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Understanding how transepidermal water loss impacts the skin can help us cultivate skin hydration from the start through our skin rituals. With so much popularity around facial oils for skin health, and with good reason as they are nourishing, nutritive, and moisturizing for the skin, we also want to understand hydration with just as much importance for a healthy complexion. Hydration and moisture are two separate and complementary components for healthy skincare. With that being said, let’s dive into skin hydration and transepidermal water loss below.

What is Transepidermal Water Loss?

Picture this: your skin is like a protective fortress, shielding your body from the outside world. But sometimes, the defense becomes compromised, leading to transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This means that water escapes from your skin, leading to dryness and that unpleasant tight feeling. The skin’s natural barrier functions, including the delicate stratum corneum, play a key role in preventing this moisture loss. Luckily, we can support our skin by replenishing it with natural lipids and using humectants, occlusives, and emollients. One standout ingredient is hyaluronic acid, known for its ability to attract and hold onto water, keeping your skin plump and hydrated.

What Causes Transepidermal Water Loss?

As I’ve mentioned, TEWL is the amount of water that passively evaporates from the layer of skin, the dermis, to the epidermis. This can happen for a few different reasons. Including environmental factors such as cold and dry environments, harsh products (squeaky clean cleansers, drying toners, over-exfoliation), and using too much water on the skin without following with humectant and occlusive products. When water evaporates from the skin, it can pull hydration with it.

A familiar way to explain this is licking the lips when they feel dry. Then what happens is, that they feel more dry since once the “lick” evaporates. It ends up stripping water content from the skin with it during the evaporation process. Anytime we expose the skin to water through cleansing or even just splashing water on the skin, TEWL may occur.

Hydration and Moisturization is a Multi-Step Process

A concern I would hear from clients is that they are using a rich balm or oil, yet their skin still feels dry. This can occur in some instances because the skin must first be hydrated (water components to receive moisture (oil and fat components). If the skin is dehydrated, moisturizing products may have a challenging time penetrating the skin due to the stiffness and stagnation that occurs with dehydration. I like to compare this to applying soap to a sponge. Apply soap to a dry sponge, it sits on top. Apply soap to a damp sponge, it penetrates through.

If you experience chronic feelings of dehydration, tightness, and dryness, especially if you are using rich oils and balms, keep reading! Here are my top 3 tips on how to decrease the rate of water and increase skin hydration for a supple and glowing complexion.

How Can Transepidermal Water Loss Be Prevented

Use Less Water

The first way we can prevent TEWL without adding additional products is to use less water to cleanse the skin. You can even aim for oil cleansing with no water, this can be ideal for AM routines as long as you go to bed with clean skin. Apply oil cleanser directly to dry skin, cleanse, and follow with the removal of oil with a soft, dry cloth. For PM routines, you can apply oil to dry skin to cleanse. And then remove with a damp cloth if needed to remove make-up and spf. If you are new to oil cleansing or need a refresh on the process, check out my oil cleansing tutorial.

In both instances, apply oil to dry skin and do not splash the face with water first. Overall, the less water applied to the skin, the less chance of dehydration through transepidermal water loss. Especially if you are dealing with extremely dry/dehydrated or sensitized skin or a dry or cold climate, definitely opt for less water use on the skin during the cleansing process.

Products to Avoid for Transepidermal Water Loss

The second way to avoid transepidermal water loss and increase skin hydration levels is to avoid harsh cleansers, over-exfoliation, or drying/astringent ingredients. Avoiding these types of products and habits is ideal for so many aspects of skin health, a healthy and hydrated skin barrier and they can be the number one culprit of dry, dehydrated skin.

Products to Increase Skin Hydration

Ideally, cleanse the skin however applies to your needs and immediately follow with a water-based and properly formulated occlusive toner. Then layer on a water-based serum if applicable and finish with your facial oil, balm, or moisturizer application to seal everything in.

Stay hydrated by fighting off TEWL with these three steps!

Understanding transepidermal water loss (TEWL) allows us to tap into the realm of self-care and empower our skin’s natural abilities. Our skin’s barrier functions play a vital role in maintaining moisture and protecting us from the outside world. By keeping our body temperature in check and nourishing our skin with the right ingredients, we can cultivate a healthy and balanced complexion.

Say goodbye to that uncomfortable skin feeling and embrace hydration and nourishment in your beauty routine. Remember, it’s not about conforming to beauty trends but about finding what feels right for you. So let your skin lead the way, and together, let’s break free from the modern-day matrix and embark on a journey of authentic beauty and wellbeing.

If you are ready to go deeper into your skin practices and embody holistic beauty through a mind, body, and skin approach for the ultimate transformation, be sure to join me inside The Beauty Collective. I can’t wait to see you there!


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