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  • 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!

  • Ingredient Focus: Cross-linked Hyaluronic Acid

    Dr Claudia AguirreSome ingredients pack a punch. And others are created to pack an even bigger punch. When science steps in to enhance a material, the results can be beautiful. This is the case with Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid, also known as Sodium Hyaluronate, is a sugar of the glycosaminoglycan family. Glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs, are substances that hold water in the skin and are our skin’s natural moisturizers. These work much better than some occlusive moisturizers like petrolatum, which artificially slow the loss of moisture from skin and give the skin a temporary appearance of plumpness and fullness. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) has been the standard for many years as the leading ingredient to hydrate thirsty skin.

    Now we have advanced technology to build upon the benefits of HA and produce an ingredient that has been shown to be far superior to HA in hydrating the skin. Enter cross-linked Hyaluronic Acid. Just as linking chains together makes a stronger structure, linking HA together forms a super hydrating net over the skin and delivers water to parched skin over time. Hyaluronic Acid is known to have an amazing water-binding capacity, making it ideal for skin hydration. Now cross-linked HA has fifty times the water-binding capacity of natural HA! And that means skin is continuously hydrated, plump and healthy. Even after 24hrs, this cross-linked HA holds five times as much moisture in the stratum corneum as standard HA. Studies have also shown that cross-linked HA is a superb free radical scavenger, so you can protect skin while keeping it hydrated. This is key for healthy, supple skin. Dehydration is perhaps the start of many skin conditions, including irritation and sensitivity. So be on the lookout for this enhanced version of Hyaluronic Acid for an ingredient that’s sure to keep the water running!

  • Oil or Water – an Old Dilemma!

    annet croppedOne of the biggest areas that consumers, beauty editors and even some skin therapists can get muddled over is the misconception surrounding dry and dehydrated skin. More often than not, clients complain that their skin is dry, when really it’s dehydrated. This often results in the wrong product and/or treatment recommendation.

    When you consider that a dry skin (lacking oil/alipoid) can also be dehydrated (lacking in water), and oily skin, which has an abundance of oil, can also be dehydrated, eyes can roll back and heads start to spin! Feel dizzy yet? The fact is that there are some significant differences between the two and because of that, there’s a prime opportunity to educate clients and adjust their regimen.

    Oil and WaterSo how do we decipher the difference?

    Generally, we all suffer from dehydration; the body, after all, is about 75% water and a perfect target for moisture zapping environments. If unaddressed, dehydration can also lead to increased skin sensitivity and inflammation. In the case of oily skin, it can lead to an actual increase in more sebum production. Yep, that alcohol in the drugstore acne product dried your skin out and then made your breakouts worse. But dehydration is a skin condition and can affect any skin type. It’s caused by multiple factors that you should verbally cross check while conducting your consultation or when retailing. For example:

    • Environment: Low humidity, warm and cold weather, air conditioning, sun exposure and flight travel.

    • Products: Stripping cleansers and toners, over exfoliation and makeup.

    • Diet & Lifestyle: Medications, high sodium foods, lack of water consumption, caffeine, soda intake and of course alcohol.

    Dehydrated skin is thirsty skin and needs to be rehydrated while vital moisture is locked in. Start by recommending the following: Gel or cream cleanser; Gentle, daily exfoliant; Hydrating spritz toner; Gel-based masques and concentrated serums with Hyaluronic Acid to layer beneath a medium weight moisturizer.

    True dry skin is a genetic skin type and is not confined to face and hands but experienced over the entire body. The sebaceous glands are smaller and under-active, and the follicle opening is tight and fine. Lines will be more evident, and in winter months the extremities will be itchy and flaky.

    Ask your clients who complain of dry skin whether they experience this even in their hair and scalp. This skin requires oil-rich emollient products to nourish and stimulate. You can recommend: Creamy cleansers; Antioxidant packed toners; Full body exfoliation; Replenishing vitamin-based serums; Eye products and heavy weight moisturizers.

    Whatever the skin dilemma, we welcome it with open arms, hands, eyes and ears! This is our unique role as professional skin therapists—who else can truly guide clients and consumers to their healthiest skin?