Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Skin: How and Why

It seems like even though we have a temporary reprieve from the cold weather here in New Orleans, everyone and their momma has been asking me about how to keep skin at its healthiest in the winter.

It's true that my appointment book is full of people concerned about the dry, uneven texture they are experiencing. On closer examination, I usually find that they have set aside their exfoliating home care treatments, and/or their retinoid treatments, under the misapprehension that exfoliating leads to dryness.  In fact, by only using moisturizers and no exfoliants, these clients may  be spending a lot of money to make their skin worse.  How?  It comes down to the skin:

Your skin, y'heard?
That uppermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, is a brick-and-mortar type structure.  The dead (or desquamated, meaning dried and flattened-out) skin cells known as keratinocytes make up the "bricks," and dehydrated extracellular matrix (the juice between skin cells - when it desquamates alongside the keratinocytes, it too dries out and becomes known as desmosomes) is the "mortar."  It is vitally important that this upper layer (did you know that stratum corneum actually means "horny layer" because it is a rough crust on top of the healthy dermal and epidermal cells) be exfoliated regularly to allow for the permeation of the full range of rejuvenating skincare ingredients.
Whether your moisturizer contains cell-protecting antioxidants, wrinkle-busting peptides, moisture-binding hyaluronic acid, or any of a number of anti-inflammatory botanical agents, its value is wasted when applied over the dead, horny layer at the surface of the skin.

Worse, several days, weeks, or months of moisturizing over dead skin will actually lead to a build-up of these keratinocytes, as the moisturizer ingredients gradually glue down more and more of the stratum corneum cells that are attempting to exfoliate naturally.

Instead, be sure to maintain your exfoliation regimen all winter to get the most out of your cell rejuvenators.  If an exfoliant is giving you irritation beyond like flaking, speak with your esthetician to determine the proper course of action for your skin this winter.  We often switch from manual to sugar acid exfoliation or vice versa, go to a lower strength of retinol, or modify the technique that you are using to cleanse your skin.  These changes will help you get the most for your skincare dollar, and make sure those precious corrective ingredients are getting deep into the skin where they belong!

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