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April 14, 2021
We have all been told to put on a moisturizer after serum and as the last step of a skincare routine, or before SPF during the day. What if we told you, many dermatologists out there actually believe most of us, under normal circumstances, don’t need a moisturizer?
When the skin is dry and flaky, your first instinct may be to put on a heavy moisturizer. True, the skin may feel smoother, you can’t see those flakes anymore, and it makes you feel good, so you think the moisturizer is working. What if we told you, in reality and in most cases, you’re simply compressing down those dead skin cells and stopping them from shedding naturally, whilst trapping oil, dirt, and bacteria in the skin, which ultimately impact the skin’s natural processes and health?
A typical moisturizer contains occlusive ingredients that physically block trans-epidermal water loss, and bacteria and environmental irritants from damaging our skin by forming a hydrophobic film on the skin surface and within the superficial interstitium between corneocytes. These include ingredients such as petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, beeswax, and shea butter. For those with a compromised skin barrier, for instance, people with skin issues like eczema and rosacea, this can be good because their skin does not function properly thus outside help is needed.
Under certain other conditions, moisturizers are also recommended. For example, when the skin is fragile after dermatological procedures like lasers, during windy, cold conditions like snowing and skiing, being in a plane or air-conditioned room, or in an environment with extremely low humidity.
Other than that, for most people, especially during summer, moisturisers are not an absolute must. But why are we always told to use a moisturizer then? It goes back to the 1950s and 1960s when cosmetic companies started to push it on consumers because it was so easy to formulate and sell.
Although its speed and efficiency decreases with age, our skin does continuously renew itself naturally, whereby skin cells move from the bottom of the epidermis up to the surface, after which they die and shed to reveal the next layer of fresh, healthier skin cells underneath. These fresh skin cells would then eventually die and shed too to give way to even newer skin cells.
Now, heavy moisturizers impedes this natural cycle by keeping the unwanted, dead cells stuck to the skin surface, instead of letting them shed naturally. This can make the skin look dull and textured, and may even appear as lines that aren’t even actually there. Here’s what worse. According to renowned dermatologist Zein Obagi’s book “The Art of Skin Health”, the accumulation of dead skin cells at the top signals the epidermis to stop creating new cells as quickly, the mother cells deep in the epidermis will stop dividing and creating new cells, which ultimately slows down the entire cell regeneration and renewal process.
In fact, a lot of people confuse this layer of dead skin with dry skin. When was the last time you bought a moisturizer, piled it on, washed it off after cleansing, and felt that the roughness and tightness were still there, so you went and bought an even heavier moisturizer?
As mentioned above, our skin’s renewal process slows with age, so the fact that your skin feels rougher, more textured, and tight, may simply be because it is now naturally shedding much slower, and have nothing to do with your skin being dry. What you need instead, is encourage the natural exfoliation process by using carefully formulated acid-based products, which contrary to popular belief of being harsh, will actually strengthen the skin’s barrier function by helping dead cells on the skin surface to shed faster, and letting stronger, fresher cells underneath come forward.
No. 9 Exfoliant <- Click to shop
According to renowned cosmetic dermatologist Rachael Eckel, besides those with eczema and rosacea, only 15 percent of the population have genetically dry skin that requires moisturizer——telltale signs being invisible pores, no acne and dry body skin. For the rest, there is really no need to use a heavy moisturizer twice a day, 365 days a year.
The skin has a naturally built-in function of hydrating itself. When heavy moisturizers are continuously applied to the skin, the cells in the epidermis would send a signal to the cells in the dermis telling them there is enough hydration so there is no need for more, instead of asking them to move hydration up to the skin surface. Gradually, the cells in the dermis would become lazy, go dormant, and ultimately stop regulating its own hydration level, resulting in drier and less elastic skin.
That is not to say you should just stop at serums in your skincare routine. Instead of a heavy moisturizer that mainly makes up of occlusive ingredients like petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, beeswax, and shea butter, use a good hydrating serum, then add an oil, which helps to rebuild your skin barrier and supports the skin’s natural water retention function, a light emulsion / hydrator, which hydrates and nourishes the cells without impeding the skin’s natural hydrating function, and/or a lightweight regenerative sleeping mask that aims to provide the skin with nutrients and support its renewal process during the night.
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
Elixir™ <- Click to shop
Nutritive Repair Emulsion <- Click to shop
The Bright Recovery Brightening Overnight Mask <- Click to shop
Heavy moisturizers influence the natural skin renewal cycle by sticking the dead skin cells to the skin instead of letting them shed naturally. This layer of accumulated dead skin cells would trap oils and dirt inside the skin, clog pores, create an oxygen-free environment that acne bacteria love, and kill off ‘friendly’ bacteria that keep skin healthy. The result? Blackheads, whiteheads, clogged pores, and acne.
Again, this is not to say you should give up moisturizers entirely. If you're flying on a plane, going skiing, or have just done a cosmetic procedure, then by all means, use a moisturizer to protect the skin. However, unless you have genetically dry skin (remember, invisible pores and dry body skin are sings), you can help reset your skin and by trying out the below for your basic routine:
The key is to avoid heavy moisturizers that mainly consist of occlusive ingredients.
The Pure Wonder Active Serum <- Click to shop
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
Skin Quencher <- Click to shop
All Day Radiance Light Concentration Cream <- Click to shop
Sculpture + A Overnight Enrichment Cream <- Click to shop
When you first stop using a heavy moisturizer and break the cycle, your skin may feel dry at first. This is all natural, and it is best to resist the urge to put on that heavy moisturizer and just ride it out whilst using an oil to nourish the cells. Once your skin’s natural hydrating function kicks back into gear, the old layer of cells gets shedded and the new layer of skin cells comes up, you will find you won’t need as much moisturizer as you thought, and your skin will feel healthier.
So try it out this summer, and you might find your skin feeling less dry and tight when winter comes.
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