Over the many years we have been in clinical practice at Plastic Surgery Associates and The London Wellness Centre, (my husband and I established a plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic practice at Bupa Cromwell Hospital back in 1989), we have seen countless patients suffering from all the variants of common cosmetic skin problems. I would rate fragile, dry and sensitive skin as the most common. I have imparted my own professional opinion onto all these patients:
1. Healthy skin does not need moisturiser
2.Unhealthy skin is often caused by moisturising
3.Moisturisation confuses the skin’s own natural exfoliation and hydration systems
4. If you don’t moisturise, you don’t have to moisturise
Many people are physically and mentally addicted to moisturisers. They feel that their beauty will be sacrificed if they have to throw away their creams. Every day, all around the world millions apply moisturiser without realising the physiological facts. Dry, tight skin is unhealthy skin, not a permanent reality. It can be rehabilitated back to health, to a place where it can hydrate and exfoliate itself naturally – two related processes – without manual intervention.
Many describe the intense feeling of hydration when they apply moisturisers. What they don’t know is that the creams are, essentially, a synthetic temporary mask. They are formulated to give the feeling of moisture, however, these astringent products are rarely formulated with intelligent ingredient systems which can effectively communicate with skin cells to hydrate. Even worse, their unsophisticated formulations often contribute to the breakdown of skin health. Therefore, applying these sorts of moisture creams will not – as many believe:
1. Aid against premature ageing
2. Help your skin after it’s been in the sun.
3.‘Protect’ your skin against environmental pollutants.
The beauty industry is a gazillion dollar money making industry, it’s certainly not an educational, ethical forum. Furthermore, however nice and, no doubt, also extremely passionate they are, ultimately, journalists, beauty editors and shop counter-sales staff are not medically educated, are not governed by oaths, are not regulated by professional bodies and, most importantly, are rarely educated to understand the skin or the body’s complex physiology.
The skin is made up of various different layers. The top layer plays an important ‘barrier function’, creating a natural protective ozone layer which prevents water evaporation. Dry and sensitive skin conditions all signify an unhealthy breakdown in this normal function. Apart from a dehydrating diet, I find that this condition is most typically caused and aggravated by the application of un-purified, synthetic ingredients which are found in most High Street products – such as fragrances, chemical irritants, parabans, thickeners and emulsifiers.
If you begin to experience feelings of dryness flakiness or tightness when you don’t apply moisturiser it is because your skin is no longer behaving healthily: its barrier function has been disrupted so it can’t retain moisture. The disruption caused by these synthetic products results in Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), inhibiting the skin’s natural ability to self-hydrate. Congealing moisturizer and dead skin cells become trapped on the surface of the skin and mix with toxic debris from dried out moisture cream chemicals. Making things worse, moisture creams also hold onto environmental pollutants.
The skin maintains a delicate balance of lipid production, responsible for natural skin moisture. Lipids are secreted as cells migrate to the skin’s surface. They act as a mortar between cells preventing water loss and creating an important shield which reduces inflammation caused by various nasties, such as excessive UV radiation. A drop in lipid content caused by the application of moisturiser and the loss of a healthy barrier function makes skin cells shrink, resulting in the development of small cracks. Barrier function damage and lipid disruption also allows bacteria to get in between the skin cells, triggering an inflammatory immune response. And this, I believe, causes a rapid onset of premature ageing. Whilst good ageing is good, premature ageing is the enemy.
Many petro- chemical materials are used in the manufacture of these popular creams and they contain toxic ingredients that can harm your health. The skin is your largest organ — and also the thinnest. Less than a tenth of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Worse yet, your skin is highly permeable. Most items you rub on your skin will end up in your bloodstream, and will be distributed throughout your body. At least when you eat something, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help to break it down and flush it out of your body.
Dry skin isn’t just an external problem, it is also intrinsic: you have to deal with the root, physiological cause of the skin condition. Face facts: the quality of our skin is linked to the quality of our health and our lifestyle. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle and a poor nutritional diet, your will skin deteriorate. However great the technology of a skin healing product, a balanced internal environment is the key to good ageing.
So to conclude, forget the marketing, forget the packaging, forget the buzz. Remember the facts; Dehydrated skin is due to water loss and a disrupted barrier function. The unsophisticated formulation of moisture creams contribute to the breakdown of skin health, because they confuse and disrupt the delicate balance of cellular communication, which is an essential element in the function of healthy skin. In order to develop a healthy complexion, the skin must be rehabilitated using intelligent ingredients. The ultimate aim is, that once healthy again, your skin can hydrate and exfoliate itself naturally once more. The matter of the difference between manual exfoliation and intelligent stimulation is a whole other can of worms I’ll have to tackle next time!