Skin Deep

What is the best moisturizing ingredient for dry skin?

Do you have dry skin that is prone to irritation? If so, your skin’s protective barrier is impaired. This can be genetic or acquired. The treatment for this is a barrier-repair moisturizer.

Dr. Leslie Baumann.jpg
Dr. Leslie Baumann

Many moisturizers claim to repair the barrier, but only a few have superior results. My favorite barrier-repair ingredient is myristoyl/palmitoyl oxostearamide/arachamide mea. It is also known as MLE technology, which means “multi-lamellar emulsion” technology. MLE technology is found in the Zerafite brand of products, which is sold only by doctors and online. Another great barrier repair moisturizer that is sold only by prescription is EpiCeram.

Winter is coming, so it is time to strengthen those barriers. Tell your friends who live in cold places that they need to begin moisturizing now. We are lucky here in Miami to have such high humidity, so we have fewer issues with dry winter skin.

What is the skin barrier?

Human skin has a natural protective barrier that prevents water from evaporating off of the skin’s surface while also keeping irritants, allergens and other harmful particles from getting inside. This barrier is a layer of fat (lipids) that bathes the cells of the top layers of the skin. I like to think of it as a protective coating around the cells that functions like Saran wrap by holding moisture in and irritants out.

What lipids make up the skin barrier?

The skin barrier is made of a complex structure of lipids that are like puzzle pieces that come together to repel water and make the skin water resistant. These puzzle pieces of lipids are made of fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol. Just like any puzzle, you need exactly the correct shape and size of pieces – the skin barrier needs a 1:1:1 ratio of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol.

The best fatty acid is stearic acid. You may see it called glyceryl stearate on the product label. Cholesterol and ceramides are usually listed as such on the label, or may be called myristoyl/palmitoyl oxostearamide/arachamide mea, which is a mixture of the best fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides.

Using the wrong lipids on your skin will Injure your skin barrier, leading to rashes and dryness

Your skin barrier will be impaired and unable to properly carry out its functions if you use the wrong lipids. A common example is olive oil. It contains oleic acid as its fatty acid, which actually can put tiny holes in the skin barrier, leading to dehydration. I prefer that you use argan oil or almond oil on your skin instead of olive oil. Creams that contain other ratios of lipids like 2:4:2 do not have the same beneficial effect on the skin as the ones like Zerafite and EpiCeram, which have the 1:1:1 ratio. In fact, many studies have shown that using the wrong ratios will actually impair the skin barrier.

Multi-lamellar emulsion technology and your skin

Multi-lamellar emulsion (MLE) technology refers to the use of a topical formulation that very closely mimics the natural lamellar structure of the lipids in healthy human skin. Studies have shown that MLE formulations can effectively restore the barrier function of your skin. In doing so, symptoms like dry, flaky or itchy skin are improved. It is listed on the label as myristoyl/palmitoyl oxostearamide/arachamide mea. I am writing this article because I get many questions on Facebook about this ingredient because of its crazy name.

What are ceramides?

Barrier repair moisturizers should contain ceramides. Ceramides are expensive and are often animal-derived. You will see them in many moisturizers but they are less effective and even harmful when not paired with cholesterol and fatty acids. Following the mad cow scare, scientists needed to figure out a way to create safer synthetic ceramides in the lab that were not derived from animal products. One result was an ingredient called myristoyl/palmitoyl oxostearamide/arachamide mea.

Will cholesterol in a moisturizer raise my blood cholesterol?

I am often asked this question. Topically applied cholesterol will not enter your bloodstream and raise your cholesterol levels. In fact, if you are on cholesterol-lowering drugs, you need a barrier repair moisturizer. (Yes that is why your arms and legs are dry and itching.) If you experience this problem, ask your doctor for an EpiCeram prescription ($250) or look for Zerafite Ultra Rich Body Cream ($30) online or at your dermatologist’s or plastic surgeon’s office.

In summary

It is so important to understand which topical ingredients and formulations work best for your unique skin type and condition. Those struggling to soothe and hydrate dry, itchy skin, especially as cooler, drier air moves in, can benefit from using a barrier repair moisturizer. Come talk to me on Facebook if you have any questions.

For more information and videos on skin science, follow Baumann Cosmetic on YouTube, or follow @BaumannCosmetic on Instagram or Facebook.