Photo Credit: https://www.viktorhanacek.com/
Winter has definitely fulfilled expectations this year. I'm getting a lot of complaints about skin dryness, flakiness, and tightness. Central heat, low humidity, chafing wind, not to mention air travel will wreak havoc on the skin's barrier. Your stratum corneum (the outermost layer of your skin) is approximately the width of a human hair. It's not hard to believe it has its work cut out in keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.
But don't worry, help is here. Protect, revive, and repair that vital skin barrier (year-round!) with the tips below:
- Properly cleansing your skin is vital, but can become challenging for barrier-damaged skin that might need a bit more nourishment. I recommend changing up your cleansing routine to an oil, milk, or lotion, especially if you're currently using a cleansing mousse or foaming wash. Personally, I love using a cleansing oil for my pm cleanse in the winter. And yes, even oily skins can use a non-clogging cleansing oil, and it's great for makeup removal too.
- Free-radicals are responsible for damaging the lipids in our skin's barrier that protect, and lock in moisture. You constantly hear about the latest and greatest antioxidant, but the truth is, different antioxidants protect against different things, so your best bet is a topical cocktail of multiple antioxidants, as opposed to just one. I'm a huge fan of vitamin C, but it doesn't protect against Lipid Peroxide, which damages the barrier lipids. I combine my vitamin C serum, with an antioxidant complex (18 total!) in the morning to cover all the bases and provide complete protection. This is also my go-to before any air-travel to prevent barrier damage and dryness that occurs due to the ozone in plane cabins.
- We all know we need to moisturize and hydrate our skin, but looking for barrier-repair ingredients is key. There are many great choices including shea butter, soy phospholipids, ceramides, and tocopheryl linoleate. Including soothing agents like sea whip is also advised, as inflammation leads to all sorts of problems, including poor barrier function.
- Certain emulsifiers, when used in too high a percentage in a formula can actually emulsify the skin's lipids, which will later be rinsed away, resulting in that dry, tight feeling. So you might be applying moisturizer, but it is liquifying the lipids in your natural barrier, leaving you feeling tight and dry, so you apply again.... a vicious cycle. If you think this might be happening to you, have your skin therapist check your current product (or send the ingredient label to me). :)
- We're learning the lesson that aggressive treatments, in general, can often do more harm than good in the long term. While exfoliating surface cells can indeed stimulate the skin to repair itself and produce those vital lipids, it's important not to go overboard. A barrier-damaged skin should steer clear of physical abrasive exfoliants that can irritate and create micro-tears on the surface. Instead, try using a gentle resurfacer, with glycolic or lactic acid, get the renewal process going, and stimulate that barrier repair you need.
- The hands can be tricky as they take all of the exposure, and are also subject to frequent washing, drying soaps, and cleansers. (This is especially true during cold and flu season.) I speak from experience on this one. On a normal workday, I wash my hands well over 25 times! Apply hand cream after every washing and before bed. I use a hand cream specially formulated to soothe and repair, with ingredients like ceramides and dimethicone that can actually help the skin retain moisture over time. Great for cuticles too.
- Be sure to use body lotion right out of the shower to seal in moisture. Take it easy on the hot showers and long soaks! (We're still in a drought here in California, so we should all be moving with a quickness anyway). The same goes for hot tubs and saunas. Also, you might want to check that you're not using a body wash with SLS or SLAS, which can be irritating to the skin. I wrote a post about these ingredients here. Lastly, please stop using soap. It doesn't rinse cleanly. Due to its alkalinity, it can actually leave a film on the skin that impedes the penetration of other products.