Corneocytes and Cleansing: What You Need to Know

When we cleanse our skin after a long day, many of us aim to ensure no dirt or grime is left behind, striving for that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling. However, this sensation we often pursue may not be as beneficial as it seems.

In an article titled ‘Cleansing – Why Squeaky Clean is Bad,’ Paul Fister, a B.Bus (Mktg), Dip. Form. Chem., Member ASCC, explains that the tightness often experienced after a ‘squeaky clean’ cleanse is a sign that the skin is struggling, indicating dehydration.

In this article, we will explore why our perceived indicator of skin cleanliness can actually, signal harm to our skin’s natural defences. We will delve into foundational knowledge of corneocytes and their critical role in maintaining skin health, as well as offer solutions to counteract the adverse effects of excessive cleansing.

Corneocytes Explained

Corneocytes, as described in an article titled ‘The skin: An Indispensable Barrier,‘ are the transformed version of keratinocytes, the primary type of cells in the skin’s outer layer. Through a process known as differentiation, keratinocytes become corneocytes, forming the essential building blocks of the skin’s topmost layer, the stratum corneum.

These specialised cells, characterised by their flattened state without a nucleus, are full of keratin filaments. The significance of this transformation lies in another special protein known as filaggrin, which not only binds keratin into tight bundles but also plays a crucial role in the skin’s hydration and overall barrier integrity.

The Cornified Cell Envelope and Lipid Matrix

The article further describes the Cornified Cell Envelope (CE) and the Lipid Matrix, which create an advanced defence system crucial for the skin’s protective barrier. The CE, formed by the cross-linking of proteins such as involucrin, loricrin, and filaggrin, encases corneocytes in a waterproof shield, providing mechanical strength and preventing excessive water loss and microbial threats.

Meanwhile, the lipid matrix, consisting of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids, seals in moisture and blocks harmful substances from the environment, ensuring skin health. Disruption of this lipid balance can lead to skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis, highlighting the importance of maintaining skin barrier integrity.

The Perils of Over-Cleansing

So why is the practice of achieving squeaky clean skin harmful to skin health? Over-cleansing disrupts the skin’s natural balance, stripping it of essential oils and moisture. This aggressive approach depletes the skin’s natural moisturising factors (NMFs) and damages the lipid matrix, leading to increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

Some cleansers are formulated so harshly that they strip sebum from the skin, destroying the skin’s hydro-lipidic barrier and causing tightness and discomfort. These detrimental effects of over-cleansing can result in skin sensitivity, accelerated ageing, and inflammation, emphasising the need for gentler, more protective skincare routines.

Solutions for Over-Cleansed Skin

Key Products and Ingredients for Barrier Repair

The cornerstone of effective barrier repair lies in the careful selection of products enriched with biomimetic ingredients, designed to replenish and fortify the skin’s natural defences.

These products are formulated to closely mimic the skin’s natural biological processes, offering a harmonious approach to skincare that supports and enhances the skin’s inherent protective mechanisms.

For instance these Dr Spiller products:

1. Aloe Sensitive Cleansing Milk

This product goes beyond gentle cleansing, leveraging the soothing and hydrating properties of Aloe Vera. Arginine and Castor Oil further enhance the skin’s barrier function through essential fatty acids and amino acids. 

This soft cleansing milk does not shift the skin’s pH outside the ‘normal’ range. Furthermore, it is gentle on the skin’s microbiome. This synergistic blend not only cleanses but also prepares the skin to better resist environmental stressors.

2. Lipodyn Concentrate Cream

This cream stands out with its incorporation of Jojoba and Grapeseed Oils, mirroring the skin’s natural lipid composition with biomimetic triglycerides and fatty acids.

The addition of Lanolin, Panthenol, and Vitamins provides a multifaceted approach to moisture barrier support, offering anti-inflammatory benefits and facilitating skin repair processes.

3. Argan Oil Deluxe

Harnessing the power of Argan, Baobab, and Sweet Almond Oils, this product is rich in nourishing fatty acids and vitamins to deeply moisturise and protect the skin.

Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant, plays a crucial role in defending the skin against oxidative stress, further bolstering the skin’s barrier integrity.

The Over-Cleansed Skin Cheat Sheet

In navigating the vast array of skincare products, identifying formulations that truly support the skin’s natural barrier function is key. Look for products featuring keywords such as “biomimetic,” “ceramides,” “fatty acids,” and “hyaluronic acid.”

These terms signal the presence of ingredients that are vital for mitigating the drying and damaging effects of over-cleansing, ensuring the selection of products that harmonise with the skin’s natural processes. 

By prioritising biomimetic ingredients, individuals can effectively address the challenges posed by over-cleansed skin, fostering a healthier, more resilient complexion.

Final Thoughts

The journey towards maintaining healthy, hydrated skin involves more than just avoiding harsh cleansing habits; it requires a thoughtful selection of gentle, biomimetic products that complement our skin’s natural mechanisms. Dr. Spiller, distributed by Omniderm, offers a range of skincare solutions formulated to support the skin’s innate balance. 

By understanding the vital roles of corneocytes and the hydro-lipidic barrier, we’re equipped to make informed skincare choices that foster a balanced, resilient complexion.

Embracing this approach not only alleviates the discomfort associated with tight, dehydrated skin but also safeguards against long-term damage, paving the way for our skin’s natural beauty to flourish.

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