Good morning!! Welcome to Monday’s edition of #themoreyouknow! Today, I want to talk about dry skin. It seems that many of you are a bit casual about skin dryness-one person even sneered a bit when I mentioned that continued use of a certain product would give them dry skin, as if that was simply a cosmetic issue rather than a skin health issue. Here’s the thing: no matter what your skin type, no matter whether you’re born with it or you do it to yourself by using the wrong products, if you are experiencing dry skin, your skin is no longer functioning as a proper barrier to the environment. Dry skin is compromised skin, and it is FAR more serious than a simple cosmetic issue.
Keeping skin hydrated and supple so that it retains proper function is a job done by skin lipids like ceramides, cholesterol, etc., as well as Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMFs) in the skin. NMFs consist of ingredients such as amino acids, lactic acid, sodium PCA, various sugars and minerals, and hyaluronic acid. Skin oils also play a part, acting as emollients to give a feel of lubrication and increased skin flexibility. When all three are present in appropriate amounts, skin is healthy, hydrated, and supple.
If you were born with dry skin, chances are some component of those three (skin lipds, NMFs, and oils), is not functioning properly, resulting in a weakened barrier. You can also induce this weakened barrier by using products that are too harsh for your skin.Washing the skin with surfactants, alcoholic facial toners or even staying too long in the bath dissolves the oils in the stratum corneum and creates holes in the barrier. What is worse, disruption of the barrier, for whatever reason leads to not only a loss of water but a loss of NMF. Most of the NMF are small and water-soluble and are easily rinsed away through cleansing.
Harsh surfactants, like anionic sulfate surfactants (i.e. SLS and SLES) not only remove the protective oils from the barrier but also can destroy the 3D-structure of skin proteins. The first reaction from the skin to surfactants is actually a temporary swelling that gives the false impression of hydration only to quickly de-swell with the water evaporating minutes after you stepped out of the shower, leaving the skin feeling tight and dry. If harsh surfactants are left longer on the skin, their negative charge disrupts the structure and function of skin proteins and they can penetrate deep into the Epidermis and break the cells on the basal lamina, triggering an inflammatory response with dry, red and flaky skin as a result. The stronger the surfactant, the quicker the holes in the barrier are created. The weather has also an enormous impact on this. Cold and dry winter climate, as well as hot and dry summer days, makes the skin more sensitive to harsh cleaning procedures and the barrier fails more easily. A failed moisture barrier will not only result in a reduction of moisture and NMF in the skin, but also any toxic substances that you expose your skin to afterward are taken up by the skin more easily and can penetrate into its deeper layers, from environmental pollution to nasties in your moisturizer.
There are a lot of folks out there acting like moisturizing your skin with straight oil is gonna do something to hydrate skin. It will not. As I’ve explained above, oils are only one component of skin’s moisturizing factors, and if you are only using oil to moisturize, you might be improving your skin barrier, but you are not preventing water loss, or restoring lost NMFs, so you are not really helping your skin. (Side note: put down those gd face oils every company is trying to sell you! They don’t f**king work!) In order for a moisturizer to be truly effective against dryness, it needs to include emollients (oils), humectants (water-absorbing molecules), and occlusives to prevent water loss.
If you have created dry skin through the use of too harsh products (side eye at Dr. Bronner’s), you will notice that your skin seems dry, or drier than normal. You may notice increased sensitivity to products or your environment. Because of this, you may notice redness, irritation, or even little bumps that never go away. Eczema is easily triggered in dry skin. I have lost count of how many folks I’ve spoken with who have stripped their skin by using too-harsh products, and who are experiencing these exact symptoms. 99% of the time, once they switch to less harsh skincare methods, their skin becomes so much better.
Remember: dry skin is damaged skin, and you need to assess your products and habits and figure out what you may be doing to create/exacerbate the situation. If you were born with dry skin, your life motto should be ‘Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! (But not solely with oils)
Okay, back to the Lotion Mines I go!