the foundation of a healthy skin routine
I've got 4 words for you… maintain the moisture barrier. When you do, the skin will be healthier, softer and smoother. But what is this moisture barrier I speak of?
Well, the top layer of the skin, the epidermis, has dead skin cells filled with NMF - Natural Moisturizing Factors. NMF is a mix of great hydrators like urea, PCA, glycerol, hyaluronic acid and a bunch of other stuff.
Surrounding the NMF-filled skin cells are lipids like cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acids.
Together, NMF and the lipids form a moisture barrier that keeps moisture in and bad microbes out. The skin stays smooth, hydrated and healthy as a result.
But sometimes, life and bad skin care choices happen. As a result, the moisture barrier is stripped. Not good.
Symptoms of a damaged moisture barrier
With the moisture barrier stripped, the skin can be:
rough or dull because dead skin cells can't shed without enough moisture.
flaky, dry or tight because the natural skin lipids which help soften and smooth are gone.
sensitive because there's no armor preventing infection. Infection usually leads to irritation which leads to inflammation.
congested or spotty because microbes feed on the excess oil cause inflammation.
very oily and very dry at the same time, in different parts of the face.
Issa lot basically.
Causes of a damaged moisture barrier
A common cause for a damaged moisture barrier is poor cleansing. So many people tell me they use fake African black soap, body soap, Sunlight bars or shower gel to wash their face. OMG staaapp! Abeg.
These soaps usually have a high pH (6.0+) which is too harsh for the skin.
The moisture barrier has a low pH of 4.0 - 6.0 to reduce the chances of infection. Bad microbes can't deal with that acidic ish. When you use a high pH cleanser, it strips the barrier, leaving the skin tight, dry and prone to infection.
A gentle cleanser of pH 5.5 or less should leave your skin feeling clean, soft and plump.
Age, sun damage, skin care with fragrance, clay, dyes, some alcohols and actives (like retinoids) can strip the skin too.
How to heal a damaged moisture barrier
Ditch the product that is causing the damage in the first place. If it's a stripping cleanser, getchu a pH balanced one like the Simple Kind to Skin Refreshing Facial Wash Gel.
If it's an active like Retin-A, this seems tricky. You can't ditch it, because it's a skincare superstar and yet at the start, purging is usually part of the package. Add a soothing moisturizer to your routine e.g. La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 to heal the skin.
Natural Moisturizing Factors are humectants, which means they hold and bind water to the skin.
Use hydrating skin care like Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion - a wonderful hyaluronic acid serum.
On top of the humectants, apply an occlusive like Vaseline or plant oils to seal the moisture on the skin. Use skincare that has barrier repairing ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. Dr. Jart Ceramidin Cream is great.
Wash your face with clean water in the morning and use a gentle oil cleanser at night. This way, your skin will not be stripped of the necessary moisture for healing.
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm gets the job done and lasts forever.
Reduce how often you expose your skin to the skin. Sun rays dry out the skin. They are like the hot coals and you are the barbecue meat.
Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day, wear hats, sit in shady areas and hold up a dark umbrella to reduce on the amount of harmful UV radiation reaching your skin.
Depending on the damage, it can take days or weeks to heal the moisture barrier. Once it's healed, you’ll notice the skin looks healthier, feels softer and smoother.
I kid you not, after properly cleansing my face, the skin got healthy fast! Eczema and those tu-rashes on my forehead didn't know what hit them.
What about you? What skin care tip changed your life? Without a doubt, learning how to maintain the moisture barrier is mine.