MORE ON SKIN’S MOISTURE BARRIER!
To learn the details about this important layer and what else we can do for a better complexion, CLEO enlists the help of Dr. Koh Chuan Keng, consultant dermatologist and past president of the Dermatological Society of Malaysia.
Q: What is the moisture barrier and what purpose does it serve?
“This is the upper layer of our skin, which is called the epidermis. It is made up of cells called keratinocytes and holding these cells together while keeping them firm is the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) that contains ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. These help to keep water in and prevent microbes and allergens from entering the skin. A healthy moisture barrier helps protect our tissues from external insults – such as bacteria, allergens and dust – from entering. It also prevents water loss, keeping the skin supple and healthy.”
Q: What causes it to break down?
“First, using soap – especially those that are not detergent free – will remove the free fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol in the skin, resulting in cracks that lead to water loss and dryness. Microbes and allergens attack from the outside, causing itchy, red, and inflamed skin. Then there are certain conditions like atopic eczema and ichthyosis that result in the loss of protein molecules like filaggrin and ceramides, which are necessary to hold the skin cells together.”
Q: Has a change in our environment and lifestyle contributed to a weak moisture barrier?
“We live in a more industrialised world with more pollution. We are exposed to more environmental pollutants, which damages our skin. Our modern lifestyle, fast-food diet, traffic jams increase stress levels, worsening our skin’s ability to fight infections. Air conditioning also causes dehydration.”
Q: How can a moisturiser protect the moisture barrier?
“It helps replace ceramides that are reduced in dry and sensitive skin. Molecules in the moisturiser retain water and help keep skin supple.”
Q: What is important when choosing a moisturiser?
“It should be hypoallergenic, suitable for sensitive skin, non-comedogenic, and contains no fragrance so that it does not aggravate eczema.”
moisturise the skin but help to repair the broken skin barrier.”
So what do you look for when choosing the right moisturiser? Having moisturising ingredients won’t hurt, for starters. With skincare technology evolving, new ingredients are constantly being introduced and formulated into your skincare products to help you create great skin. For example, hyaluronic acid – which is often labelled the best anti-ageing skincare ingredient and is found naturally in the human body – binds to water for improved hydration. In a moisturiser, this ingredient deeply penetrates into the skin to do what it does best – retain moisture, prevent dryness, and keep the skin supple. This way, with a boost in hyaluronic acid, the skin’s moisture barrier becomes stronger and more supple. That’s why hyaluronic acid is a popular ingredient to use in many moisturisers!
Another ingredient to look out for? Glycerin, a well-known humectant that attracts moisture to skin. What makes glycerin unique is that it absorbs water from the surrounding air, just like a sponge. These ingredients as well as other moisturising ones will help increase skin’s moisture level, making sure that the moisture barrier is intact, your natural moisture won’t evaporate, and skin remains healthy.
Wait... There’s More
That’s all to great skin – moisturise? Well, not quite. Having a good skincare routine helps. And by this we mean the basics. After all, the start for all great skin is skin that is clean. Says Dr. Orentreich, “Cleanliness is imperative to not only the short-run but the long-run attractions of every face. So are other maintenance measures according to what the skin and the life it leads to dictate. If one could see the faces of a good skin caretaker and a poor skin caretaker on an accelerated-action motion picture camera over a period of time, the stunning impact of the cumulative effect of daily care would make the urgency of skin-keeping abundantly clear.”
His solution? The 3-Step Skin Care System he formulated for Clinique 40 years ago that still works today. For great skin, the good doctor says to cleanse, tone, and yes, moisturise. “The concept of not using soap and water is wrong in my opinion,” says Dr. Orentreich. “But soap and water can’t clean everything.” Which is why you should also use a clarifying lotion to exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface. And we don’t have to tell you again why a moisturiser is essential.
So what if you don’t have greatskin genes to begin with? After all, great skin can be created!