Dryness occurs when your skin doesn’t have enough water or oil (sebum) and can affect anyone at any time. Ideally we need to strive for a healthy balance of oil and water in the skin. The purpose of the sebum is to maintain the suppleness of skin and hair as well as to protect the skin from damages caused by external factors and dehydration. If the skin becomes dehydrated, the enzymes in the skin do not function properly, leading to a sluggish cell turnover and a dull sallow appearance.
A dry skin and a dehydrated skin are two different conditions that often influence each other. A dry skin refers to a skin that lacks oil and a dehydrated skin refers to a skin that lacks water. To understand how the two are connected we need to have a look at the skin’s acid mantle.
What is the Acid Mantle (Skin Barrier) of the Skin?
The Acid Mantle of the skin is the skin’s first line of defence and is a fatty film made up of oil and water that covers the skin’s surface.
Your skin’s acid mantle is made up of the following:
- Lactic acid
- Urocanic acid
- Fatty acids/Ceramides
- Pyrrolidine carboxylic acid
- Eccrine glands which secrete amino acids
So these protective oils, waterproof skin and help keep the skin cells tight and flat, protecting you from the elements like wind, cold and water and also making it harder for bacteria and other microbes to infect your skin.
The layer of oil sits on top of the layer of water and prevents Transepidermal Water loss (TEWL) in turn preventing dehydration. The Acid Mantle has a pH of about 5.5 which generates an acidic environment. This barrier can be washed or scrubbed away and it can also be neutralized by alkaline soaps and body washes that raise the pH of your skin above 6. If you get that tight squeaky clean feeling after washing, you’ve probably just stripped away your acid mantle which increases your chances of skin damage and infection. Other factors such as medication, illness and chemical treatment can also impair the barrier. Therefore choosing the correct products is of utmost importance and can influence your skin’s entire response to treatment.
Signs that you have skin barrier dysfunction:
- “I feel like my skin is dry yet I am experiencing acne breakouts.”
- “After I cleanse my skin, I experience a tight squeaky clean feel.“
- “Every product that I use tends to sting and irritate my skin causing it to always be inflamed. I am therefore very cautious when purchasing skincare products”
- “My skin is excessively oily”.- Overproduction of oil can be the skin’s way of protecting itself.
- “My skin is constantly dry and flaky and always looks irritated.”
How to Repair your Skin Barrier function:
- We like to follow the KISS principle when treating dry skin and barrier dysfunction; “Keep it simple silly!” Limit your skin care routine to three products that aim to repair, hydrate and replenish the natural Ceramides of the skin.
- Purchase cosmeceuticals that are backed by studies and avoid drug store bought skincare.
- Avoid harsh and abrasive facial scrubs as well as soap on your skin.
- Seek advice from a skincare professional if you are unsure.
- Once your barrier is repaired – and trust me you will feel the difference – then look at adding additional products such as antioxidants and hydrating serums into your routine. Your skin will also now accept and react positively to any in office treatments.
Dr Wade’s Recommendation for Treatment of Dry Skin and Impaired Barrier Function:
If you suspect that you are experiencing barrier dysfunction, book an online consultation with one of our skin specialists, so they may analyse your skin and go through your skincare history in order to develop the most effective treatment plan going forward.
At home skin care products: