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Why does dry skin happen?
The best way to visualize dry skin, formally known as xerosis cutis, is to think about your skin as not smooth like a wall but more like a cobblestone street. When our skin becomes dry the mortar that holds our skin cells together starts to break down. This leaves the skin with a cracked porcelain like appearance. This process also makes the skin more vulnerable to environmental stresses because the barrier the skin forms is simply not intact.
The most common triggers for dry skin are :
- Cold air: colder temperatures result in less moisture in the air. The moisture in our skin evaporates faster leaving it feeling dry and scaly.
- Age: as we get older our skin starts to thin. This makes it less able to hold onto moisture leaving it more vulnerable to dryness.
- Medications: retinoids, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol lowering medications are the most common. Retinoids such as isotretinoin, tretinoin and retinol can dry the skin by causing it to exfoliate. Blood pressure medications, diuretics in particular, work by pulling fluid out of our body to lower our blood pressure. Inevitably the skin will dry as well. Cholesterol is found in the skin and the blood stream. Many people on cholesterol lowering medications will note dry skin as a result of this loss.
- Sun exposure: The sun can thin the skin further and break down collagen and elastic fibers in the skin that can hold moisture. This results in less of an ability to hold onto moisture. It can also trigger further evaporation of moisture from the skin.
- Exposure to irritating chemicals: most common examples here are sodium laureth sulfate in soaps and cleansers or bleach solutions. These products can directly break down the skin causing it to dry excessively.
- Hot showers and space heaters: hot showers can strip the skin of natural oils and result in excess dryness.
- Hypothyroidism and other hormonal imbalances such as estrogen: a low functioning thyroid is known to cause excessively dry skin
- Genetic disorders: some people lack certain proteins in the skin that are needed to keep the skin intact. Ichthyosis is a disorder that causes the skin to have a fish like scale from excessive dryness.
What is a BB cream—and how does it differ from a foundation, concealer or moisturizer?
BB stands for a few different things. The most common is ‘beauty balm’, however I have seen some refer to BB as blemish balms as well. BB creams are multitasking products that have a moisturizer, foundation and sunblock all in one product. They eliminate the need to use 3 different products as these are all in one. The goal of these products is to minimize the number of products needed in your routine.
There is a learning curve here because most of us are so used to using several products to address different concerns. It’s important to understand that if you are using a BB cream then there is no need for a separate foundation or a separate moisturizer or separate sunscreen. The patients I have that developed clogged pores or acne after using these products was usually because they didn’t realize that there was no need to use other products! By putting on extra foundation in addition to the BB cream, for example, you may be putting too much on your skin! Many people consider BB creams as their base and still add more foundation on top. This really shouldn’t be necessary. If you need added coverage for specific spots or blemishes, however, you may still need a concealer. Although the foundation in a BB cream will provide a nice base, you may find an added concealer may be necessary for specific blemishes.
How should a patient suffering from dry skin choose the best BB cream for his/her skin?
To choose the right BB cream if you deal with dry skin focus on products that have ingredients that really target dry skin in particular. Looking for ceramides, glycerin, squalene, Hyaluronic Acid or hyaluronate, botanical oils and other hydrating ingredients is key. Try to avoid products that have buzz words such as anti aging, ageless or age defying or for acne prone skin. These products sometimes have ingredients designed to minimize the appearance of wrinkles or other ingredients to exfoliate the skin - some of these may be irritating to those with dry skin. Also look for sulfate free products to avoid excess irritation.
Recommendations for BB Creams:
My number one recommended product is Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue (my shade is desert 6.5!). Even though it’s not marketed as a BB cream, it technically is one. It combines sunscreen, moisture and tint in one product. It has nice coverage even if you choose not to use an added concealer. It has a broad range of tints for most consumers. For sunscreen it uses titanium, a mineral based sunscreen. I love this because I prefer to avoid chemical sunscreens.
Bobbi Brown BB Cream : This product has a nice range of tints and provides solid coverage while still feeling lightweight. It’s hydrating and gives a nice dewy youthful look to the skin. It contains a number of hydrating ingredients including squalene, urea, and glycerin. It also contains titanium as one of it’s sunscreen ingredients although it does also contain chemical sunscreens in addition.
Kiehls BB cream: this product is hydrating and also uses titanium as its sunscreen for broad spectrum coverage.