What makes good healthy skin
We all know what good skin looks like - smooth, clean, glowing and free of blemishes. In other words, it is healthy. From a physiological perspective, healthy skin comes from a healthy cardiovascular system bringing well oxygenated blood. The blood also delivers beneficial nutrients gained from eating a healthy diet. The skin looks clean and smooth because its waste is removed efficiently via well-functioning lymphatics, sweat glands and sebaceous glands, and the skin’s barrier works effectively in protecting the skin from the environment. In our sometimes misguided attempts to achieve beautiful skin, we can easily sabotage our skin’s health. We over-cleanse with detergents, cause inflammation with damaging scrubs, or clog our glands with ingredients that cannot be excreted efficiently. We forget that we need to work with our body when we care for our skin. The root problem to many skin disorders is a poor skin barrier caused by cleansing the skin with products that damage it. Here we explain why our approach, using gentle Ayurvedic methods and our all natural certified organic skin care, works with your body for truly healthy skin.
When the skin’s barrier goes wrong
Our skin is the body’s first line of defence against the environment. It retains water and keeps out microorganisms and irritants. We often take for granted that without an effective skin barrier we would not survive for long. When the skin’s barrier starts to falter we soon find out. Failure of the waterproof barrier leads to dry, flakey skin, whereas failure of the barrier to microorganisms and irritants means inflamed, red, itchy skin.
What is the skin’s barrier made from?
The stratum corneum, the dead outermost layer of the skin, forms our skin’s barrier. It is made of keratin-rich dead epithelial cells that are tightly packed together and embedded in a matrix made of lipids. These lipids play an essential role in preventing water-loss from the body, while microorganisms and irritants are kept at bay by the stratum corneum’s tight physical structure, the antimicrobial nature of some of the lipid molecules, and its low pH of around 5.5. Sometimes referred to as the ‘acid mantle’, the low pH also affects the microbiome of the skin. For example, it reduces the growth of harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and encourages growth of benign bacteria like Staphylococcus epidermidis. Maintaining all components of this all-important layer is central to healthy skin.
How to keep your skin barrier in good condition
Choose your moisturiser wisely
The lipid layer of the stratum corneum is made up of three lipid types: cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides. The ceramides become depleted both with age and during winter months (1), which is one reason skin tends to become drier and flakier in winter, and with increasing age. It has been shown that topical application of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, can restore the fatty ceramides in the lipid layer of the stratum corneum (2). All our certified organic moisturisers are enriched for linoleic acid, as well as gamma linolenic acid, another important omega-6 fatty acid, and provide a concentrated source of these ceramide-building essential fatty acids (find them here). You can read more about the importance of omega-6 fatty acids in our blog about essential fatty acids here.
Avoid harsh cleansers
Strong detergents like SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) are good cleansing agents, effective at removing dirt and oils from the skin. However, they also remove some of the protective lipids from the stratum corneum, potentially damaging the skin’s barrier, leaving it dry and susceptible to foreign invasion. Some detergents also damage important proteins in the skin, while true soaps, which have an alkaline pH, can cause a transient increase in the pH of the skin’s acid mantle. Minimising the use of detergent cleansers on the skin helps keep the lipid barrier intact. At Mokosh, we have created a linoleic acid-rich oil-based cleanser (our Makeup Remover & Cleansing Oil), and an Ayurveda-inspired cleanser (our Facial Cleanser, Exfoliator & Mask). The latter is a powder that is mixed with water to provide the gentlest combination of skin-nourishing botanicals that cleanse and nourish the skin without stripping away the all important lipids. Both are mildly acidic, helping protect the skin’s acid mantle.
Not all emulsifiers are good for your barrier
Emulsifiers are added to all water-containing cleansers and moisturisers to allow the oil and water phases of water-based cleansers and moisturisers to mix. Like detergents, emulsifiers are surfactants, molecules that are both oil- and water-soluble. They are almost always synthetic, and some penetrate the stratum corneum. Some are known to disturb the lipid barrier and increase water-loss from the skin (3), which is exactly the opposite of what a moisturiser is designed to do. Mokosh certified organic skin care is one of the few brands that is free of emulsifiers. You can read more about how emulsifiers can harm your skin here.
