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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!

  • Lip Locked: 5 Moisture Tips for the Perfect Pout

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    Lips enable us to kiss the people we love, put the ‘P’ into pooch and make funny fish faces when we are bored. But do we ever stop to think about the difference between our lips and the rest of our skin? And do our lips deserve special treatment?

    Although the lips have a dermis and epidermis like the rest of the body, the uppermost layer called the Stratum Corneum is much thinner than anywhere else on your body. Your lips also don’t have any sebaceous glands, which assist in keeping the skin soft and protected. Their only source of moisture is your saliva, and that’s why they can easily become dry and chapped. Another difference between your lips and the rest of your skin is that your lips don’t have any melanin, the pigment that darkens when you’re exposed to the sun. Melanin is your body’s natural way of protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays, and because your lips don’t have any, they’re at a higher risk of getting sunburned.

    So it’s pretty clear that our poor old lips need some assistance in order to stay hydrated, plumped and free from cracks. Enter lip balms!

    A basic lip balm is usually formulated using a barrier ingredient like petrolatum or beeswax with the addition of perhaps a humectant and something that smells and tastes nice. Sounds fine, but a humectant’s job is to attract water—so if there is no water in the product, guess where the water is drawn from. Yes, you! And fragrance may make you imagine you are biting into a fat juicy strawberry but actually can cause dryness and irritation of itself.

    So what can you do to keep those lips luscious?

    1. If you lick your lips, STOP! Although it can be a difficult habit to break, licking your lips can contribute significantly to dry, cracked skin. The saliva evaporates quickly, taking with it any moisture that was already on your lips and leaving them even drier, especially in winter air.

    2. If winter weather has left your home cool and dry, consider using a humidifier to increase the level of moisture in the air around you. This can be especially helpful if you run it overnight in your bedroom while you sleep.

    3. Exfoliate lips gently with a rice bran exfoliant and follow with a hydrating masque to combat roughness and cracking.

    4. Apply a protective treatment balm before leaving the house with shea butter to enhance the barrier, oats and lavender to soothe irritation and an anti-ozonate complex to guard against environmental aggressors.

    5. Before closing your eyes at night slather on a renewing lip complex to provide ultimate conditioning while minimizing fine dry lines around the lip line. Sophisticated peptides are a must here as they will condition the skin while stimulating collagen formation.

    Get started now with these simple pick-me-up lip tips for the perfect, kissable pout.

  • Teen Challenge: Acneic Skin and Hydration

    Heather HickmanThe American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that acne is by far the most common skin complaint amongst those in the 12 to 17 age bracket, affecting all at least occasionally.

    Being prepared to treat teenage clients with acne is high on our radar as Professional Skin Therapists. We are well versed in the key ingredients to combat the contributing factors of an acneic skin condition, and how to effectively explain to our teenage clients, and their parent, how the skin should be treated at home.

    Yet, often the hardest conversation revolves around the use, or lack thereof, of a moisturizer. All too often, our acne and oily prone clients have an innate mistrust of using non-medicated “creams” for fear it will lead to future or prolonged breakouts.

    Dehydrated skin is highly prevalent amongst those with oily or acne prone skin, especially if they have been using harsh over the counter products that may strip the skin of moisture and impair the barrier function. In addition, prescriptive medications such as isotretinoin further exacerbate the dehydration issue, sometime to the extreme.

    Education is a key factor in ensuring a moisturizer is utilized on a daily basis, specifically the ability to explain the difference between a dry and a dehydrated skin, and the need to add moisture, but not oil. And being able to clearly explain that if an oily skin is dehydrated the skin will produce MORE oil to make up for the missing moisture, potentially leading to more breakouts – that revelation works every time!

    Oil-free is the key, but let us not forget the need for the moisturizer to also soothe the skin and calm any irritation either from misuse of product, side effect of medication or inflammation from severe acne.

    Hyaluronic Acid is one of the best ingredients on the market to quickly, effectively and non-aggressively hydrate the skin. The use of Squalane in a moisturizer restores skin suppleness while also helping to prevent future moisture loss. Mild Vitamin B5 derivatives, such as Panthenyl Triacetate will assist in soothing and restoring irritated skin.

    Let’s not forget to join the “moisture movement” the next time we are treating our teenage clients oily or acne skin concerns – they’ll thank you in the long run.

  • Lip and Hand Treatments for Winter!

    Bettina ZammertIt could be so nice: relaxing walks through romantic snow-covered landscapes, and cozy evenings at home in front of a crackling fire. If only it weren’t for your tight, itchy skin – you’ve even had to stop wearing your favorite winter sweater with the lovely big roll neck because all of a sudden it has started to scratch!
    Constantly changing between the freezing cold and dry heating air is a real trial for the skin. As the thermometer drops, the skin slows down its oil production – and sadly this also applies to skin that was not producing enough lipids before. Often, extremely dry skin also has a restricted skin barrier, which in turn increases the skin’s sensitivity.

    In this case your customer will need your help – and you might have to change his recommended products to ones with higher lipid content. And during the professional treatment, don’t forget the areas of the body that are particularly sensitive and permanently exposed to the weather. A helpful hint: offer a special lip and/or hand treatment in winter. Start by exfoliating (use a very gentle product on the lips), then apply a moisturizing serum and a mask on top. If you like, you can perform a few massage or lymphatic drainage movements while the mask is working. At the end of the treatment, be sure to remember the finishing moisturizer, and recommend the appropriate special products for treating winter-dry skin to the customer.

    And then it won’t be long before your clients (and their skin) are enjoying the crisp, cold winter weather again!

  • Does Oily Skin Need Moisturizer During Summer?

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    The answer is YES, absolutely! Everyone needs to protect their skin from moisture loss, as you can have oily skin but still lack water. The summer sun can both dehydrate and damage the skin, causing premature aging; so a moisturizer is important to use for protection. When you smile or pout your lips, do you notice fine lines suddenly appear? These are dehydration lines, meaning that your skin needs hydration. This can easily be fixed by using a moisturizer appropriate for your skin condition.

    If you are one of those people who had acne when younger or who currently suffers an oily or shiny skin, you may hate the word “oil,” or even moisturizer! Fortunately we have come a long way in the development of moisturizers, which can be more than barrier products—they can be treatment products that benefit your skin.

    Look for a moisturizer that contains Lemon, Ivy, Watercress and Burdock, which are natural astringents that help refine the skin, and Lavender, Mallow and Cucumber to soothe and hydrate. Moisturizers can also mattify the skin with ingredients like Niacinamide, Yeast Extract, Horse Chestnut, Licorice, Pro-Vitamin B5, Caffeine and oil-absorbing microspheres that regulate sebum and shine.

    Daytime protection is a must, even for oil-phobes! Look for a lightweight, ultra-sheer formula with Broad Spectrum sunscreen and silicones to help absorb excess oils on the skin. Combine these with sebum regulating ingredients, and you get an all-day matte finish.

    Nowadays there are so many moisturizers to choose from—the key is using the correct one for your skin! How can you determine which one is right for you? Start by paying a visit to a professional skin therapist who will analyze your skin and recommend products that fit your needs and lifestyle.