≡ Menu

Are you tampering with nature by moisturizing your skin?

MKN says…I am a sixty-five year old male who has been his wife’s hair colorist for most of the 42 years we have been married. I have slightly better taste in women’s fashion than she tho’ we almost always agree on her clothing purchases. She almost always solicits my advise on cosmetic purchases; and again we most always agree.  I drilled down to the plain English translation of a recent journal article about some kind of a tubular protein matrix that expands to absorb water and then—-unsurprisingly—–contracts to squeeze it out. (I assumed some such mechanism existed to maintain hydration homeostasis.) My question is: why would not this matrix squeeze out occlusives that kept the skin overly hydrated? So for how long do even the best occlusives—I use petrolatum on myself—-prevent evaporation of water? Of course, this begs the more fundamental question: why would anyone man or women in her or his right mind want to tamper with mammalian hydration homeostasis by preventing water evaporation? What are the unintended consequences of skin moisturizing? What body systems are being disrupted by retarding “natural” skin dehydration?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Interesting questions, MKN. Randy and I have put our heads together and come up with the following answers:

Q: Why would not this matrix squeeze out occlusives that kept the skin overly hydrated?

A: The protein matrix of which you speak is in the lower levels of the skin. The occlusives sit on the surface. So the matrix can’t “squeeze out” something that’s located layers of skin above.

Q: So for how long do even the best occlusives—I use petrolatum on myself—-prevent evaporation of water?

A: Since the occlusive provides a physical barrier it will continue to prevent evaporation as long as it’s in place. Of course in the real world the barrier is never left in a static state – it’s continually worn away by hand washing, rubbing against clothing, even movement of your body, etc. So over time the barrier will lose its integrity and moisture will begin to seep out of your skin at increased levels.

Q: why would anyone man or women in her or his right mind want to tamper with mammalian hydration homeostasis by preventing water evaporation? What are the unintended consequences of skin moisturizing? What body systems are being disrupted by retarding “natural” skin dehydration?

A: Moisturizing skin with occulsives doesn’t interfere with your skin’s natural need to “breathe” because the skin is never FULLY occluded. All you’re trying to do with a moisturizer is to prevent certain areas of skin from becoming rough and dry which can lead to cracking, bleeding and infection. Moisturizing in this fashion doesn’t cover ALL your body so you’re not preventing skin from performing its thermoregulation function which it does by sweating. Now, if you fully occluded every square centimeter of your body – THEN you’d have a problem.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • BeautyBuzzDaily March 1, 2014, 12:52 am

    Great post! I always wondered if this was the case, especially with products containing mineral oil. I noticed my friend’s patch of skin having raised, whitehead-like bumps after continuous use of a mineral oil based moisturizer. I wonder if that is a sign of suffocating skin?

  • rozy March 1, 2014, 3:01 am

    Natural does not mean good!

  • Kerry Prendergast March 1, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Skin’s only part in regulating internal hydration is to keep you from shriveling up; it’s not involved in removing excess water from the body (that’s the responsibility of the kidneys), so any moisturizer you apply would only affect the skin itself. And unless you live in a very humid environment, your body is constantly losing water through your lungs, throat and nose.

Leave a Comment