For hundreds of years it’s been understood that water cleanses the skin of dirt and pollutants and that regular cleansing is not only indicative of good hygiene, it leads to better health. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. Water, while imperative to every facet of our lives, can actually remove skin’s natural moisturizing factors. Extended exposure to the warmer waters of a bath or shower can be particularly harmful. Cleansing agents in many body washes and bar soaps break down the skin’s natural moisture barrier, allowing moisture loss and leading to the itchy discomfort caused by dry skin.
“Prolonged exposure to water can be drying for skin, so it’s important to protect skin while in the shower,” said Dr. Karl Wei, Principal Scientist with P&G Beauty.
To understand how this happens, it becomes necessary to look into the top layer of epidermis called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is made up of 15-20 layers of cells known as corneocytes which are separated by natural oils or lipids. The corneocytes and lipids are responsible for holding moisture in the skin but, unfortunately, are also easily compromised.
When the skin’s necessary, natural oils are washed away, some clients will apply a moisturizer. However, many women lack the time, knowledge or convenience to replenish the lost lipids after they bathe. This can lead to dry skin and can exacerbate skin that is already dryer than average.