humans didn't all die of skin cancer millions of years ago.

Last words of advice: If you wouldn't eat it, it shouldn't go on your skin, since everything we leave on our skin eventually gets in us, including all those multi-syllabic, toxic cosmetic ingredients.

So be kind to your skin and give it some healthy oil. You'll be glad you did.

• Joseph Garner, L.Ac., has been practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine for 15 years, as well as teaching in higher education and serving on the national Acupuncture College Accreditation Commission. Contact him at (602) 295-3080 or

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