Think of your skin as your body armor. It protects you from environmental exposures as well as helps regulate heat and cold – it acts as a barrier. In conditions such as dry skin, eczema, dermatitis and rosacea, just small changes in how this “barrier” function of skin works can result in significant flares of these conditions.

In rosacea, it is very important to maintain the barrier function of facial skin. Dry conditions in the winter, wind, physicial activities and over scrubbing of the skin can cause small cracks in the surface of the skin. When this happens, the barrier function of the skin is disrupted and the cracks can turn into very dry skin as the skin is no longer able to keep itself properly hydrated. These small cracks also can trigger blood vessel, immune and nerve responses that result in a rosacea flare – redness, flusing, burning, bumps, and swelling.

Daily moisture with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer can be essential to maintaining control of rosacea. New moisturizers feature ingredients that replenish elements in the upper layer of skin that help your skin function as a barrier – they improve your skin’s protection and armor function. These ingredients include ceramides and natural, physiologic lipids – examples include Cerave, Priori Barrier Cream and Charlotte Skin & Laser’s own barrier repair cream.

Physical exercise outdoors when it is windy and cold can really strip the skin of its natural moisture and trigger a flare of rosacea or dermatitis. Running, bike riding, and horse-back riding are examples of activities (especially when done for long periods of time) that expose skin to extremely drying and irritating conditions. For these activities, I recommend application of a thick occlusive moisturizer prior to outdoor activities to protect the skin – like a protective mask. Elta moisturizer, Skin Ceuticals Hydrabalm, Theraplex emollient and even plain Vaseline or aquaphor are great protective, occlusive moisturizers. These occlusive moisturizers are also very hydrating and soothing and calm and heal extremely dry, cracked skin.

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