What Is TEWL? The Causes of Transepidermal Water Loss and How To Reduce It

What Is TEWL? The Causes of Transepidermal Water Loss and How To Reduce It featured image
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Every year when the seasons shift and the air conditioning pops on (or heat in the winter), my skin suffers. I get that parched feeling, like all the life has been zapped out of my skin. It looks dull, too—no glow in sight. That’s called transepidermal water loss, aka TEWL, which can increase in different climates and as a result of other factors. Below, we dive into what it is, how to reduce it and products to try, with help from leading dermatologists.

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What Is Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL)?

“Transepidermal water loss is simply when water from the deeper dermis layer of your skin passes through the epidermis and evaporates into thin air,” explains Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “No one really wants that unless you are sweating normally, in which case it is maintaining body heat. When it happens without exertion, it can lead to dry skin and even promote skin conditions.” Coral Gables, FL dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD adds that TEWL is a primary indicator of skin barrier function and health.

Though transepidermal water loss is a natural process that helps to regulate your own water content in the body and skin, Dr. Schlessinger says it can occur at higher rates for some individuals. This is when it can create an issue for your skin, and how it looks and feels.

What Are Signs of TEWL?

“Signs of transepidermal water loss include dry, tight or flaky skin,” says Dr. Chacon. “You might also experience redness, sensitivity, and increased incidence of skin irritation and inflammation.”

What Causes Transepidermal Water Loss?

“If your skin is experiencing a high rate of transepidermal water loss, it could be a sign your skin barrier is damaged,” Dr. Schlessinger explains. “There are a number of factors that determine someone’s rate of transepidermal water loss. However, individuals with dry, mature skin tend to have higher TEWL levels than those with oily skin. Furthermore, people in drier climates tend to experience more transepidermal water loss than those in humid environments.”

Dr. Chacon adds that skin conditions with a compromised skin barrier, like eczema or psoriasis, can increase TEWL. “Other aggressors are frequent bathing or showering and harsh soaps and detergents,” she says. “The natural aging process is a factor as well, as it naturally reduces the skin’s ability to retain moisture.”

How to Reduce Transepidermal Water Loss in Your Skin

To prevent or reduce TEWL, it’s crucial to maintain a healthy skin barrier. “This can be achieved by avoiding harsh soaps and detergents and limiting bathing or showering time,” says Dr. Chacon. “Also try to use warm rather than hot water, and apply a moisturizer immediately after bathing to lock moisture into your skin.” If you’re in a dry environment, Dr. Schlessinger says having a humidifier in your living spaces can help. “Ensure that you drink enough water to stay hydrated, too.”

Some of the more hydrating and moisturizing in-office skin treatments can help as well. “The DiamondGlow facial treatment effectively addresses TEWL when paired with SkinMedica HA5 Hyaluronic Acid Pro-Infusion Serum,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “During the treatment, skin is infused with five types of hyaluronic acid, which helps replenish lost moisture.” The hyaluronic acid filler injection SKINVIVE by Juvéderm is another option. “It addresses TEWL by restoring the dewy glow associated with healthy skin, which may be diminished from excessive moisture loss,” Dr. Schlessinger adds. “It also improves other visible signs of TEWL, like fine lines and wrinkles, by plumping the skin.”

Dr. Chacon says that noninvasive treatments like microdermabrasion and light chemical peels can also be beneficial in some cases. “However, the most effective treatment will depend on the individual’s skin type and condition, so it’s always best to consult with a dermatologist.”

Skin-Care Products to Help With TEWL

“Skin-care products that promote a healthy skin barrier go a long way for preventing excessive transepidermal water loss,” says Dr. Schlessinger.

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CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($17)

“I recommend products like this one with ingredients that can replenish the skin’s natural moisture barrier, such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid and glycerin,” Dr. Chacon says.

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CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
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LovelySkin LUXE Lipid Drops ($65)

“These are great for providing a quick boost of moisture, as they are clinically proven to increase skin’s moisture levels by 28 percent in six hours,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “It also helps restore a compromised moisture barrier with glycolipids and phospholipids.”

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La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+M ($20)

“This body lotion is also an excellent choice for someone experiencing transepidermal water loss,” says Dr. Chacon. Infused with prebiotic thermal water, glycerin and shea butter, this body lotion soothes dry skin, preserves its barrier and rebalances an out-of-whack skin microbiome.



La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP
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Skinfix Barrier+ Ceramide + Ectoin Gentle Gel Cleanser ($30)

“It’s important to use a cleanser that doesn’t further irritate or dry out the skin,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Look for one that also helps repair the skin barrier, thereby decreasing TEWL.” This formula is gentle, but effective enough to remove makeup and SPF, and it won’t disrupt the skin barrier.

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Skinfix Barrier+ Ceramide Gel Cleanser
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Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Cream ($28)

Another recommendation from Dr. Chacon for someone with signs of TEWL, this popular moisturizer is also fragrance-free. It’s loaded with hyaluronic acid, clinically proven to provide hydration for 72 hours, and also a favorite for those with acne-prone skin.



Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Cream

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