A quick refresher: Your skin barrier acts as your skin's natural protective shield. It's got its own microbiome (aka a layer of "good bacteria" that keeps your skin healthy), and when this ecosystem is disrupted it can lead to a whole host of issues including irritation, inflammation, and flare-ups of acne, rosacea, and eczema. A well-functioning skin barrier is imperative for locking in moisture, defending against the elements, and keeping your complexion healthy overall. It's particularly important to keep it intact during the winter months, when cold and dry air run rampant, because it essentially acts as a "puffer coat" for your skin.
- Muneeb Shah, DO, board-certified dermatologist based in North Carolina.
1. Exfoliating too often
If your skin could talk, it would be singing some Adele right now—go easy on me, baby! If you’re aggressively scrubbing your skin trying to get those dry, dead cells off your visage this winter, reel it in a bit. Over-exfoliation can lead to sensitized skin, which can weaken your barrier and cause inflammation and irritation. To avoid this, Dr. Shah suggests capping your exfoliating routine to a twice-weekly slough sesh.
2. Removing makeup with wipes
If you’re currently using makeup remover wipes—specifically to remove eye makeup—don’t. Aside from being not-great for the environment, derms (including Dr. Shah) note that they strip your skin of natural oils and can cause irritation. Unless you're rinsing your face after you use them, these wipes often leave active ingredients on your skin, which can create issues for your barrier. "This residue can include surfactants, solubilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives, which, when left on the skin, can lead to irritation or an allergic reaction," Charlotte Birnbaum, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Spring Street Dermatology, previously told Well+Good, adding that this residue can be particularly problematic for people with sensitive skin, rosacea, and eczema. Plus, though makeup wipes may help whisk away mascara and eyeliner, they aren't particularly effective at actually cleansing your skin—they're really just “swirling stuff around on your face,” says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. Instead of opting in on wipes, start your cleansing routine with an oil-based cleanser or a gentle makeup remover, then move on to a gentle face wash for a complete double cleanse.
3. Taking hot showers
This is definitely a challenge in the chillier months, especially as hot showers can be a massively therapeutic anti-anxiety tool. But while the heat is soothing for your mind (and muscles!), it can be pretty harsh on your skin. Hot water is truly something that can be damaging to the skin because "it can strip your skin of essential lipids and proteins and make it much more easily inflamed," Dr. Gohara previously told Well+Good. Ideally, your shower will be warm (but not hot), and quick. If you really can’t live without those steamy showers this winter (honestly, same), try to keep them short, and be sure to use a hydrating moisturizer after you step out to replenish your skin barrier.
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