Sounds like a line from Star Trek, but when your skin’s defenses are down, those “shields” are no joke. The lipid barrier and acid mantle on the surface of your skin keep the bad guys out and the good guys safe inside. Your skin’s barrier of dead cells, acids, and lipids is an invisible shield, that blocks foreign invaders, like harmful bacteria, while sealing in the skin’s natural moisturizing factors.
If your skin has red patches and is dry and flaky, or easily inflamed, you probably have barrier damage. It can result from over-exposure to sun, wind or cold, because of injury or infection. As skin functions slow with age, it doesn’t bounce back as easily. Treatments like chemical peels and laser resurfacing remove or disturb the upper layers of the epidermis and can worsen the damage. “Sir, stabilization has been lost!”
To get the most out of any skin care routine, you first need to deeply hydrate and heal your skin’s barrier. “Reinforce your shields” with essential nutrients that compliment or match the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Look for ceramides, squalene, and omegas, along with anti-inflammatory ingredients and non-irritating anti-oxidants.
For A list of recommended ingredients <click here>
8 Do’s & 8 Don’ts for Chronically Dry Skin
“Do’s” – How to repair the skin
1. Prep the skin with a soap-free cleanser (gel, oil/cream, or micellar water, depending on your preference) or try a microfiber cleansing mitt as a way of avoiding the potential irritants prevalent in cleansers.
2. Mist the skin with mineral water and (optional but effective) apply a hyaluronic acid (HA) based serum.
3. Lock in moisture with a lipid-rich cream. Find one with as many of the above-listed ingredients as possible, and use it twice daily.
4. After about 8 weeks, or when skin is on the mend, you can add a product with Vitamin C in the form of magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or DHT ascorbate, usually found in a serum. Use the C serum in the morning, under your healing cream, followed by sunscreen. Continue the HA serum at night under the cream.
5. If you are sensitive to sunscreens, try a chemical-free formula with zinc and/or titanium. Mineral powder sunscreens are a good option for allergy-prone skin.
6. Drink plenty of water, and try adding a trace mineral supplement or a small amount of sea salt to your water.
7. Taking enteric-coated Omega 3, glucosamine, and collagen protein smoothies can help.
8. Reduce stress with regular exercise and meditation. Severe stress can cause hormonal imbalances that negatively impact skin health. Only 12 minutes of yoga a day has a huge impact on emotional well being, and even 3 minutes of meditation makes a big difference!
“Don’ts” – What to avoid during the repair phase
1. Fragrance and essential oils- if your skin is already compromised, scents will probably make it worse.
2. Soap- it’s drying and alkalizing. Part of a healthy barrier is the acidity, which keeps out harmful pathogens. Normal acidity can return with good skin care, and that starts with a soap-free cleanser. For dry, compromised skin, cleansing mitts or simply cleaning with jojoba or avocado oil is really helpful.
3. Silicone and dimethicone- incompatible with human sebum and natural lipid production.
4. Hydroquinone (skin irritant, promotes free radical damage) and Skin Lightening products in general, due to the complex blend of ingredients.
5. Alpha & Beta hydroxy acids (glycolic, salicylic, etc)- Acids temporarily disrupt barrier function. Glycolic and lactic in doses below 5% can gently exfoliate and encourage moisture retention, but are not recommended if the skin is inflamed.
6. Retinoids (any ingredient starting with “ret”)- Avoid until skin is normalized, then gradually introduce Vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate or retinaldehyde, used only at night under your healing cream.
7. Avoid over-exposure to the sun, smoking, excess alcohol, sodas, and poor diet.
8. No chemical peels, laser, or similarly invasive treatments until the “shields” are repaired!
*Caution for breast-feeding moms: If the barrier damage is in the nipple area, please do not use any product until your physician has approved it! Many ingredients in skin care products, like preservatives and emulsifiers, can have harmful effects if ingested. Make sure any products that treat chaffing have absorbed into your skin before breast-feeding.
“How much time do you require to repair?” asked the Captain.
You should give any new skin care regimen 16 weeks. That being said, it’s different for everyone, but even in cases of severe inflammation, when lipid-replacing ingredients are used for a month, the skin can begin to recover. Carefully selected skin care can restore healthy functions. The skin is our largest organ and our greatest ally, protecting us against foreign invaders, UV damage, and pollution. It’s a hard-working wonder, and a little TLC can go a long way to boosting it.
For an example of a barrier repair regimen <click here>
Always patch test any product if you have a history of contact dermatitis and allergies, and follow package directions for application. If you would like an individualized skin care plan, please schedule an on-line consultation with me (coming soon). For now, shoot me an email… and feel free to leave comments below, especially if you’ve found a well-formulated product/system that works for you!
~Ivy Nowosad, LE