How Balancing Oil & Water Keep Your Skin From Going Berserk
By Michael Pollak
History is full of inseparable pairs. Peanut Butter & Jelly. Bert & Ernie. Hall & Oates. Thelma & Louise. Chips & Salsa. Without one another, it’s just not quite the same.
For your skin, it’s oil and water. One you make, one you can’t. Getting the balance right is the key to keeping the dry and blotch at bay this season.
All skin needs Oil Moisture and Water Moisture to function properly and do everything from looking and feeling great today to combating premature aging tomorrow. Depleted or imbalanced hydration – lacking either oil or water – is the first thing that causes our skin to go dull and rapidly accelerates aging (those fine lines…).
Skin that’s missing or being robbed of the moisture it needs - whether by environmental factors like pollution, heating systems, frequent travel, or simply the wrong skincare routine for the season – actually weakens and sensitizes the skin. Simply put, it puts the skin in a cranky state that doesn’t react well to much. It becomes defenseless to heal and protect itself from damage, and those common skin concerns like rough texture, redness, overly dry and oily patches of skin, and even acne start to rear their heads. And harsh cleaners, over-exfoliation, neglect, the wrong products, or the myriad of things we tend to do when we panic about it doesn’t help the cause. So here is what you need need to know about water vs. oil in your skin.
What is the relationship between water and the skin?
Water. When your skin lacks it, it’s dehydrated. We’re made of, what, 70% water? But our skin actually does not produce moisture of the water variety on its own – it only receives it from water put into our bodies and water-based moisturizers put onto our skin. Like all things in life, the younger you are, the easier it is (heh) – to hold onto water moisture, in this case. In winter, things like deranged radiators controlled by your building, dry air, travel, hot-cold-hot-cold changes, dehydrate your skin.
What happens when the skin is dehydrated?
It makes up for it by creating the only moisture it knows how to create – oil moisture (next paragraph, hold your horses). So now we’re dry, but we’re oily. We fight the oil by overdoing this or overdoing that, but we’re really dry…
What is the relationship between oil and the skin?
When your skin lacks it, it’s dry. Skin produces oil naturally and needs oil moisture for strength, elasticity, and to function properly. This is where skin type comes in – Dry skin types makes the least amount of oil naturally, Normal produces about average, and Oily, well, you get it. Just like water moisture, as we age, the skin produces less oil, and at certain times of the year like winter, oil production slows (we imagine little oil production creatures feeling 😑 like we do on a 20º weekend day). Some habits, like cleansing with too much of a harsh cleanser, over-exfoliating, or using too many products marketed for acne can strip necessary oil, too.
What happens when the skin lacks oil?
It becomes sensitized, or more simply put, a little pissed off. And in that state, breakouts, irritation, blotchiness, all kinds of things can happen. Over time, a lack of natural oil can compromise your skin’s natural barrier to defend against further water hydration loss. Sensing the cycle here?
Okay, this makes sense. So what can I do to make sure I stay balanced?
The best thing to do is to take a look at your routine and make sure you’ve adjusted it to compensate for a drier winter. Talk to us about your routine or to find out what ingredients are right for your skin type.
On the water front, ensure your cleanser is a gentle and hydrating one. Add a hydrating serum and/or richer moisturizer into your routine. And you might want to moisturizer in morning and night (keep up the combo SPF/moisturizer, but you might need some additional help at both ends of the day.) Use a hydrating mask once or twice a week for an extra boost. You’ll feel the difference.
On the oil front, just a few drops of a facial oil suited for your skin type can help you get the edge on dry skin, stay ahead of dehydration, and keep skin calm. “I’m already oily, how can I use an oil?” you might ask. Some adaptogenic oils even help to balance overproduction of oil. A little goes a long way, so a bottle can last you quite a while.
* * *
It may feel like we’re mincing words here between dry and dehydrated, since the end result can read similarly. But, it’s important to understand the difference to unlock your own unique balance of water and oil needed to keep your skin happy, healthy, and glowing through the duller months of the year.
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