Maintaining a Skin Barrier
Now that you understand the skin barrier and know what skin creams can do, it's time to talk about how you can work to support and improve the health of your skin.
The first step in maintaining a good skin barrier is choosing the right type of moisturizer for your skin. Don't let price or brand name be the only factor in your choice. High price tags and familiar brand names do not necessarily mean the product is more effective.
Follow these recommendations to select a product that best suits your skin type:
- For normal or oily skin, choose a lightweight, water-based product.
- For sensitive skin, pick a cream that contains no dyes or fragrances, as these can irritate the skin.
- If you have dry skin, select a product with urea or propylene glycol, and try to find an oil-based product rather than a cream.
- Elderly people with mature skin should choose products with alpha hydroxy, petrolatum and lactic acid [source: Mayo Clinic].
Beyond choosing a good product for maintaining the skin barrier, there are techniques you can use to help boost the power of your moisturizer. An intense moisturizing technique is the wet wrap. Although this process is a bit time-intensive, it has been reported to improve the skin barrier considerably. After a bath or shower, apply your preferred moisturizer wherever dry skin is a problem. Place a wet layer of cotton cloth over your skin where you've moisturized, then follow with a dry layer of cotton cloth [source: Lewis].
Other suggestions include washing with warm water rather than hot water. You may also wish to wear protective gloves to protect your skin when using harmful or irritating chemicals that can contribute to dryness. Finally, look for skin care products that are pH-balanced -- anything with a pH above seven can dry out skin [source: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology].
If skin dryness is a problem, don't despair. Take some time to make a good skin care regimen part of your daily activities, and consult a dermatologist if you feel it's necessary. Your skin and your health are worth it.
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- Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. "Caring for Dry Skin: Maintaining Skin Barrier Function." 1999. (July 26, 2009) http://www.reproline.jhu.edu/video/hiv/tutorials/English/tutorials/IP/ references/pdf/dryskin_brochure.pdf
- Denda, Mitsuhiro. "Skin Barrier Function as a Self-Organizing System." May 19, 2000. (July 27, 2009)http://www.scipress.org/journals/forma/pdf/1503/15030227.pdf
- Healy, Bernadine. "Skin Deep: As the body's largest organ, skin is a powerful yet unappreciated veneer." U.S. News and World Report. Nov. 6, 2005. (July 27, 2009)http://health.usnews.com/usnews/health/articles/051114/14skin.htm
- Lewis, Victoria (reviewed by). "The Function of Skin as a Barrier." NetDoctor.com. (July 27, 2009)http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/skin_hair/skin_function_003742.htm
- Lowenstein, Kate. "Diet for Healthy Skin." Everydayhealth.com. (July 27, 2009)http://www.everydayhealth.com/dry-skin/healthy-skin-diet.aspx
- Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers: Options for softer skin." Dec. 16, 2008. (July 27, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/sn00042
- National Geographic. "About the Skin." (July 27, 2009)http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/skin-article.html