Frigid temperatures and powerful heaters make for confused and challenged skin. Just like we dress for the cold by adding layers, we recommend this same tactic for skincare. Don’t go out without your coat! Products that may feel heavy in the warmer months absorb quickly into parched skin and create a protective barrier from environmental stressors like the bitter wind and the freezing cold.
Depending on your level of dryness, this may mean applying and reapplying throughout the day. Adding nutrition at skin level is your baseline defense against damage.
How would we define a healthy skin barrier?
Not too dry, not too oily, blemish free, with a balanced microbiome.
What are the key indicators of a healthy skin barrier?
It appears hydrated, lubricated, mostly free of blemishes (an occasional blemish is par for the course) and stable (that is, it does not react unduly to treatments or new products).
What are the key indicators of a compromised skin barrier?
It appears dry and is prone to irritation, rashes, breakouts.
What are our favorite ways to keep our skin barrier healthy?
1. Supplying the skin with epidermal lipids that we tend to produce less of as we age: cholesterol, ceramides, free fatty acids.
2. Supplying the skin with nutrients that the barrier needs to function properly.
3. Avoiding products that contain preservatives that compromise microbiome balance.
4. Avoiding aggressive or invasive treatments, peels and the like.
5. Avoiding soap. I never use anything but our cleanser and water on my face. Never, ever.
Cleanse with an oil or cream cleanser, and massage it into your skin like you mean it. The more time you spend on this crucial step, the more benefits you’ll see and feel. During the colder months, when we move less, boosting circulation is vital. Think of it as a mini trip to the spa, indulge yourself and get into it. Massage benefits you physically and mentally and creates truly radiant skin. We make a practice in all seasons to always cleanse at night and recommend assessing your skin in the morning to see if you truly need to cleanse. Sometimes just a quick rinse with warm and cool water will do the trick.
While your skin is still damp, mist generously with toner. Today’s hydrosols are nothing like the astringent and stripping toners from 30 years ago. A good toner should hydrate, nourish and even, in some cases, exfoliate. And, they’ll allow your oils, balms and serums to penetrate more deeply. This is vital during these very dry months.
Alternatively, you can add your toner to an oil or moisturizer. Mix together in your hand and apply to your face while still damp. By emulsifying the two, you create a bespoke product that will sink more readily into the skin. Again, winter calls for deep hydration, and this is one of the best ways to get it.
Layer on as many sources of nutrients and hydration as you want or need. Including a balm is an option for very dry or mature skin. We also like to keep bottles of hydrosols close at hand, on the nightstand, in our bags and at our desks. Mist anytime inspiration strikes. It’s great over makeup, too. We mist ourselves all day. even during meetings. Let’s just call it research. Layer up. Your winter skin will thank you.
What is our general protocol when dealing with a compromised skin barrier?
In general, avoid too much cleansing and limit exfoliation to once a month. On the to-do side, replenish skin with extra barrier lipids. For the best rehab, always use a retinol product at night, always use good sun protection during the day, even if you are spending most of it indoors.
Does our skin barrier change over the course of our lives?
Yes, especially if your lifestyle changes drastically; for example, you move to a new country, are facing different climate conditions or you experience health issues that affect your skin.
Do we need to constantly adapt our approach to caring for it?
The biggest challenge to barrier function is aging. As we age we produce less of the lipids and GAGs that keep our barrier layer strong. So it’s a good idea to adapt our routines as we get older. It’s easy enough to note conditions like dryness and adjust our routine to include more barrier oils. It does not require constant vigilance—it’s more a matter of paying attention as the years go by. Try and be somewhat aware though, because you can slow down barrier dysfunction by making adjustments to your routine when the changes to your skin first become apparent.