Is water drying out my skin?

At a recent event, where I was exhibiting, I had a great chat with one of my customers. She suffered from dry skin on her face. The first question I usually ask in such cases is “how do you cleanse?”. She answered, that she cleanses just with water mornings and evenings. My reply may seem strange to you, as much as it sounded strange to her – washing with just water might be the cause of your dry skin. Yes, it is very counterintuitive. The very thing we are told to drink an abundance of can cause our skin to develop dry, rough patches upon external exposure. But why is it?

The primary role of our skin is to form a protective layer around our bodies. If we did not have that layer of protection, we would simply absorb all substances from the environment and the pathogens would be able to fully penetrate into our bodies causing illness after illness. Therefore moisturising with water only is bound to have a very short lived effect, as our skin is in fact water repellent.

The skin’s barrier is primarily made of proteins and fats sitting on its surface. When we take a long hot shower, the water can remove the oils from our skin, therefore breaking down the skin’s protective layer. “So what?” – you may think – “more water will simply penetrate into my skin and moisturise it.” Well, the thing is, that the barrier doesn’t just work one way. It is also there to prevent our bodies from losing moisture to the environment. When the barrier is weak, the so called Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) increases, i.e. we are starting to lose more water from within. Some individuals with strong skin barriers may not notice a difference after a hundred of hot showers, but when your skin barrier is weakened, even washing your face with water could exacerbate the problem.

With the change in seasons our skin’s protective layer is becoming more fragile (the reason for this being a topic for another blog post). How can we support it, so that we can avoid that irritated, scaly appearance this autumn and winter?

1) A bit cooler, a bit shorter

We all love hot showers on a cold day, but the hotter and longer they are, the more of these protective fats are going to escape from the surface of your skin.

2) There’s no hope in soap

If water alone can do damage to our skin, then imagine what soaps can do! They are very effectively stripping your skin of its proactive fats. Try to avoid harsh cleansers, especially those containing physical abrasives, as well as substances like SLS and SLES. The less foamy the soap is the better. You also don’t need as much of it, as you might think.

You want to be extra careful when it comes to cleansing your face, because your skin there is thinner and more delicate. Therefore the Oil Cleansing Method (see separate blog post here) is such a wonderful way to not only protect your skin’s barrier but also to support it.

3) Be gentle

Friction isn’t your skin’s friend. Next time you bathe, pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it with your towel. Better still, don’t dry at all and …

4) Lock it in

…use our Body Butter “Smooth Operator” on your wet skin straight after showering. The glycerine in the product will pull the moisture from the surface into the skin, whereas the oils and butters will lock it in.

You can replicate the same action on your face when you use a humectant on a wet skin – our Hydratone is great for that. Follow with one of our Face Oils to make sure that moisture stays put.

Studies have shown that oil and butter based cosmetics are generally better in forming a barrier against moisture loss, than their lighter equivalents. So, one of our great skincare sets is bound to be your friend this autumn and winter:

Normal & Combination Skin

Dry Skin

Mature Skin

And lastly, one of the biggest secrets of feeling great in cold weather is making yourself cosy at all times. So grab those oversized slippers, put on that jumper and whip up that hot chocolate, pronto!

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