Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

There are many beneficial fats and lipids that are naturally found in the lipid barrier and skin barrier and play a critical role in keeping your skin healthy.

This article will discuss:

    • What is winter dry skin?
    • What is the lipid barrier?
    • What are beneficial fats in the lipid barrier?
    • How to protect your lipid barrier
      • Emollients
      • Carrier oils
      • Linoleic acid
    • Summary 
    • References
Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

What is winter dry skin?

'Winter dry skin' is dry skin that develops during the cold winter season.

Winter dry skin can have a wide spectrum of symptoms - from mild dryness and flaking to severe itching, redness and pain.

Winter dry skin symptoms are painful and frustrating, and often associated with skin conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis. 

Exposure to winter weather can weaken your skin barrier and its protective functions.

Winter dry skin has been reported to involve scaling, defects in water holding and barrier functions, and decreased lipid levels in the skin barrier (Ishikawa et al, 2013).

Learn more: Winter Dry Skin - What is it?

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    What is the lipid barrier?

    The lipid barrier is a part of the skin barrier.

    The surface of your skin is covered by a layer of protective fats, including epidermal lipids and sebum.

    Epidermal lipids include:

    • Ceramides
    • Free Fatty Acids
    • Cholesterol

    Epidermal lipids are released from keratinocytes (skin cells), and are a mixture of ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. These lipids are released from skin cells and fill the spaces between the cells, like mortar or cement (Pappas, 2009).

    Sebum is made of:

    • Triglycerides
    • Wax esters
    • Squalene

    Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands and eventually released to the surface of the skin. Sebum is primarily made up of non-polar lipids as triglycerides, wax esters and squalene. Sebum coats the skin, seals in moisture, and protects your skin from getting too dry (Pappas, 2009). 

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    What are beneficial fats in the lipid barrier?

    There are many beneficial fats and lipids that are naturally found in the lipid barrier and skin barrier and play a critical role in keeping your skin healthy.

    The surface of your skin is covered by a layer of protective fats, including epidermal lipids and sebum.

    Beneficial fats and lipids help to lubricate and coat your skin cells and nourish your skin.

    Beneficial lipids:

    • Strengthen the skin barrier.
    • Improve the appearance of skin.
    • Make skin feel soft and smooth.
    • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
    • Relieve dry skin, flaking and scaling.
    • Reduce redness and inflammation.

    Learn more: Lipid Barrier - Beneficial Fats in The Skin Barrier

     

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    How to protect your lipid barrier

    There are several ingredients that can protect your lipid barrier:

    1. Emollients
    2. Carrier oils
    3. Linoleic acid

    1. Emollients can protect your lipid barrier

    The word emollient derives from the present participle of the Latin verb emollire, which means "to soften or soothe." Emollire, in turn, derives ultimately from mollis, meaning "soft." 

    Skincare ingredients that function as emollients include plant butters, vegetable and fruit oils, animal fats, and esters.

    Products that function as emollients include moisturizers, creams, oils, serums, and balms.

    An emollient is an ingredient in a moisturizer. The job of the emollient is to soften skin.

    Learn more: What are Emollients? Best Emollients for Dry Skin.

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    What are the benefits of emollients?

    The function of emollients in skincare is to soften the skin, help the skin retain its moisture and to support the skin’s barrier function.

    Skin that does not have sufficient lipid content on its surface can appear dull, dry and rough. Emollients "fill in the gaps" in the skin barrier and soften it along with giving it a healthier look

    The role of emollients in the treatment of dry skin conditions is often underestimated. Emollients promote optimal skin health and prevent skin breakdown, and their use can improve quality of life (Moncrieff et al, 2013; Newton et al, 2021).

    Emollients are skin conditioning – the give skin a soft and smooth appearance, restoring suppleness and improving elasticity (Brown et al, 2005).

    Emollients:

    • Make your skin feel soft and smooth.
    • Help reduce flaking and roughness from dry skin.
    • Help assist the skin barrier by filling in gaps between cells.
    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    2. Carrier oils can protect your lipid barrier

    There are many sources of beneficial lipids for skin, including virgin coconut oil, hemp seed oil and apple seed oil.

    Virgin coconut oil is rich in beneficial fats for the lipid barrier

    Virgin Coconut oil is easily absorbed into your skin and has clinically been shown to soften and lubricate dry skin and improve symptoms of eczema (Agero et al, 2004; Verallo-Rowell et al, 2008; Evangelista et al, 2014).

    Virgin coconut oil contains fatty acids including lauric acid (49%), myristic acid (18%), palmitic acid (8%), caprylic acid (8%), capric acid (7%), oleic acid (6%), linoleic acid (2%), and stearic acid (2%).

