Fall brings more than just a drop in temperature, pumpkin spiced lattes and knee-high boots. The seasonal shift in temperature can cause skin irritations, flaking, dryness and redness. Are you tired of colder temperatures sucking the moisture and life out of your skin? You can send your dry skin packing by keeping your skin’s moisture barrier intact.
Your skin’s knight-in-shining armor is your moisture barrier. Your skin is first defense against the outside world. It protects you from irritants and toxins. The skin’s moisture barrier, or stratum corneum, is located in the outermost layer. Dr. John Paul Tutela says that your moisture barrier keeps the bad stuff out and keeps the good stuff in (read: moisture).
Dr. Tutela says that proper skin barrier function “prevents skin dehydration and helps preserve the integrity of your skin, so it can continue to act effectively as a barrier to the outside environment.” The bottom line: Your moisture barrier serves two purposes.
What causes damage to the moisture barrier?
In general, any external stressor can damage your skin’s moisture barrier. However, there are four main categories.
- Weather Conditions
Your skin is the only organ exposed to the elements 24 hours a day, 365 days a calendar. It’s vulnerable to damage from a variety of factors, including colder weather. Dr. Tutela says that cold temperatures tend to be dry and contain less water, making it more difficult for the skin to retain its moisture. According to Joshua Ross, celebrity skin care expert at SkinLab, this can compromise the overall integrity and health of your skin.
Another culprit is pollution. If you live in high-traffic areas, your moisture barrier can be particularly vulnerable to pollution’s damaging effects. This is because it can expose your skin and body to harmful irritants such as smog, fumes, and other pollutants. Dr. Tracy Evans, a board-certified dermatologist and medical directors of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology, explains that environmental factors can accelerate the aging process. This can manifest as dryness, fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of collagen and/or elastin.
- UV Rays
Just when you thought there was no reason to apply SPF, Dr. Evans reminds, “UV rays can cause cell bonds in the stratum corneum to weaken. This will not only affect your skin’s ability to protect itself from the elements, but may also cause skin damage.”
Exfoliating is an important part of skin care, but it can be dangerous. Dr. Evans explains that acid-based exfoliators strip the skin’s outer protective layer, which can lead to skin becoming dehydrated and more exposed to the environment and pollutants. If you are unsure if your exfoliating routine is to blame for your skin sensitiveness, it is best to stick with the less is more approach.
Signs of a damaged moisture barrier
How can you tell if the moisture barrier has been compromised? Other indicators include dryness and flakiness, which are signs that the skin’s moisture barrier is deteriorating, according to Dr. Tutela. Redness, itching, and hyperpigmentation can also be indicators. Inflammatory acne can be caused by dryness and increased exposure to UV rays or other pollutants. Ross says this is another indicator that your skin barrier needs to be repaired.
How to Strengthen Your Skin’s Moisturizer
Look for ingredients rich in humectants and emollients to make up the moisture loss from the winter and fall air. Dr. Evans says that ceramides are also important because they can have a domino effect on maintaining your moisture barrier. They not only help retain moisture but also strengthen your barrier to protect your skin from environmental stressors and harmful pollutants.
Dr. Ted Lain is a board-certified dermatologist who is also Chief Medical Officer at Sanova Dermatology. He explained that “the skin barrier itself is composed of dead skin cells (the bricks), which are held together by a lipid bilayer, or the mortar. The mortar is 50% composed of ceramides. This is why they are so important.” Ceramides can help you keep the skin’s healthy cells together and reduce water loss by using products that contain them.
Always apply sunscreen of 30 regardless of the weather and make sure you reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating. Exfoliators with AHAs and BHAs can cause irritation and dryness. Limit your use to a few times per week and replenish your skin’s moisture with a moisturizer. Dr. Tutela says that it is important to avoid overusing highly active ingredients like vitamin C or retinol. They can cause irritation and further dryness. As with most things in life, the most active skin products should be used in moderation.
We prepared a list of products recommended by the cosmetologist for dry irritated skin:
- Tru Alchemy Quench Creme
Price online – $37
This ultra-hydrating product from Tru Alchemy will quench your skin’s thirst. It contains skin-firming ingredients like bakuchiol (a less irritating and natural alternative to retinol), and hyaluronix (to help skin retain and attract moisture).
- Dermadoctor Calm Cool + Corrected Colloidal Oatmeal Eczema + Skintitis Clinical Repair Balm
Price online – $35
This soothing balm is made with colloidal oatmeal, which gently moisturizes and ceramides that repair the skin’s barrier.
- Amazon AHC Aqualuronics Serum
Price online – $29
This lightweight serum contains Ceramides and French Sea Water. It will give you a radiant, glowing complexion that can withstand the harsh winter months.
- Lather Daily Defense Mineral SPF50 Facial Sunscreen
Price online – $32
This mineral-based sunscreen protects against the harmful effects of the sun. It also contains antioxidant-rich green tea and olive leaf to protect against free radicals.
- Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder Sunscreen, SPF 35 PA+
Price online – $30
Supergoop!’s Mineral Powder provides SPF 35 protection and doubles as a makeup setting, so there’s no reason to not reapply sunscreen.
- Ranavat Brightening Saffron Serum
Price online – $135
Vitamin C can cause irritation for sensitive skin and those with a weak moisture barrier. Ranavat has created a brightening serum that uses precious saffron threads to brighten the skin. It also contains carotenoids, which help reduce inflammation.
- Hand in hand Cactus Blossom Body Lotion
Price online – $10
A compromised moisture barrier can also cause skin damage. Hand in Hand’s Body Lotion uses organic, fair-trade shea butter to combat parched knees, elbows, and legs.