If you are like most of us, you have ‘good skin days’ and ‘bad skin days.’ While sometimes you can pinpoint exactly why your skin is acting up (hormones, stress, travel, too much time in the sun), at other times it can seem like a bit of a mystery. And not just a mystery – an emotionally upsetting reality that you simply cannot fathom out. The long term answer might lie in having a thicker, more robust skin barrier. When you are run down and neglecting your skincare routine, your skin’s outermost layer can become thinner and more prone to irritation and damage. The result? You end up with spots, wrinkles, rough patches, and milia (small keratin-filled cysts, often called milk spots).
Therefore, one of the best ways to ‘train your skin’ is to build up your skin barrier, the most important component of which is its Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF), a protective chemical that keeps the outermost layer of your skin (the stratum corneum to get technical) as hydrated, plump, and healthy as possible. Dr Sam Bunting, a top Harley Street cosmetic dermatologist, explains. “The stratum corneum is a specialised layer that forms the outermost part of our epidermis. It’s a vital front line, protecting us against the perils of the environment; UV, pollution, infection, toxic chemicals, and so on. On a more superficial note, it’s the bit that we see, and others see, so it’s very important from a cosmetic and confidence point of view too.”
So, if a thick and healthy skin barrier is the secret to great-looking skin, how can you build up your own surface layer and NMF? Here are our top tips to train your skin to behave…
Ingredients are key. Always read the labels – To ensure your skin receives the ingredients it needs, get into the habit of reading the labels. Don’t be tempted to start using a product that is popular on social media until you know what it contains – and what it doesn’t. Look for ingredients that soothe and calm the skin, as well as for those that build up your ever-important skin barrier. Some key ingredients to look out for include beta-glucans, polysaccharide sugars found in cell walls, proven to reduce irritation and smooth wrinkles. Matrixyl 3000 is an anti-ageing peptide comprised of two proteins that promote the skin’s production of collagen and elastin. Look for a serum that uses these ingredients to repair your skin while it increases volume to prevent wrinkles. Seal in these benefits with a rich facial moisturiser designed for sensitive skin.
Only use topical steroids as a last resort – Some skin conditions, such as eczema, require the use of steroids to calm outbreaks and heal the skin. However, topical steroids can also cause a thinning of the skin. They reduce short-term irritation but leave your skin barrier vulnerable to irritation. Therefore, only use topical steroids as a last resort; instead, focus on keeping your skin well hydrated to prevent dry patches and roughness.
Stay away from harsh cleansers and detergents – You might think that bubbly cleansers or facial soaps might be the best way to get your skin clean, but it could actually be causing problems down the line. Stay away from detergents (such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), which can strip your skin barrier of its NMF and the natural oils it needs to be it’s glowing best. Opt instead for micellar water to remove your make up, and perform a second cleanse with a gentle cream cleanser that hydrates as it cleanses. Massage it gently into your skin, and remove the cream with a warm flannel.
Ditch physical exfoliation in favour of healing your skin barrier – You may think that physical exfoliation with a scrub or brush is a ‘must-do’ for healthy skin, but it can actually make things worse. Most exfoliants are far too harsh, causing micro-tears all over your skin, which in turn allow bacteria and other nasty irritants to get inside the outer layer. A warm flannel will provide most of us with all the physical exfoliation we need. Instead of a harsh physical exfoliation, focus instead on soothing and healing your skin barrier. Give it the protection it needs by starting with Special Hydro Complex, designed as a biological dupe for epicutaneous NMF. This will build your skin barrier up, instead of scrubbing it away.
Once you have improved your skin barrier’s health, you can then begin to exfoliate your face with a gentle acid. Don’t be intimidated by the word ‘acid,’ it’s a natural part of your body. The ingredients clear away dead cells without stripping your skin. Try using a glycolic acid product once a week, increasing application to three times a week if your skin reacts well. Some glycolic acid formulas, such as Naturalia Sintesi’s Anti-Ageing Complex, can be used in 10- to 15-day cycles. Apply every evening to cleansed skin, rest the skin for the same period of time – and then repeat the process.
Use cool water on your face and body – A long, hot bath might soothe and relax your muscles, but it could damage your skin barrier too. Hot water strips the skin of its natural moisturising factors and can cause cracking and dryness. Most people have a thicker skin barrier on their body than on their face, so the occasional hot shower or bath won’t hurt. However, you should only ever cleanse your face with tepid water, and never put your face under the pounding water of your showerhead. After you cleanse or wet your face, you should always add moisture back into your skin. Hyaluronic acid is a compound found deep in the layers of your skin and gives it a plump appearance and healthy glow. Add a hyaluronic acid product into your post-shower skincare routine to boost your skin’s moisture levels.
SPF is the single most important step in your skincare routine – Last (but certainly not least!) is your SPF, the best way to protect your skin’s barrier and increase its overall health. Choose a sun protection product that not only protects your skin from the sun’s damaging rays but also includes nourishing ingredients.
Perfecting your own skincare routine
We have put together a simple six-step skincare routine that anyone can use. Over time, we recommend you tailor the routine to meet your own specific needs.
- Cleanser – Start by removing your make-up with Naturalia Sintesi’s Global Cleansing Water, and follow this up with our Extra Mild Cleansing Cream to deep clean your skin without damaging the barrier.
- Toner – A toner helps to lock moisture into your skin. Always make sure that your toner does not contain alcohol, which can both dry and irritate your skin. We recommend our ultra-gentle Refining Lotion, which soothes and calms the skin.
- NMF – Before you add your serum and/or moisturiser, add a replica of your skin’s natural moisturising factors to your epidermis. Special Hydro Complex enhances the performance of any product that is applied on top of it.
- Gentle acid exfoliant – After your face has dried, add an acid exfoliant to clear away dead skin and brighten your complexion. We recommend the Anti-Ageing Complex from Naturalia Sintesi, which includes beta-glucans (to be applied in cycles of between 10 and 15 days. Then stop applying for the same period of time, before repeating the process).
- Serum – A serum adds nourishing ingredients to your skin if it is very dry or damaged (if not, you can skip this step and go straight to your moisturiser. Alternatively, some people prefer to use a serum only in their morning routine, before SPF). For a product that includes both beta-glucans and Matrixyl 3000, try our Second Life Matrix Repair Serum.
- Moisturiser – Seal in all of the benefits with a moisturiser. Naturalia Sintesi’s Second life Replenishing Cream guarantees deep toning and plumping action on the face and neck area as well as fast recovery of volume and brightness.
- While the above routine has been designed for the evening, we want to emphasise the importance of using an SPF throughout the day.
- SPF – Never leave the house without an SPF, even on overcast days! Naturalia Sintesi’s Sun Experience 50+ is ideal for face, hands, neck and body because it dries without leaving a dreaded ‘white cast’ on your skin. It softens the skin with guar gum extract, while ethylhexylglycerin inhibits the bacterial growth that leads to spots and milia.
By focusing on the above points and incorporating high-quality skincare products into your routine, you will improve your skin barrier and train your skin to behave, which means you can – in theory – wave goodbye to ‘bad skin days’ forever.