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“Why does my skin feel dry, no matter how much moisturizer I put on"

Updated: May 13, 2020

It starts with the acid mantle which is the skin’s first line of barrier defense. The acid mantle is made up of sebum (oil) secreted by the sebaceous gland and sweat secreted by the sudoriferous (sweat) gland. Combined they form a slightly acidic film on the skin’s surface which act to keep bad bacteria in check and maintain hydration. If the natural oil gets stripped we find the skin dry and dehydrated.

In my consultation, I ask the following questions to help determine the cause(s) of forever dry skin:

Do you use a cleansing gel or soap that lathers or foam? This foaming effect often leaves the skin squeaky clean and many of us like it because we think it’s a sign of a deep cleanse but in reality, we are stripping the skin of its natural oil, leaving the skin taut and dry. Without the protective natural oil, skin suffers from trans-epidermal water loss and no matter how much you drink, water continues to evaporate.

Do you use a toner that contains alcohol or is astringent? This also strips the skin’s natural oil.

Do you use a moisturiser that contains emulsifiers? Emulsifiers are agents needed to bind water and oil to make an emulsion with a nice consistency. Emulsifiers can also strip the skin’s natural oil by binding to it causing a “washout effect”.

Does your diet include a lot of essential fatty acids contained in oily fish, avocado and olive? If not, do you take omega -3 supplements? Not enough healthy fats in the diet can contribute to the skin’s lack of lipids which then cause dehydration.

Do you work in an office with air-conditioning? Do you sleep with the heat pump on? Have you been sitting close to the fire? All of these will draw moisture from the skin like a dehumidifier!What medication are you taking? Certain meds affect the skin’s barrier defense by altering its balance, therefore affecting its function in holding moisture.

What’s your age? Unfortunately, everything slows down when we age including our ability to make sebum. Lack of sebum/oil means lipid dryness which leads to dehydration.

If you are doing everything correctly and still suffer from dry, sensitive, irritated skin, then please seek advice from a skin therapist as healthy skin should be thick, supple and a little dewy. Your skin therapist should also be able to help you identify ingredients in your products that could be having a negative effect on your skin barrier.

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