News

  • The Lowdown On Lipids: Part 1 – Why Does the Skin Need Them?

    Phyto Replenish Oil Puddle

    Lipids, or natural protective oils, are essential for maintaining the integrity of all living matter due to their ability to form a barrier between the living cell and the outside world. In human skin, lipids are used as building blocks for membranes and fulfill specific functions such as preventing desiccation (a state of extreme dryness) by forming a barrier and preventing evaporation of water.

    More specifically, the outermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum (SC), constitutes the main barrier to the movement of substances into and out of the skin; it consists of corneocytes (SC cells) and several different types of lipids, such as ceramides, sterols and free fatty acids. These lipids that make up the barrier lipid layer of the stratum corneum are expelled from cells during the process of keratinization in the epidermis. When the barrier lipid layer is disturbed, this can lead to pathological diseases such as ichthyosis, psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.

    Aging also has an effect on the composition of SC lipids. Studies have shown a decline in ceramide and sterol components with an increase in fatty acid composition in aged skin.1

    Seasonal changes have also been shown to impact SC barrier lipids which leads to dryness, roughness and increased trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) while a reduction in ceramides generally leads to an increase in skin sensitivity and irritability2. Likewise, diet and the products we apply to our skin can impact the barrier lipids. Alcohol, acetone, harsh surfactants, AHAs, BHAs and retinoids can strip lipids giving that taut skin feeling which is often associated with increased dehydration, wrinkles, sensitivity and premature aging.

    Unfortunately, nothing good results from having a compromised lipid barrier layer. Therefore, the challenge to the cosmetic formulator is to create an esthetically appealing formula that helps replenish those critical lipids to the epidermis. The most important property of lipids in skin care is their ability to restore the barrier lipid, promote moisturization, smooth skin texture as well as, a visual reduction of the signs of dryness. Restoring the barrier lipids not only inhibits TEWL, it helps keep the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) inside the cells where it is needed to keep cells hydrated and enzymes functioning normally.

    Fortunately, when we are young our skin can restore its natural barrier lipids after an insult such as exposure to alcohol, soap or chemical peels. The time required for barrier lipid recovery varies according to age; in young individuals 50-60% of the barrier lipids are restored within 12 hours with full recovery taking about three days. However, in older adults complete recovery can take over a week. Depending on the condition of the skin this can lead to dehydration and additional sensitization.

    The most obvious possibility for recovering the skin barrier function is by replacing the intercellular lipids in between our keratinocyte cells. Studies measuring TEWL as an indicator of barrier integrity have demonstrated that the barrier function can be restored with the application of skin type lipids.

    Understanding the science and the physiological processes behind the barrier lipids of the SC as well as how we can optimize their functionality is something we have studied extensively at The International Dermal Institute; we have looked at the effects of adding various plant or phytolipid complexes to the skin in order to optimize hydration, reduce sensitivity and enhance the health of the skin.

    Read Part 2 of this blog series to learn about the latest plant oil ingredients, also called phytochemicals, that help to restore the natural barrier function of the skin.

    References:

    1. Lipids in Skin Care Formulations p 279 in Cosmetic Lipids and the Skin Barrier. ed T. Forster, Marcel Dekker. 2002

    2. DiNardo et al. Contact Derm. 1996; 35:86-91

  • The Great Wall: Protecting The Skin’s Barrier Function

    You might not be able to see it from the moon nor with the naked eye, but one of the greatest walls ever built is that of the Barrier Function of the skin.

    This amazing feat of skin engineering means we have a strong, resilient ‘wall’ protecting our body from harsh environmental elements, helping to retain moisture and keeping allergens out.

    The Barrier Function is designed in the same manner as that of a wall, consisting of:
    • The bricks: the dead, dry skin cells which are soon to be shed
    The mortar: composed of lipids (ceramides, essential fatty acids and cholesterol)

    Sometimes the structure of this ‘brick wall’ is compromised and gaps can appear due to the lack of epidermal barrier lipids. As a result, our skin is susceptible to dehydration due to moisture escaping otherwise known as Trans Epidermal Moisture Loss (TEWL), and increased skin sensitivity as microbes and allergens now have a path of entry into the skin. There are many causes for the breakdown of this protective barrier, the most common being:
    The environment: cold, windy weather, air conditioning, heating, the sun, plane travel
    • Poor skin care: using harsh, stripping products like SD alcohol or soap, excessive exfoliation, water that is too hot, or not wearing a moisturizer
    Diet: excess alcohol, caffeine and salt consumption, not eating sufficient Essential Fatty Acids, insufficient water intake
    Stress: this itself can disturb the barrier function by slowing down synthesis of epidermal lipids
    Certain medications: such as nasal decongestants, general anesthetic, cancer therapies

    An impaired Barrier Function means the skin appears dull and lackluster. It can feel taught and flaky with fine lines around the eyes, over the forehead and cheeks. When pinched between the fingers, it will resemble a piece of parchment paper.

    Sadly, the Barrier Function declines with age as oil gland activity decreases, the skin’s natural hydrators decline as does its ability to regenerate these important lipids. The prolonged dehydration in the lower level of the skin can cause the depletion of the dermal tissue resulting in deeper wrinkles, elastosis and sagging skin.