    These beneficial fatty acids help nourish your skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for plumper looking skin.

    Read more: 5 Benefits of Virgin Coconut Oil for Your Dry Skin

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    Hemp seed oil is rich in beneficial fats for the lipid barrier

    Cold-pressed, unrefined hemp seed oil is packed with essential nutrients, including fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants.

    Hemp seed oil is rich in n-6 linoleic acid (56%), n-9 oleic acid (11%) which soften your skin and strengthen your skin barrier

    Hemp seed oil contains 16% linolenic acid, an essential omega 3 fatty acid that calms redness and irritation. Hemp seed oil also contains 5% γ-linolenic acid, a unique n-6 fatty acid with potent anti-inflammatory activity.

    Learn more: 5 Benefits of Hemp Seed Oil for Dry Skin

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    Apple seed oil is rich in beneficial fats for the lipid barrier

    Apple seed oil is rich in beneficial fatty acids, including n-6 linoleic acid (60%), n-9 oleic acid (30%) and palmitic acid (7%), which can soften and smooth your skin, and strengthen your skin barrier.

    Apple seed oil is rich in various forms of vitamin E and polyphenols and has strong antioxidant activity and can protect your skin against free radical damage. 

    Learn more: 4 Benefits of Apple Seed Oil for Dry Skin

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    3. Linoleic acid can protect your lipid barrier

    Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid found naturally in healthy skin.

    Linoleic acid is an essential nutrient, and your body must get linoleic acid through diet or supplements. Linoleic acid is essential for growth, reproduction, and skin function (Huang et al, 2018).

    Linoleic acid belongs to the family of omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

    Carrier oils rich in linoleic acid can soften, smooth and lubricate the skin.

    Linoleic acid can be applied topically to your skin and has numerous benefits.

    1. Linoleic acid is an emollient and softens your skin
    2. Linoleic acid strengthens the skin barrier
    3. Linoleic acid improves dry skin symptoms

    Learn more: What is Linoleic Acid? Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid for Dry Skin

    Winter Dry Skin - How To Protect Your Lipid Barrier

    Summary

    The surface of your skin is covered by a layer of beneficial fats, including epidermal lipids and sebum.

    These natural fats and lipids help to lubricate and coat your skin cells and nourish your skin.

    To protect your lipid barrier:

    • Use emollients for dry skin
    • Use carrier oils for dry skin
    • Use linoleic acid for dry skin
    To prevent winter dry skin, you must protect your skin barrier, including your lipid barrier.

     

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    References

    Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis. 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16.

    Ananthapadmanabhan KP, Mukherjee S, Chandar P. Stratum corneum fatty acids: their critical role in preserving barrier integrity during cleansing. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Aug;35(4):337-45. 

    Ansari, M.N.; Nicolaides, N.; Fu, H.C. Fatty acid composition of the living layer and stratum corneum lipids of human sole skin epidermis. Lipids 1970, 5, 838–845. 

    Brown A, Butcher M. A guide to emollient therapy. Nurs Stand. 2005 Feb 23-Mar 1;19(24):68, 70, 72 passim. 

    Downing, D.T., Strauss, J.S. and Pochi, P.E. Variability in the chemical composition of human skin surface lipids. J. Invest. Dermatol. 53, 322–327 (1969).

    Evangelista MT, Abad-Casintahan F, Lopez-Villafuerte L. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2014 Jan;53(1):100-8.

    Huang TH, Wang PW, Yang SC, Chou WL, Fang JY. Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil's Fatty Acids on the Skin. 2018 Jul 30;16(8):256.

    Ishikawa J, Yoshida H, Ito S, Naoe A, Fujimura T, Kitahara T, Takema Y, Zerweck C, Grove GL. Dry skin in the winter is related to the ceramide profile in the stratum corneum and can be improved by treatment with a Eucalyptus extract. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013 Mar;12(1):3-11.

    Kang, L.; Ho, P.C.; Chan, S.Y. Interactions between a skin penetration enhancer and the main components of human stratum corneum lipids. J. Therm. Anal. Calorim. 2006, 83, 27–30.

    Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 27;19(1):70.

    Moncrieff G, Cork M, Lawton S, Kokiet S, Daly C, Clark C. Use of emollients in dry-skin conditions: consensus statement. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2013 Apr;38(3):231-8; quiz 238. 

    Newton H. Using emollients to promote safe and effective skin care for patients. Nurs Stand. 2021 Oct 6;36(10):77-82.

    Pappas A. Epidermal surface lipids. Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Mar;1(2):72-6.

    Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15.

    Verdier-Sévrain et al. (2007). Skin hydration: a review on its molecular mechanisms. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 6, 75–82.

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