When advising clients about a home skincare regime I tell those who have combination or oily skin that moisturizer isn’t a must for them. They should go by how their skin feels before applying a moisturizer. Of course, if you have oily skin and are using stronger anti-acne or anti-oil products such as Retin-A or products with salicylic acid you may always need a moisturizer, twice a day, in order to bring balance back to your skin. I also let clients know that during the summer a separate moisturizer and sunscreen may be unnecessary for them since their sunscreen might be moisturizing enough when the weather is hot (and depending on where you live humid too). I actually like to recommend the use of a moisturizing toner during the summer for those with oily skin (see my post Let’s Talk About Toners – Again for more information).
Recently I read an article in the June, 2013 edition of Le Nouvelles Esthetiques and Spa that made me rethink the importance of moisturizer even during the summer. The article Multiple Ways to Hydrate the Skin by Dr. Jennifer Linder (from PCA Skin) explains:
Proper hydration of the skin is often a conversation reserved for the cold and dry months of winter. Attention to skin moisture levels, however, is an essential topic of discussion year-round when seeking to achieve clear, glowing skin. For many reasons, hydrating the skin properly is equally important during the summer. By understanding the elements that influence hydration, as well as the interplay between water and oils, it is possible to maintain balanced, hydrated skin regardless of the season.
Elements that reduce hydration levels
In the intense heat of the summer, moisture is released from the skin at a high rate in order to cool the body internally. This moisture loss becomes even more pronounced if one regularly engages in sports or high impact exercise. Additionally, there is a tendency to shower more frequently and wash the face more often to remove sweat and oil buildup. If the moisture is not replaced (both internally and externally), the skin may appear dull over time, become susceptible to impaired barrier function or get stuck in a cycle of oil overproduction, leading to breakouts.
During the summer months, increased UV exposure can also lead to a reduction in skin hydration. Dry heat (evaporation) and humidity (increased sweating) deplete cutaneous moisture. While ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are at their strongest during the summer, ultraviolet A (UVA) rays remain constant throughout the year, making sun avoidance and protection a must during every season. During the summer months, people are typically outside more often for extended periods of time, therefore increasing direct and prolonged exposure to UV radiation that can set in motion a number of reactions that are harmful to the skin. The higher output of UVB rays increases free radical production that damages the cellular proteins and fats that make up and support the layers of the skin. Overexposure to UV rays can result in burning, cracking and peeling, which destabilizes the skin’s delicate moisture retention mechanisms, often causing permanent damage to the affected areas. To combat this, it is important to practice sun avoidance between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing, and use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, making sure to reapply it every two hours.
Water versus oil hydration
Many believe that moisturizing the skin becomes less important during the hotter and typically more humid months of the summer. This is not the case, however; regardless of the season, all skin types need moisture. Both oil and water serve important roles in cellular regeneration and moisture retention, and maintaining a balance between the two—as well as understanding the differences between them—is necessary to achieve clear, hydrated and healthy skin.
The most important tasks of water in relation to skin hydration occur internally. The skin is the body’s largest organ, which requires adequate water intake to not only maintain moisture and elasticity, but to flush out harmful elements, regenerate and expel dead skin cells as well. The uppermost layer of the skin is known as the stratum corneum (SC). This protective layer is made up in part of dead skin cells, which act as a barrier to the elements while keeping the much needed moisture inside. Lack of proper hydration reduces the ability of the SC to turn over new cells, allowing old, lifeless skin cells to become mixed with perspiration and bacteria; the result in most cases is cellular inflammation, acne and dull skin.
Additionally, although the skin may appear to be hydrated and moist in the summer due to the production of sweat, it can actually be dehydrated from excessive water loss caused by perspiration. If water consumption is inadequate, the skin is the first organ water is taken from to increase the supply to critical organs and bodily systems. Also, the increased amounts of salt and uric acid deposited on the skin from sweat can be damaging if it is not gently and consistently removed. Insufficient water moisture in the skin also leads to an unwelcome increase in sebum production. This, in combination with increased sweat, is a recipe for breakouts. To maintain sufficient moisture, it is critical to increase water intake during the summer, as well as maintain regular moisturizer use. For those who are prone to oily skin, choose a product that primarily focuses on increasing water moisture without heavy oils.
We have largely been trained to shy away from using oil on the skin for fear of clogged pores and acne. Oil, however, is an essential component of healthy skin, and using the right oils—even during the summer—can help maintain homeostasis and flexibility within the skin.
It is crucial to ensure that patients understand the importance of maintaining cutaneous oil balance. In most cases, the oil glands naturally produce enough oil to lubricate the skin without causing breakouts; however, this process is easily disturbed. Scrubbing the face excessively or using harsh cleansers and exfoliators will strip the skin below its necessary oil threshold. In response to this imbalance, the skin will actually produce more oil to compensate for the loss. However, the patient often views this as an “oily skin problem,” and perpetually seeks to strip the oil away. Thus, the production of oils is continuously increased, and the skin seems to be unmanageable. Interestingly, studies have indicated that acneic skin is deficient in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which is partly responsible for the overproduction of sebum. By supplementing acneic skin with beneficial oils that are high in EFAs, sebum production can be kept in balance.
Humectants and occlusives
A humectant is a substance that attracts water, and can often hold many times its own weight in moisture within the skin. A humectant can pull water from the air, but in topical skin care the humectants are typically drawing moisture up from the dermis into the epidermis.
Common humectants include glycerin and honey, in addition to higher attraction humectants such as sorbitol, lactic acid, sodium PCA and urea. Hyaluronic acid is a particularly powerful humectant, in that it can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. The strategic use of humectants can have profound effects on the condition of your patients’ skin.
Oil is classified as an “occlusive,” meaning that it acts to lock moisture into the skin. Oils that are beneficial to the skin may be used after bathing to lock in the moisture from the water while the pores are still open. Additionally, moisturizing products that contain light oils, such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil (with compositions very similar to human sebum), are a good choice during the summer months, as they hold moisture within the skin without creating a greasy feel or clogging pores.
Ideally, a moisturizer should contain both humectants to draw moisture into the skin and occlusive ingredients that seal the necessary moisture within the skin. These principles apply to products designed for oily and breakout-prone skin, as well as those with dry skin. It is typically the occlusive agent that varies. For dry skin, a product might use shea butter to occlude, while a product for breakout-prone skin may instead employ niacinamide or jojoba oil to perform the same function, but without the emollience.
Since reading this article I’ve made sure to keep up with the moisturizing step in my home skincare regime. I found the article persausive enough to remember the importance of moisturizer throughout the year, no matter the weather. This is information that I will be sharing with my clients as well.
My Related Posts:
- Moisturizer Musings
- Way Over-Priced Moisturizers: Who Buys This Stuff and Why?
- The Lowdown on Facial Moisturizers
- Moisturizer Myths
- What’s the NMF?
- Why Does Mineral Oil Have Such a Bad Reputation?
Image from girlishh.com