Is doing a Liz Hurley really good for your skin?

Several newspapers are currently reporting that Liz Hurley applies moisturisers up to 10-times each day and are claiming that this habit may be the secret to her young-looking and glowing skin. You may have seen the article in the Daily Mail for example

Is moisturising your skin 6- to 10-times per day really a good idea?

As a cosmetic dermatologist I see ‘victims’ of wrong skincare habits at Eudelo every day, so I am in a unique position to give you a definite answer to that question (and I certainly have a strong opinion about this…).

In a nutshell my answer is “NO!”.

Let me explain…

First of all, I would like to clarify that there is of course a difference between over-moisturising healthy skin and using emollients in genetically dry skin such as eczema and psoriasis. People with a true genetic impairment of their barrier function such as the above, will benefit from repeated application of lipid-rich moisturisers. However, that’s a small minority and not accounting for the current explosion of over-moisturising and using facial oils.

Healthy skin on the other hand does not benefit from over-moisturising and in fact this habit may make our skin look worse as well as making it less healthy on a cellular level. For healthy skin, we should try and strengthen our skin’s barrier function and help the skin to produce more water holding ingredients itself, rather than over-pampering and ‘suffocating’ it with overly rich moisturisers.

One of the reasons why I am against overloading healthy skin with rich moisturisers and facial oils, is that this habit will slow down natural down cell turnover and exfoliation, making the skin dull and lifeless over time (plus clogging up pores, and in many people even causing breakouts!). I see the victims of this trend at Eudelo every single week.

Over-moisturising can really mess up our skin in my experience (unless you have genetic skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis, as mentioned before). My advice is to give your skin some credit and help it to help itself, supporting it to strengthen its barrier function (polyhydroxy acids and retinol have both been shown to be able to do this in studies) and shed of dead skin cells, rather than suffocating it under overly rich creams and facial oils, that do nothing but sticking down and compressing those dead stratum corneum cells and preventing them from naturally shedding off. Hyaluronic acid can also help hydrating without overloading your skin. It holds water in the skin, rather than just forming a greasy film on top of the skin.

The dead horn cells on the skin surface (AKA corneocytes) really want to come off (that’s what healthy exfoliation is!), they are ready, but greasy moisturisers and facial oils (even more so with repeated applications) keep sticking these horn cells back down, preventing them to come of naturally.

This means that the skin surface will initially appear less ‘dry’ and flaky, as you keep sticking down the skin flakes. But in effect, you may actually be making things worse, as the dead skin layer will thicken and thicken, and as soon as the moisturiser has sunken in, the flaky appearance will of course re-appear, as you haven’t allowed the dead skin to come off.

In fact, you are making it worse, as the dead horn cell layer thickens, so people apply even more moisturisers or oils, while what they should do it is encourage the dead skin cell layers to gently shed off, rather than accumulating more and more dead skin on the skin surface, which is what rich moisturisers and oils do.

Suppressing healthy epidermal exfoliation also signals to the deeper epidermal stem cells, that less new cells have to be produced (as the old ones on top are still there!), so you are also stifling epidermal cell renewal, essentially making the skin ‘lazy’, which will lead to dull and life-less appearing skin over time. I have seen it countless times in clinic and with the current facial oils fad, it’s getting more and more common.

I have read quotes that more than 50% of UK women suffer with ‘dry skin’. In my experience that is utter nonsense. Women (but also a huge number of therapists) hugely over-diagnose ‘dry’ and ‘dehydrated’ skin (which sadly leads to an over-use of heavy moisturisers and facial oils, causing all sorts of problems).

There simply is a difference between truly ‘dry skin’ with impaired epidermal barrier function (which only a very small percentage of the population has!) and the appearance of dead skin flakes that simply want to come off.

What feels like “dry” or “dehydrated” skin, may even be something completely different, as a dry, tight feeling can also be a sign of micro-inflammation, as we often see in rosacea skin. In these cases, slathering on rich moisturisers and oils is even more contraindicated, as they will flare-up inflammatory rosacea lesions. The solution is treating the micro-inflammation (which a dermatologist can do with various prescription creams), not ‘numbing’ the sensation with heavy skincare.

Using rich moisturisers and facial oils is generally a really bad idea in breakout prone skin such as in adult acne and rosacea. They will clog up pores and ultimately aggravate breakouts, so should be strictly avoided in individuals with any tendency for breakouts, even if the skin feels dry or dehydrated. In those cases, optimising the skincare regime will help the skin to self-regulate better over time (plus, oral collagen supplements, ideally 10g bovine collagen per day, have been shown to be able to increase skin hydration from this inside – eg Dermacoll. Adding omega-3 rich fish oil supplements may also help).

Remember, a healthy, well-regulated skin will not need much support with hydration. Having said that, if the skin is currently ‘addicted’ to heavy moisturisers and/or oils, it may take 2-3 epidermal cycles (ie 2-3 months) to regulate itself, once you have come of these, during which time your skin may temporarily feel a little drier and possibly look a bit flaky. However, your skin will come out healthier the other side, once it has overcome these initial ‘withdrawal’ symptoms.

I have taken a huge number of patients off their over-moisturising ‘habit’ over the years at Eudelo. When I see them back for review after 3 months or so, they overwhelmingly report “I can’t believe that I am using less moisturisers now, yet my skin feels less dry!”

So, don’t be tempted doing a Liz Hurley. You are not doing your skin any favours with it!