During the winter months the skin can suffer. Just as it regains its balance after a summer of UV, chlorine, heat and humidity, it can be thrown into further confusion by freezing temperatures, harsh winds and stuffy central heating. Getting the skin back on an even keel calls for a calm but considered approach. Rich nourishment, intense soothing and anti-inflammatory actives will provide the restorative support it needs, while also helping to fortify and strengthen it for the future. Here, Donna Bartoli, a skincare expert and myBlend ambassador, shares her tips on how to gently coax compromised skin back to life.
Understand the science
When we talk about skin being compromised, what we actually mean is that the skin barrier is impaired. A healthy skin barrier – the watertight seal that protects against invasive external stressors and keeps your skin hydrated – is essential for overall skin health. When it’s damaged, skin can’t function as it should, leading to a loss of water as well as the ability to retain all the vital substances that keep it supple and healthy. “Our skin’s barrier is made up of lipids (oils) and water and it acts as a shield against outside pollutants, but also prevents water escaping from the skin,” explains Bartoli. “In the skincare world, the term for this is TEWL – transepidermal water loss. It makes the skin much more susceptible to infections and inflammation,” she adds.
Listen to your skin
We’re all guilty of ploughing ahead with the same old routine regardless of the state of our skin, but if you want to rectify a damaged skin barrier, you need to take a slower, more intuitive approach. That means taking time to study how your skin looks, feels and reacts in different times and circumstances, so that you can make a judgement on the right course of action. “The easiest way to detect a compromised barrier is to look at the skin,” says Bartoli. “Excess dryness or dehydration, redness, flakiness and sensitivity are all clear signs. As is a rough texture to the overall skin, and tightness.” If you’re not sure whether the signs you’re seeing are the result of a barrier breakdown or something else, you should be able to feel it. “If you apply skincare and it immediately stings, your barrier is disrupted, making it more susceptible to irritants and environmental aggressors,” adds Bartoli.
Learn the triggers
As the largest organ in the body, it’s little wonder that the skin is so demonstrative when its balance is upset. For some, signs of vulnerability may be caused by lifestyle habits, while for others, it’s a result of reactive existing conditions. “Certainly those with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis are more at risk of compromised barriers, but there are also those with naturally dry or sensitive skin types who have a higher chance of impaired barriers too,” says Bartoli. Using too many harsh actives that disrupt the skin’s delicate microbial balance, and being overzealous with exfoliating agents, are huge culprits, as is excess exposure to UV, poor nutrition and even lack of sleep. “It’s all about striking a balance and not overdoing anything,” she explains.
Hone your routine
Figuring out the cause of your sensitised skin is only one part of the job, the next is working out what products to implement into your routine in order to actually make a difference. Stick to a condensed routine when skin is flaring up, and banish any steps that aren’t wholly necessary or that aren’t designed to cosset and nurture the skin barrier back to health. “Simple and gentle is the way to go,” agrees Bartoli. “A gentle creamy cleanser or oil-based cleansing balm, a good hydrating serum and a rich moisturiser.” Not all cleansers and creams are created equal though, so pay attention to what’s inside your products – and what’s not. “The key ingredients to look for are ceramides, peptides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and fatty acids,” she says. “All of these ingredients soothe, calm and rebuild the lipid barrier of the skin.” A highly concentrated combination of peptides, ceramides and vitamins, myBlend’s Superserum Recovery is designed to repair fragile skin and restore radiance and bounce with continued use. “I recommend staying away from highly fragranced products, avoiding using exfoliants until your skin is looking and feeling more balanced, and finding a good SPF to wear every day,” Bartoli adds. For high protection and a non-greasy formula, try the myBlend Hydrating Antioxidant Screen SPF50 Face Cream.
Have a long-term plan
One of the great things about beauty is the feeling of enjoyment that comes from peeling back the seal on an indulgent new mask, or the thrill of trying a new serum and finding a forever favourite. While there’s no need to stick to a routine that’s so pared back there’s no room for exciting new additions, it is a good idea to make just a couple of minor adjustments to your everyday routine, and to have a back-up plan of action in case of active flare-ups. “Simplify your skin routines and avoid retinols and exfoliants until your skin is feeling better, and find a rich moisturiser to lock hydration in,” says Bartoli. For this, myBlend’s Revitalizing Cream is a great option as it contains peptides, hyaluronic acid and fermented curcuma extract derived from anti-inflammatory turmeric. Certain things are non-negotiable: always taking your make-up off at night, not using water that’s too hot or too cold when cleansing, and being sensible about sunscreen. “Always use an SPF – even in the winter,” cautions Bartoli. Although these pointers may seem too trivial to make a difference, not removing all traces of make-up clogs the pores, inflames the skin and causes oxidative damage which weakens the barrier, while scalding water can cause dryness and inflammation, and water that’s too cold can cause your pores to shrink, which traps dirt and bacteria inside.
Think about the bigger picture
“I always look at my skin from a holistic point of view,” says Bartoli. “It’s not just skincare that’s going to repair the barrier.” To maintain a healthy, functioning skin barrier Bartoli recommends hydrating properly and ensuring enough quality sleep to support skin repair and regeneration. “Eat a balanced diet that incorporates antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, and supplement if you need to.” myBlend’s Nutri range of supplements is a good place to start. As well as supporting skin by nourishing the gut microbiome, the Youth, Glow and Clean-up options target specific skincare issues from the inside out. And finally, it might be easier said than done but work out how to manage your stress levels, as sustained cortisol can wreak havoc on your skin barrier, secreting excess sebum, increasing redness and breaking down elastin and collagen fibres. “I think we all need to remember to breathe every now and again,” says Bartoli. “Life is busy. Instead of high intensity workouts, look for exercises that reduce stress, such as yoga or Pilates – even a daily walk makes a huge difference.”