Is your skin feeling dry and irritated this winter? Have you searched for the most luscious cream that you can find to quench your thirsty skin? Do you find that year on year you are needing richer and richer creams? Using moisturiser is an age old step in even the most rudimentary of beauty routines, but what if I told you that moisturiser was doing more harm than good?
As an aesthetic practitioner and self-confessed skin geek, with a bathroom cabinet that would make spaceNK blush, I hereby state that I don’t use moisturiser. When I tell my clients this, many of them look at me aghast. The vast majority of the population describe their skin as ‘dry’ and there is an industry built around providing instant relief in the form of rich creams. So it is no wonder that turning my back on the ‘holy-grail’ of skincare raises some eyebrows.
However, what if I told you that your skin might not be the problem?
Research tells us that the actual percentage of the population with truly dry skin is very small. Much smaller than the number of people who describe their skin as ‘dry’.
Here comes the science! Your skin is made up of layers. The epidermis is like a brick wall and we want these bricks to be as tightly packed as possible so that the nasties, like pollution, are kept out and the goodies like water, are kept in. This is your skin’s barrier.
Not only does healthy skin have a good barrier, it also undergoes a cell cycle which means that we naturally shed the older dull surface cells and get fresh new cells to the surface every 6 weeks or so. In addition, the skin has one very clever cell called the fibroblast which produces natural moisturisers. The barrier, cell cycle and fibroblast cell are the keys to gorgeous glowing skin that doesn’t feel dry.
Unfortunately the skin’s barrier can be damaged by pollution, sun exposure and the use of harsh chemicals. When the barrier isn’t working well our skin will feel dry, dehydrated and flaky because moisture is constantly being lost through the leaky barrier.
Moisturisers are traditionally the products we all reach for when our skin feels like this. We get instant relief from applying them because they work by coating the skin and trapping moisture. Short term this gives relief but long-term it can make your skin sluggish and lazy by affecting the other key components for gorgeous glowing skin.
How does my thirst quenching moisturiser make my skin sluggish I hear you ask?!
Firstly moisturiser confuses the cell cycle. Because moisturisers are made of molecules that are too large to penetrate the skin deeply, they only work on those surface cells that are long past their sell by date. When we apply moisturiser to the skin it has the short term effect of making skin feel smoother and more hydrated and this is why we buy it time and time again but the reality is that it’s increasing your dependence on it and all the while it is helping to maintain cells that should have been shed long ago.
The longer we fight the losing battle of trying to revive the surface cells with moisturiser the slower our cell cycle will become. This means that we don’t get the benefit of beautiful new glowing skin coming to the surface as often as we should so we continue to believe our skin is dry, flaky and lack-lustre.
But that’s not all that’s happening when we moisturise. Remember the clever fibroblast?
It’s the cell responsible for creating natural moisture within the skin. It’s also affected by the use of moisturisers. When we flood the surface layer with moisturiser the fibroblast panics and it switches off the skins natural moisture making processes. This is a nightmare for your skin but great for moisturiser manufacturers!
Ultimately the long-term result of using moisturisers is the need for more! It’s a self-propagating cycle whereby we start using moisturiser in our teens and it feels great but then as the years go by we notice that despite all the moisturiser our skin looks dull, flaky and feels ‘dry’ so what do we do? We call our skin ‘dry’ and reach for more moisturiser! All the while, the ‘cure’ is actually the cause!
Top Tips to break your moisturiser habit:
1. Be patient! It takes three weeks to break the moisturiser habit. After three weeks your cells start to normalize and produce hydration from within.
2. Choose a serum or oil instead of a moisturising cream. The molecules will be smaller so it will be able to get to the deeper living cell layers and improve the skin from within.
3. Look for ingredients that increase cell turnover so that you get beautiful glowing skin to the surface regularly: Retinol (Vitamin A)
4. Look for ingredients that help repair and support your skins outer barrier so it can effectively retain moisture such as Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)
5. For instant relief of skin that feels ‘dry,’ look for a serum or oil product with Sodium Hyaluronate. This is the form of Hyaluronic Acid that is small enough to penetrate the deeper skin layers. It works by drawing water from the deeper layers of the skin to the outer layers. It can hold up to 1000 x its weight in water!
Dr Edel Woods BA., B.Dent.Sc.
Dr Edel is a facial aesthetics practitioner who opened ORA skin clinic on Leeson Street in October 2018. She is passionate about helping her patients look and feel their best and advocates a noticeable but natural approach to all treatments with the aim being to keep patients looking like the best version of themselves.m Her treatments include anti-wrinkle injections to smooth out lines and wrinkles, skin boosters to stimulate collagen and achieve glowing skin and dermal fillers to restore lost volume and refine facial proportions.
Dr Edel started her aesthetic journey when she qualified from Trinity College Dublin as a dentist. She loved creating beautiful smiles and that led to further study in the field of facial aesthetics. She has trained extensively with world leading facial aesthetic practitioners in the UK and Ireland and she continues to attend regular masterclasses to ensure she is offering her patients the best results driven treatments available.