    To re-establish a good Barrier Function, the key step to follow in a home care regimen is exfoliation. This step is important to prevent the skin from feeling dry, rough and flaky and it will help eradicate any dry patches. The key is not to use an aggressive exfoliant that causes any skin sensitivity or irritation. Try exfoliating boosters that are easily applied under the moisturizer and work gently throughout the day. There are also slightly stronger forms of exfoliations such as Hydroxy Acid, which can generally be used once or twice a week.

    To boost the moisture and regain the plumpness in the skin, apply layers of a hydrating serum, toner, moisturizer and primer (the skin responds well to layering). The moisturizer doesn’t need to be heavy or contain a lot of oil—a key point to remember is that the skin is lacking moisture, not oil. Try a medium weight moisturizer with SPF30 or higher. If the skin is tight and flaky, use an anhydrous (water free) moisturizer made with skin protecting silicones. This will seal in moisture and prevents the skin from drying out, while also helping to repair the Barrier Function. At night, look at applying an oil based serum or night oil to the areas of dry skin.

    For an added boost, apply a hydrating gel masque once a week, ensuring it’s applied close the corners of the nose, mouth and eyes to target these vulnerable areas.

    Though drinking water is important, it doesn’t correlate directly to having hydrated skin. It’s better to encompass products that hydrate the skin and protect your barrier function by preventing moisture loss.

    Some fantastic ingredients to use within your entire skin care regimen are for healthy Barrier Function include:
    Hyaluronic Acid: one of my favorite ingredients as it has the ability to hold 1000 times its own weight in moisture.
    Niacinamide: a potent form of vitamin B-3 with a multifunctional approach to treating dehydration. It addresses several aspects of dryness and dehydration simultaneously, thus protecting the skin from TEWL.
    Essential fatty acids (EFAs): look for Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Shea Butter, Jojoba Oil and Coconut Oil; another great ingredient to combat dry skin is Beta glucan.
    Omega-6 EFAs: these specifically are required in forming the skin’s barrier function and its structural integrity
    Sodium PCA: a terrific humectant that binds moisture to the skin
    Salicornia Extract: a plant extract that helps reinforce the natural moisturization factor (NMF)
    Algae Extract: nutrient rich to restore skin’s moisture
    Tomato Seed Oil: a great source of lycopene-rich lipids that help restore the barrier lipids of the skin
    Bambusa (Bamboo) Vulgaris and Pisum Sativum (Pea): help stimulate Hyaluronic Acid formation for increased hydration and elasticity
    Glucosamine: helps stimulate Hyaluronic Acid formation

    It’s important to avoid soap and soap-based cleansers and body washes as the alkalinity dries the skin and causes sensitization. Also avoid products with S.D. Alcohol and hot water as both are very drying to the skin.

    And finally, don’t forget to feed your skin by including plenty of essential fatty acids in your diet!

  • Restoring the Barrier Layer with Skin-Repairing Ingredients

    Barrier function. It’s one of the most important aspects of healthy skin and the strength of it needs to be assessed before any product recommendation. A lack of barrier function can lead to breakouts, dehydration, sensitization, pigmentation and aging. Common disruptors of the epidermal barrier integrity can range from hydroxy acids and soaps to stress. In order to repair the damage, skin therapists need to conduct not only a thorough skin analysis, but also ask key questions to determine how the skin became irritated or how the barrier was compromised. Once this has been done, skin repairing ingredients can be incorporated to restore optimal skin health.

    Years ago, consumers and skin therapists alike may have used barrier creams with occlusive ingredients to cover the skin and allow it to heal, however more modern ingredients can provide many more benefits than simply being occlusive.

    Healing the skin is the first step to improving the barrier layer, and an essential component is replacing depleted lipids. Tomato Seed, Argan Oil and Rose Oil are all rich in antioxidants and lipids that restore protective barrier lipids. Carrot Root Extract is a good source of Vitamin A, which battles oxidation and rejuvenates dry, stressed skin. Panthenol heals and hydrates the skin.

    The next step to improve the barrier function is to ensure optimal hydration within the skin since dehydration can be one of the leading causes of most skin conditions. Cross-linked Hyaluronic Acid provides increased hydration and improved elasticity, and it holds more moisture than a traditional Hyaluronic Acid. Salicornia Extract, or, Glasswort, helps reinforce the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) and increases water content in the skin. Green and brown algae help regulate moisture content and water levels to provide in-depth moisturization.

    In addition to healing and hydrating, inflammation needs to be reduced and controlled. Acetyl-Hexapeptide-15, a neurocosmeceutical soother, can minimize the pain associated with inflammation. Red Hogweed targets neurogenic inflammation by limiting the production of prostaglandins, as well as promoting the production of natural anti-inflammatory agents in the skin. Avena Sativa, or, Oatmeal, has been proven to have natural anti-irritant and anti-redness properties and is considered a favorite for conditions like chicken pox, psoriasis and eczema.

    One last and very important note is to reduce stress levels. Stress is one of the biggest trigger factors for all forms of skin conditions. Encourage clients to take time out by receiving regular massages, trying meditation and thinking positively. Your support with their skin care recommendations has the potential to alleviate stress levels!