January 13, 2014

Surviving Winter With Adult Acne

Winter dryness actually affects everyone’s skin, not just those who experience year-round dry skin. However, people with acne or oily skin may become quite baffled when it comes to any dryness at all. Many people tend to break out more in the winter than in the summer, even though the opposite may seem to make more sense. Winter dryness can actually cause breakouts, as well as itchiness, flaking, tightening, and redness.

Knowing what to do about winter dryness starts with an understanding of how it happens in the first place. 

The very top layer of human skin is made up of an amazing network of living and dying protein-rich skin cells, softening lipids, and water-loving sugars. When functioning properly, this network keeps your skin soft and pliable, draws water from your body to itself, and renews itself each and every day. We call this network the Lipid Barrier or Acid Mantle (both terms are used in Esthetics).

The environmental factors of cold wind, forced heat, and low humidity draws water out of your skin. This water loss makes it much easier to lose valuable lipids, which creates too much dead skin cell build-up that leads to flaking, pulling and the loss of suppleness within your skin. All of these issues produce a compromised Lipid Barrier -- the skin literally gets broken! Nerves and blood vessels within the skin are closer to the surface and water is lost much more quickly, which is where the added dryness and sensitivity come in. 

This cycle of dehydration and sensitivity just continues the more that the skin's barrier has been compromised. The dehydration has you itching, and the itching has you scratching, which breaks the skin even further. Sensitized skin can also be more reactive to anything that might not otherwise bother it -- including a little bit of rubbing or pressure, or even excess oil production from hormonal changes (from menstruation or stress) that can inflame pores and cause an acne breakout.

If you treat the dryness by slathering on thick creams or lotions that are meant to treat extra-dry skin, the chance of introducing pore-clogging and sensitizing ingredients to your skin goes way up, and then you break out in the midst of all that dryness.

So, what can you do if you have acne or are typically oily but find yourself with dryness as the seasons change?

Your skin's Lipid Barrier needs to be repaired. We have to attract and bind water to the barrier and not just lubricate the skin to soften it. Furthermore, we have to prevent further water loss. 

Your cleanser must be non-drying but still rinse well and the use of a non-alcohol toner is required after each washing.  Specialty products should include: hydrating serums that contain lipids, Beta Glucans, and antioxidants, in addition to nighttime lotions that repair, replenish, and hydrate. Most importantly, non-clogging, hydrating SPF15 or higher must be used every day no matter what the weather or home/office lighting.

For a complete analysis of what's happening with your skin and why it might be giving you trouble, please fill out the Eval by Email Online Skin Care Consultation form.