Reconsider Before You Apply Moisturizers: They May Turn Your Skin into “Swiss Cheese”

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If you are used to apply moisturizers to skin after a shower or face washing, this article is your right choice. Skin-care products are literally everywhere nowadays, and you may even feel dizzy surrounded by them.



According to data, at least half of Americans have sensitive skin or a diagnosed skin condition such as eczema, atopic dermatitis or rosacea. No wonder the market of skin-care products is booming.


However, after doing 45 years of research on whether moisturizers and other products can really help us, dermatology professor Peter Elias says that the products may be doing as much harm as good, especially for people with sensitive skin.



His patients complaint about applying some expensive moisturizers but only feeling relief for the first hour, and the skin became drier after. That’s when Elias decided to find out what’s going on.



Skin as a brick wall to the body



Our skin is exposed to everything from sunlight to environmental toxins, and protects our body effectively like a barrier. Elias refers the skin to a brick wall.



The “bricks” are actually corneocytes, the dead cells that make up the surface of the skin. These “bricks” are held together by membrane sheaths made of a “mortar” of three lipids: cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acids.


When the “mortar” is in a balance, the wall can work well to avoid harm from the outside; when the three lipids lose the balance, however, the wall can no longer protect effectively and turns into Swiss cheese.




How skin reacts to moisturizers



According to Elias’s research, moisturizers on the shelf may be doing more harm than good for certain people, because they break the balance of the wall.


Maintaining the brick wall comes down to a suite of related factors: pH of the skin, the makeup of the “mortar,” and the body’s response to the “Swiss cheese” situation.



Many lotions in the market may lack “mortar” ingredients, contain them in the wrong proportions, or change the skin’s naturally acidic pH, which may cause the skin unable to prevent infection.


When the pH is thrown off, the enzymes cannot produce ingredients for the “mortar” properly, leading to a low amount of mortar produced or a wrong ratio of the three lipids, which can cause “Swiss cheese”.


The body perceives the “Swiss cheese” as an injury, so it triggers the inflammation response to heal the injury. But for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions, their repair machinery isn’t functioning properly. So the injury remains, and the inflammation and irritation becomes greater.



The great majority of moisturizers haven’t been tested on people with sensitive skin, which is the main reason why people with sensitive skin and skin conditions may feel uncomfortable when applying moisturizers.



Relief for sensitive skin



Lotions labeled with “skin repair” and containing the “mortar ingredients” are likely to help people with sensitive skin. Research showed that a special formula of the lipids in their proper proportions decreases inflammation.



Elias and his colleague are planning two larger-scale studies in China, focusing on the effect of a lotion designed for barrier repair and how much the body needs to be covered respectively.

6 Answers

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Baby oil will help it will keep the skin moist and baby lotion
Just mineral oil which doesn't promote new DNA of cells, it's really slows new skin cell growth in laboratory
Dry skin
Number9 line sold at target one of your top lines, reasonably priced.
Then what shall I apply to my super dry skin??

Does ceramides lotion help? Paula's choice talks about repair of barrier, a lot.

I have sensitive skin and face suffers from inflammation
How do you know that your face suffers from inflammation? Have you been evaluated by a cosmetic dermatologist? Maybe you just do not need anything to apply on your face.
What are your symptoms? Will the skin on your face peel off? Will your skin turn red? Have you ever been to the dermatology department? You'd better go to the dermatology department to check if there's any allergen and try to avoid contact later.
Curious to know if the moisturizers shown are culprits to everyone or just those with sensitive skin?  The vagueness of this article is very frustrating and alarming to anyone trying to prevent dry skin issues.  Either explain yourself or do all the research before posting something like this to “alert” everyone when you do not have any answers!
You know what, I agree. it's like all the research are finding their own way out, so some say it's good and others say it's bad. You never know what it truly is. Guess that's the changeable world... or whatsoever.
The point is right even if the author didn't make it clear and easy to understand. Not every moisturizer is bad. But many products are wrong. Human skin is naturally protected by lipids, your skin cells are like the bricks, the lipids are like the concrete between the bricks. With both the lipids and skin cells, your skin is having a layer of natural barrier. However, some of skin care products we use frequently today, break the lipids. When the lipids are damaged, you got dry, rough, inflamed skin. Now if your dry skin is in the dry condition because the lipids are damaged, you've got to choose the moisturizer carefully. Most moisturizer is a composition of mineral esters, while you need one that provides the three lipids your skin needs in order to repair, which are ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. That's why Paula always recommends her line with lipids. For example, omega+ complex moisturizer, contains omega 3,6 from natural seed oil, cholesterol and ceramide. You can find them in the ingredient list. I'm not a fan to Paula, I never use Paula's but I know the concept is correct.