Sheryl Gibbs, the founder of Crazy Cat Lady, coughs up a hairball when non-skincare cats talk exclusively about water-free, oil based serums and balms.
The Crazy Cat Lady may not exactly be—er, crazy, but she sure knows a thing or two about skin. This animal-loving skin care formulator is a licensed esthetician who has been working with skin conditions for over 28 years and counting—including overcoming her own bout with troubled skin as a teenager.
So why cough up a hairball? Because serums and balms address dryness by preventing moisture loss, but they don’t hydrate skin or replenish water loss.
What is T.E.W.L.?
That brings us to T.E.W.L, or trans-epidermal water loss, the measure of skin’s water barrier function. The body is mostly made up of water, and we can not survive without it. As the largest organ, skin will show the tell-tale signs of dehydration quickly, which can accelerate aging.
The key to preventing water from escaping skin is to increase water in the skin by offering humectants, as well as creating a barrier on the skin by using nourishing ingredients that include omega fatty acids and botanical extracts.
Water based ingredients to look for that prevent T.E.W.L. include teas, aloe vera juice, hyaluronic acid, B vitamins, glycerin, alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, peptides, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and hydrosols.
These ingredients offer vital plant-based nutrients and antioxidants when incorporated into a finished product. Many of them are not oil soluble, therefore you will not find them in an anhydrous product (salve, lip balm, beauty balm, etc), hence the need for creams.
Creams with glycerin and hyaluronic acid for example provide humectant properties that attract and bind moisture to the skin, preventing T.E.W.L.
“Creams formulated free of butters and waxes often have a smaller molecular structure and absorb quicker,” she says. “Balms and salves offer tremendous surface protection but will not penetrate dryer skin and are not fast penetrating [the way creams are]—yet they do protect from environment and harsh external conditions.”
A cream like the Crazy Cat Lady Cougar Cream contains water in the form of high antioxidant teas to replenish lost hydration, in addition to oils to combat moisture loss.
Does skin absorb water?
Some people say that skin doesn’t absorb surface water, usually followed by the analogy of sitting in the bathtub and not sponging up all the water. But Sher quickly clarifies that it can.
“That is why it is best not to rub skin dry. Gently pat,” she recommends. “It will absorb what it needs but ONLY if the surface skin cells are not preventing it.” That takes us right to the need of exfoliating regularly. In order to welcome the topical infusion of water-based ingredients, exfoliation is necessary to encourage cell turnover, allowing the treatments to penetrate efficiently.
Sometimes those exfoliating ingredients can be found in toners as in the Purrifying Facial Tonic, one of six feline-friendly facial mists in the Crazy Cat Lady collection. Clearly, this is a strong point of emphasis in the line.
[Check out their names: Menopaws mist, Purrifying facial tonic, Chamomeow face and body tonic, Lavenpurr Amoma-purrathy LAVENPURR mist, and Stop Stressing Meow Calming face mist.]
Sher encourages using toning mists because of the added properties of plant and flower extracts that benefit skin too. She recommends misting at least twice a day and more, particularly during the winter months and for those who have a tendency towards dehydration or who use retinoids or acne medications.
The bottom line she says: Don’t ditch your creams or toners exclusively for balms and oils if you want to maintain balanced skin.
Where to find the items in the photo:
- Crazy Cat Lady Eye of the Tiger Feliner, $18
- Cat & Fish Tea Infuser, $19
- Kate Spade bookshelf pencil pouch case, $30
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