Should every man moisturise? Even those with a passing familiarity with skincare have heard of moisturiser.
But do you actually need it?
The short answer is yes.
A quality moisturiser helps our skin to retain water and maintain it’s barrier function, protecting us from bacteria, free radicals and UV rays.
Even those with picture-perfect skin can benefit from a quality moisturiser.
But how do you know good moisturisers from a sub-par one? Why is it important that our skin retains moisture and a barrier function?
As always, let us dive in and find out together.
Our skin, like everything else, has good and bad days and reacts to our environment in different ways.
Our skin is made up of two primary layers, the epidermis and the dermis. To fully understand and appreciate moisturisers’ effect on your skin, we’re going to take a look beyond the surface level of our skin.
The layer most visible to the human eye is the epidermis or the ‘top’ layer of the skin. The epidermis is thicker than you expect. The outermost layer, known as the stratum corneum, has acidic PH levels, which help to defend our skin.
The epidermis houses our lipid matrix, which is a barrier made up of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol. The lipid matrix creates a barrier that prevents bacteria and pollution out, while working to keep water in, helping to maintain hydration levels in our skin.
‘The SC consists of between 10 and 30 stacked sheets of cells termed corneocytes embedded in lipid-enriched lamellae or membrane. This structure is analogous to a brick wall, with the corneocyte “bricks” enclosed by a lipid lamellae “mortar”. These stacked sheets are connected via corneodesmosomes, which resemble the steel rods within reinforced concrete and provide tensile strength (i.e. resistance to shearing forces) to the skin. In normal skin, corneocytes are filled with water and swell, creating a smooth barrier without any cracks between them.’ [A]
Melanocytes are also in the epidermis and are responsible for the pigment of our skin. The melanocytes cause sunspots and freckles when we expose ourselves to too much sun.
As we move deeper into our skin we reach the dermis. This is the area of the skin that provides structural support to our skin.
The dermis houses fibroblasts, a type of connective tissue cell that is responsible for secreting collagen proteins, as well as helping to heal wounds. It’s main function is ‘the maintenance of structural integrity within the connective tissue.’
Our skin is made up of multiple layers, each serving a unique and specific purpose.
Collagen is a structural fibrous protein that is found not only in the skin but in tendons, muscles and bones. It helps keep our skin plump and stop it from sagging.
Another protein found in the dermis is Elastin. Elastin is connective, a strong and flexible tissue, that allows our skin to retake it’s shape after moving. In simpler terms, it’s what helps give our skin its bounce.
All of these functions are amazing but they are susceptible to change.
And this is where our friend moisturisers come in.
Helping Skin Barrier Function
Our skin is at it’s healthiest when it is working to prevent water loss and provide a barrier to both allergens and bacteria.
Our skin, like everything else, has good and bad days and reacts to our environment in different ways but some areas of our skin have it worse than others. Being our outermost layer of skin, our Stratum corneum is overworked and underpaid. It’s constantly bombarded with elements from icy cold wind to harsh UV rays, not to mention the many pollutants we’re exposed to on a daily basis.
Needless to say, this constant exposure takes a toll and reduces the stratum corneum ability to function properly as a barrier between us and the outside world. This cause issues deeper into our epidermis, as without proper barrier function, our skin retains less water and becomes dry and dehydrated.
‘’The epidermis generates protective and defensive functions mediated by its unique differentiation end product, the stratum corneum (SC). Of these functions, the most critical is the permeability barrier, which retards transcutaneous evaporative water loss, allowing survival in a potentially desiccating external environment. ‘’
The combination of reduced barrier function, combined with dry skin can leave us more vulnerable to external irritants, which can further add to our skins woes.
This all sounds a bit dramatic but it’s what happens over time. One day your skin is great, the next it’s a little red, then itchy and then in 5 years, you look like you’re 55, not 35. Irritated, dehydrated skin will lead to skin damage, which in turn leads to signs of premature aging.
So where dose moisturiser come in?
Now that we understand more about the skin and it’s functions, we can better comprehend how moisturiser can help our skin. As we now know, skin aging is caused by multiple factors and while we can not stop time, we can enhance our skins barrier function and water retention, with moisturiser.
Moisturisers primarily address the outermost layer of our skin. The term moisturiser means adding water to the skin. Moisturisers are good moisturisers that will help make the stratum corneum be more effective at maintaining a healthy barrier between us and external stressors.
It will also help our skin to retain water, keeping our skin healthier for longer. If we neglect to use moisturiser, our skin will cope, for a time but as we age, our skins natural abilities to address signs of aging will fade.
As the elements take their toll the timber deteriorates, cracks appear and the wood eventually spits and breaks down entirely. If you clean, coat and oil your deck though, the wood not only lasts longer but looks better over time.
Your mug is pretty much the same, by helping our skin with a moisturiser, we can look our best, for longer.
What makes a good moisturiser?
It’s one thing to know you have to moisturise, it’s another altogether choosing not only a quality moisturiser but one that’s right for you and your skin.
Let’s start by breaking down how moisturisers work and go from there.
You will often find a moisturiser will contain all three of the below ingredients.
Humectants (water): We want our skin to retain water and humectants do just that. Humectants are a part of our skin and support it by attracting water.
Humectants can attract water from the atmosphere and if there’s not enough there, they will draw it from deeper layers of our skin. This cause more problems over the long term, which is why having a moisturiser with humectants in it is a huge benefit.
That and humectants are beneficial to pretty much any skin type. Ingredients to keep an eye out for are Aloe Vera, Glycerin, Honey and Hyaluronic acid.
Emollients (oil): are a must-have for smooth skin and the term can often be used interchangeably with moisturisers. When our top layer of skin doesn’t have enough moisture, it can lead to flaky skin and cause small cracks on our skin.
Emollients help to soften and smooth skin out by filling in these cracks. Emollient ingredients to look for are things like coconut oil, shea butter and argan oil.
These ingredients bring us to our next area, Occlusives.
Occlusives: create a barrier between our skin and the external world. This barrier helps allergens and irritants from getting beneath our skin. This barrier is created by a thin oily film that coats the surface of our skin
The most effective occlusives tend to utilise heavy, fatty wax substances that create a waterproof barrier over our skin. This barrier not only protects the skin but also helps to lock in moisture. Ingredients to look out for are beeswax, Jojoba oil.
Types of moisturiser
When talking about moisturiser, it’s easy to default to the typical white lotions commonly associated with a moisturiser.
But moisturiser comes in a variety of forms, just under different names. Each of the below products falls under a category of the general term moisturiser, with each leaning towards their own focus areas of emollient, occlusive or humectant.
Gel Creams/ Creams are what most people think of when discussing moisturiser. Creams can be heavy but are great for dry skin while gel creams are great for oily skin.
Serums tend to be packed with vitamins, think A, B, C or E. they are great for penetrating deeper into the skin and helping to keep skin hydrated.
Balms are all about barrier boosting protection and helping to address issues with dry patches of skin.
Face oils are excellent emollients but are not ideal for people with already oily skin.
We covered a lot here and ( hopefully) by now you have a good understanding of moisturisers but also why you should moisturise at all.
So we want to know, what is your moisturizing routine? Does it need an upgrade after learning more or where you spot on from the start?
As always, let us know below.