“ I experience some stinging immediately after applying Vitamin C serum and it is really uncomfortable”
This was a comment made by one of my customers that got me thinking about this topic. So before I proceed, I will really like to say that I appreciate our customers, who not only use our products, but also find time to leave us a review, feedback or suggestion.
It Really helps to make us think deep and come up with solutions to make our products better.
Now, back to the issue of compromised skin, What does it mean?, when we say that skin is compromised.
Well, it simply means that the integrity of the barrier structure of the skin is broken, which leads to an increase in transepidermal water loss.
What is Trans-espidermal water loss?
This is the net amount of water that is evaporating or leaving the skin surface in a any given time.
An ideal situation will be that trans-epidermal water loss equals the amount of water the skin absorbs and retains on the skin surface.
Excessive trans-epidermal water loss means that at any given time, the amount of water being evaporated from the skin surface is way more than the amount of water the skin absorbs and retains.
This can lead the skin to a reduction of moisture levels in the skin and this certainly is one of the factors that leads to a dip in the health the skin and a broken/ impaired barrier structure.
Factors that can affect the moisture levels of
our skin/cause a break down of skin barrier
Moisturisers are creams or lotions made up of oils, water, humectants and other constituents. All these, when well formulated can lead to an increase and retention of the moisture level of the skin, and humectants can help to attract more water from the external environment to the skin, especially in really humid climes . Applied on fairly damp skin, the moisturiser can trap the excess moisture on the skin, but, it also releases its water content into the skin layer and forms an occlusive layer on the skin to trap and retain moisture hence reducing trans epidermal water loss.
2. Occlusives like oils, waxes and butters
These help to form a protective shield over the skin, acting like a protective layer on the skin to trap moisture and reduce trans-epidermal water loss. Unlike moisturisers, oils do not contain a water component nor humectants, so they are unable to increase the water content of the skin, but they can trap and prevent excessive evaporation of water that is already present in the skin.
This is why it is highly advisable to apply oils, butters, waxes etc, on fairly damp skin rather than on dry skin. This helps to ensure that the moisture content of the skin is increased.
Petroleum jelly is the best occlusive so far in the cosmetic industry and can reduce TEWL by more than 90% when compared to oils and butters at about 30-40% reduction in TEWL.
Therefore, ideally, people with dehydrated skin will benefit more from applying moisturisers like lotions and creams since these can increase the skin’s moisture content by gradual release of its water constituent into skin, as well as humectants, which absorb water from the external environment into the skin, boosting the skin’s moisture levels.
While people with dry skin can benefit from using oils, butters and petroleum jelly, if their skin is not dehydrated but only dry, perhaps from loss of lipids or excessive water loss, in which case oils, butters etc will help to redistribute the skin’s lipid structure and reduce TEWL.
However, in reality, most people with dry skin, may also be dehydrated, so it’s important to choose carefully.
3. Harsh topical skincare products
There are certain skincare products that can actually break down the skin barrier structure and increase Trans-epidermal water loss, for example SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) used in most body washes, can cause excessive dryness when used excessively and on already compromised skin. SLS is a harsh surfactant that can strip the skin of it’s natural moisturising factors and if its effects is not countered after use over a prolonged period, can lead to a break down in the skin’s barrier structure.
Some other products like ethanol, strong acne products, exfoliating acids etc. can also lead to a break down in skin barrier structure, if not used properly and in a safe and effective manner.
4. Wrong use of skincare products
As mentioned above, there are certain skincare ingredients which can cause a break down in skin barrier structure. If these products are used, and the effects are not countered, either by the skin’s natural repair mechanism or through a well structured skincare routine, then the solution may actually precipitate a problem.
So it’s important to use skincare products properly, and follow a routine that will help restore the skin and maximise the benefits from these products. If possible avoid products that contain alcohol and SLS especially if you have dry skin, because if used on a regular, continuous basis can strip the skin of it’s natural oils and moisture, therefore, if you must, ensure that you counter the drying effect by using well formulated moisturisers that contain lots of humectants, oils and skin repair ingredients like ceramides and antioxidants.
Strong acne actives(retinoids) and exfoliating acids, can affect the sebum level of the skin by sloughing off the top layer of the skin, causing mild skin irritation and redness which can increase trans-epidermal water loss, leading to skin dryness. Therefore application of moisturisers, anti-inflammatory agents antioxidants etc will help to counter the negative side effect of using these products to ensure that you derive the full benefits of using them
5. Low humidity
When there is very low humidity, the skin tends to be dry as moisture would evaporate from skin surface to the external environment, based on the osmotic law, which states that water will flow from from an area of high( skin) to low concentration(environment) until equilibrium is attained. Conversely for areas of high humidity, in which case water flow from the external environment (area of high concentration) to the skin (area of low humidity).
This is especially the case when we travel abroad to more temperate regions with low humidity, especially during winter. The best way to protect the skin in this case would be by covering the skin with thick, rich moisturisers and/oils over the moisturiser to provide a strong protective layer of protection/ barrier over the skin that will prevent/withstand the strain somatic force and prevent moisture from diffusing out of the skin as easily as it would, if you don’t have that strong covering , hence keeping the skin more hydrated / moisturised for longer.
6. Excessive sun exposure
Unfortunately, the skin barrier can degenerate because of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A study revealed that all UV rays can cause damage, even on skin that’s only exposed to low levels of sunlight. This occurs because UV rays are strong enough to affect the proteins that help your skin cells adhere to each other. So once your skin barrier is exposed to these rays, the cells in your skin barrier or stratum corneum become weaker and lose their ability to bond with other cells. Due to this mechanism, you may observe that sunburnt skin will lead to skin peeling. This is the first warning sign that your skin’s structural integrity has been damaged.
Staying away from the sun as much as possible and using Sunscreen and other sun protective measure silk like hats, umbrellas etc. can go a long way to prevent this damage to the skin’s barrier structure.
7. Exposure to cutaneous irritants
This can also initiate processes in the skin that can cause a breakdown of skin barrier structure and increase TEWL, through products that are either applied to the skin or come in contact with the skin during use, causing mild irritation or allergic reaction to the skin.Some of these include ingredients found in some detergents, scents or perfumes present in some products etc.
It’s important to be self aware and note any paricular ingredient that might trigger a skin allergy for your skin (as it may be different from person to person) and avoid products that contain these. Common skin allergens, include scents, perfumes used to fragrance skincare products, colours and some preservative. Choosing natural, unscented products may be better if you are not sure of the particular ingredient that is the culprit.
Common Signs of Compromised skin
It’s pretty easy to tell if your skins barrier structure is broken. Your skin will look and feel irritated overall—think redness, scaly texture, itching, and inflammation. You can even experience rashes.
A common telltale sign of a damaged barrier is that you experience stinging and burning when applying nonactive products like cleansers or hydrating serums. An out-of-whack barrier may also lead to acne, which will only be exacerbated by more harsh treatments.
When your skin barrier isn’t functioning properly, you may be more prone to developing the following skin symptoms and conditions:
- dry, scaly skin
- rough or discolored patches
- sensitive or inflamed areas
- bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections
Hopefully, you can now tell if your skin barrier structure is broken/ weak or impaired.
If you suspect that your skin barrier structure is broken, then a good moisturiser, hydrating serum and a gentle face wash will go a long way in restoring your skin.
Here are some products that we recommend for a healthy barrier structure.
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