Avoid harsh scrubs
Harsh exfoliating treatments that abrade the skin leaving it reddened and inflamed are physically damaging your skin’s barrier. They should be used with great care, if at all. Our Facial Cleanser Exfoliator and Mask is based on the Ayurvedic approach to health, using 100% pure plant ingredients including aloe vera, oatmeal and other skin-balancing botanicals. These are mixed with water to a smooth paste that is gently massaged over the skin, dislodging superficial debris and clarifying the skin. This method works with the skin’s own regenerative mechanism, helping to dislodge cellular debris and built-up impurities without causing redness and inflammation. The gentle daily exfoliation keeps the skin clean and resilient, and allows the more efficient absorption of moisturisers.
Preservatives are not your friend
All water-containing skin care contains preservatives to stop the growth of microorganisms and give the products a long shelf life. Preservatives kill or slow down the growth of bacteria, and can remain active on your skin after application of a leave-on product, potentially disturbing your skin's microbiome. We believe preservative-containing skin care is not good for your skin, in the same way that preservative-containing foods should not be part of your diet. All Mokosh skin care products are preservative-free.
Wash in warm, not hot, water
Using very hot water increases the sensitivity of the skin to irritants, particularly when washing with detergents. (4) Skin should be washed in warm or preferably lukewarm water.
Do not stay in water too long
Soaking for a long time in the bath in hot water and taking long hot showers are not good for our skin’s barrier. This is because exposing the skin to water for too long damages the lipid structure of the stratum corneum, making it more permeable to water (5). Wrinkly skin after the bath is not a good sign!
Why Mokosh certified organic skin care can help build healthy skin
Healthy skin, like the health of the rest of our body, comes from living a healthy lifestyle. It means taking care of ourselves inside and out, mind and body, through balance in all aspects of our lives. Healthy skin cannot come from a bottle - something we all know, despite our wish to believe the advertising promises of many beauty companies. But we can help nourish our skin externally by using gentle, biocompatible cleansing methods that restore balance in the skin. Staying away from detergents, emulsifiers and harsh scrubs will keep the naturally-occurring lipids in our skin intact. Gentle exfoliation and cleansing with well-balanced oils and skin-protective botanicals will keep our skin clean and its acid mantle intact. Using linoleic acid-rich moisturisers will replenish the fatty acids and ceramides in our skin. Using preservative-free skin care will leave our skin microbiome undisturbed and improve the resilience of our skin's microbiological barrier. In the same way that an all natural diet rich in nutrients provides our body with the best fuel, a natural synthetic-free, preferably certified organic skin care regime allows our skin to get on with doing the job it does best.
1. Klaus-P. Wilhelm, MD; Anastasia B. Cua, MD; Howard I. Maibach, MD. Skin Aging: Effect on Transepidermal Water Loss, Stratum Corneum Hydration, Skin Surface pH, and Casual Sebum
2. Arch Dermatol. 1991;127(12):1806-1809.
3. A. CONTI, J. ROGERS, P. VERDEJO, C. R. HARDING and A. V. RAILINGS Seasonal influences on stratum corneum ceramide 1 fatty acids and the influence of topical essential fatty acids. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 1996; Volume 18, pages 1–12.
4. Jacquelyn Levin and Richard Miller. A Guide to the Ingredients and Potential Benefits of Over-the-Counter Cleansers and Moisturizers for Rosacea Patients
5. J Clin Aesthet Dermatolv. (2011) 4(8); 2011
6. Enzo Berardesca, Gian Piero Vignoli, Fernanda Distante, Pietro Brizzi, Giacomo Rabbiosi (1995) Effects of water temperature on surfactant-induced skin irritation. Contact Dermatitis: Environmental and Occupational Dermatitis Volume 32, Pages 83–87
7. Marsha J. Spears, Kirsten McKillop, Janet L. Marshall, Keith J. Stone, North A. Lilly, Ronald R. Warner, , Ying L. Boissy (1999) Water Disrupts Stratum Corneum Lipid Lamellae: Damage is Similar to Surfactants. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Volume 113, Pages 960–966.