Skin that feels tight, itchy, and uncomfortable is an affliction that most of us experience at one time or another. But for some people, it’s a persistent problem that may require ongoing treatment.
One of the most common reasons that skin becomes chronically dry is a damaged moisture barrier. But simply slathering on moisturizer isn’t going to fix the problem, even if it helps in the short term. Instead, it’s essential to find the underlying cause of the problem. Once identified, the root cause can be treated so that the problem won’t keep coming back.
What is the moisture barrier and why do you need it?
The moisture barrier is the topmost layer of your skin, which helps you retain moisture. It also serves a protective function against bacteria, pollutants, allergens, and other irritants – like a personal bodyguard for your skin!
This barrier is comprised of healthy oils called lipids and skin cells. When it’s working properly, your skin is at its best. Think of a baby’s skin – that’s a perfect moisture barrier in action, which keeps it plump, soft, smooth, and beautiful.
What happens when your skin’s moisture barrier gets damaged?
When this barrier isn’t working properly, tiny micro-cracks tend to appear in the surface of your skin. Moisture can escape easily through these cracks, and irritants can also get in more easily. That means the problem of dry, cracked skin tends to snowball and get worse over time.
Before long, your skin becomes tough to the touch and feels stretched thin. It's often visibly red and inflamed. When you look at such skin closely with a magnifying glass, it has a texture like crinkled crepe-paper.
Some other signs that you may have a damaged moisture barrier include:
- Flaky, peeling areas of skin
- Widespread itchiness
- Skin that feels rough under your fingers
- A stinging sensation when you use skincare products
- Crepiness and fine lines
- Skin problems such as eczema
- Patches of rosacea
- Breakouts of acne
How to repair your moisture barrier and rehydrate dry skin
Repairing your skin barrier will take time, dedication, and a totally new approach to skincare.
The most important thing you need to do is move to skincare products that rebuild your skin rather than put it under stress. That means avoiding lotions and creams with bad guys in the ingredients list. Avoid products that contain harmful substances such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, oxybenzone, or alcohol.
Here are 6 tips that will help you avoid harmful chemicals and keep your skin looking healthy and beautiful:
1. Use gentle cleansers on your face
When you’re cleansing damaged skin, you need to use a gentle approach. Switching to an all-natural cleanser is a good start.
You could try this foaming apple juice cleanser, which is 100% natural with no fragrance or alcohol. Made with a blend of fresh apricot oil, macadamia oil, mango butter, and hydrogenated rapeseed oil, this cleanser helps to dissolve away makeup and excess sebum without damaging your skin barrier in the process.
2. Use a toner to keep your skin’s pH at a healthy level
Once your face is feeling spotless, rinse your cleanser off with warm water, and then apply a delicate toner. You should, of course, use a 100% natural, fragrance-free toner.
It’s also important that your toner contains a naturally acidic ingredient, such as cucumber or lemon. This will help to rebuild your moisture barrier. Healthy skin always has a pH level that is slightly acidic, and even gentle cleanser can shift this to alkaline.
3. Moisturize while your skin is still damp
Don’t get distracted after toning. Follow up immediately with a fragrance-free moisturizer, ideally one that also has healing qualities.
You can’t go wrong with natural skincare products such as the Vegetable Garden Day Moisturiser orBerry Blend Night Moisturiser from Okana.co.nz.
4. Avoid using soap on your body
If dry skin is a problem, avoid soaps and harsh shower gels that strip the skin of its natural oils. You don’t have to be squeaky clean all over to be fresh.
Use a small amount of cleanser on a soft washcloth for areas that need extra attention. After rinsing, dry with a soft towel then apply gentle body lotion while your skin is still damp.
5.Back off on the hot water
Don’t have searing hot showers – even when cold weather makes it very tempting. Really hot water strips your skin’s natural oils, undoing your good skincare work, so ease off on the temperature of your shower.
6. Eat for skin health
Foods that are good for your skin are also good for every other organ in your body. For an effective skin moisture barrier, cut back on processed foods, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
At the same time, increase your intake of fresh fruit, vegetables, and foods that are rich in omega-3s like nuts, oily fish, and avocados. Your hair will benefit from this diet upgrade too!
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