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March 28, 2023
Friction against the skin is one of the major causes of sensitive, dry, unhealthy, and aging skin. Unfortunately, many of us are doing it unconsciously, and hurting our skin everyday.
So what exactly is "friction against the skin"? What skin damages does it cause? And how to take care of the skin "friction-less"?
... all of these can cause friction against the skin.
The average thickness of human skin is about 2mm (except for the eye area, which is much thinner), whilst the skin barrier is only about 0.02mm thick, which is about the same thickness as a plastic wrap. This means that the barrier is very fragile in nature, and can easily become thin and damaged due to any kind of friction.
That's not it though. Continuous friction can also damage the skin's collagen and elastin, leading to accelerated signs of aging.
There are 4 main groups of troubles that friction can cause to the skin:
Any kind of friction against the skin damages the skin barrier, and as a result, the skin’s water-retention function naturally deteriorate, because the cells that are still immature and cannot store enough water are now exposed on the skin surface due to a disrupted cell turnover rhythm. Also, the natural moisturizing factors and sebum that are vital for skin health and moisture get washed away more than necessary.
The skin then becomes dry, dehydrated, and rough, while dry lines and fine lines become much more apparent.
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When the barrier is damaged, the skin then becomes easily irritated, sensitized, and inflamed because it can no longer block out irritants, dust, pollutants, bacteria etc., resulting in redness, itchiness, acne, as well as eczema and rosacea flare ups. Worse yet, when the skin becomes sensitive and inflamed, most people end up causing even more damage to their skin by rubbing, scratching, and picking the skin, or using too the wrong skincare products.
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When the skin is irritated or damaged by friction, it will try to cope by thickening itself to protect from these irritation repeatedly, just like calluses on your feet or hands. As a result, old cells will build up and cause dullness, and roughness, whilst skincare products won't be able to penetrate well.
In addition, when the skin is inflamed, a signal is sent to the melanocytes as part of an immune response. The melanocytes then overproduce the brown melanin pigment in an attempt to protect the skin, resulting in visible pigmentation and dullness. Furthermore, since friction will also disturb the cell turnover process, the melanin-filled cells cannot shed as they should, meaning dullness and pigmentation will linger.
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Whenever excessive force is applied to the skin like massage, or when you keep pulling, rubbing, and stretching the skin, the collagen and elastin that keep the skin bouncy and elastic can be damaged or even snap, causing wrinkles, sagging, and loss of elasticity (so no, applying your skincare products in an upward motion will not keep your skin from sagging, and may even cause more wrinkles around the eye area!).
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By simply avoiding friction against the skin on a daily basis, you may find many of your skin issues like irritations, redness, dryness, dehydration, acne, and inflammations, etc. improve. Here's how to start.
Most people tend to rub the skin more than it is needed to properly remove dirt and makeup. In fact, the chance of dermatitis and acne caused by over-cleansing is much higher than a small amount of makeup residue.
So when cleansing your face, remember to use enough product, and gently glide the product on the face in circular motions without any pressure to avoid tugging the skin. Also do press the cleanser into troublesome areas, i.e. where you have the most acne and blackheads, so the cleansing ingredients can get into the pores.
After cleansing, instead of "wiping" the water off your skin, simply gently dab off the excess water using a soft, clean towel.
For the same reason, it is best to avoid using micellar water or makeup wipes to wipe makeup off, as well as all kinds of scrubs.
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Most people tend to think that patting or rubbing toner, serum, and moisturizers in can improve penetration. The truth is, if an ingredient's molecular size is not small enough, or if there is no other penetration enhancers to help, it just won't penetrate into the skin, thus patting or massaging it in does nothing at all.
In fact, daily patting and massaging may tug and pull the skin, which may cause collagen and elastin breakdown, resulting in premature wrinkles and sagging, on top of a damaged skin barrier and chronic skin inflammation.
Instead of patting and massaging in your skincare products, there are 3 techniques to improve absorption:
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The best sleeping posture for the skin is always sleeping on your back. Not only will you be able to avoid friction against the skin, you will also minimise the chance of wrinkles, sagging, inflammation and acne.
Since not everyone can sleep on their back, the best way then is to choose pillow cases that are soft and smooth, like silk pillowcases, and avoid pulling the blanket over your face.
Marie Reynolds London
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