Part I - "What is in Your Skincare Products?"

We get a lot of patients, friends, and even reps who love to ask and tell us about all of the fancy ingredients in their skin care.  A lot of these are names like snail mucin, meadow leaf bark, or other floral nonsense. The true answer is that these things may not be bad or good. What it really depends on is how or what they have that they are adding to your skin. In order to know what you are trying to add or replace, we must first define what the normal barrier is made of and how it functions.,

Your skin and the chemicals on your skin are designed to keep water and electrolytes in and microorganisms out. This is achieved by your stratum corneum which is a layer of skin cells and lipids. The lipids are mainly ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids. When your barrier is disrupted, your body has to make more of these products to stabilize and repair this barrier.  

There are many different ways to disrupt your barrier, ranging from genetics to self induced. Barrier disruption is the key player in atopic dermatitis or eczema. This is why we harp on using products with ceramides and cholesterols to aid in barrier repair. So.... if you want to moisturize with virgin coconut oil, be our guest. You should know that it does not contain ceramides so you are likely not optimizing what you could be putting on your skin but it's better than nothing. 

Your barrier can also be traumatized by harsh abrasive chemicals used to remove all of the “oil” from your skin if you have acne. Removal of the surface oil isn’t going to stop your acne. You need to decrease sebum production to do that. It will however traumatize your barrier and you will be unable to tolerate the medications that will decrease sebum production. This is why we tell you that it is ok to use a moisturizer even if you have acne.  We need to maintain a normal barrier.

Stay tuned for the rest of our series on skin care and what you need to know about products. We want you to be able to ask the right questions when deciding if a product is right for you.  We already know that instagram and tiktok are doing a fantastic job making you feel like you need all of them!

Elizabeth Grieshaber, MD

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