All of us love flawless and ageless skin.
It ain’t as easy as it sounds to maintain and nourish our skin – but, it is possible.
First, the basics. As you’d know, the skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the adipose, or fatty, tissue. The epidermis produces new skin cells which rise to the surface and are sloughed off. This process happens all over your body. The dermis, or the middle layer, nourishes the epidermis. Three protein-related substances “envelope” this layer: collagen [responsible for skin firmness], elastin [for bounce and resilience], and glycosaminoglycans [GAGs] that help the skin retain its moisture. The adipose tissue cushions the skin and keeps it from sagging. It also gives shape to your face and helps control body temperature.
Why skin ages
By age 30, genetic tendencies start to surface and make their presence felt. Cellular regeneration starts to slow down and the first lines on the face appear. Fat loss may begin by age 40; this results in pouches and folds on your skin. The first signs are horizontal lines that appear across the forehead.
In women, after menopause, the outer layer of the skin takes longer to renew itself. Collagen and elastin, the fibres that stretch and “hold-in” moisture in the dermis, start to break down. A thinner dermis bruises easily and the result is wrinkles and furrows. In addition to this, the skin becomes extra-transparent and the blood vessels become more prominent.
As moisture is released, instead of being retained in the skin, you begin to age, owing to decreased stickiness of the epidermal cells. The number of epidermal cells decreases by 10 per cent per decade and they divide more slowly as you age – this means the skin is less able to repair itself quickly. When collagen and elastin also decrease, the scaffolding of the skin changes, causing it to wrinkle and sag. Sebaceous glands now get bigger, but produce less sebum; the number of sweat glands also decreases. Both these factors contribute to dryness of skin.
The truth about UV, UB and UC radiation
The sun gives off ultraviolet [UV] radiation that we divide into categories based on the wavelength.
- UVC: 100-290 nm
- UVB: 290-320 nm
- UVA: 320-400 nm
UVC radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere and does not cause skin damage. UVB radiation affects the epidermis and it is the primary agent responsible for sunburn. UVA radiation penetrates deep into the skin and its intensity is more constant than UVB without variations during the day and/or throughout the year. Both UVA and UVB radiation cause wrinkles by breaking down collagen, creating free radicals, and inhibiting the natural repair mechanisms of the skin.
Sunlight accounts for 90 per cent of the symptoms of skin damage. Most skin experts agree that a good-quality sunscreen with SPF [Sun Protection Factor] 15 or higher is the first and best line of defence against the sun, arguably the skin’s worst enemy. Here is a fact-file about its application for best results.
- The most common mistake people make has to do with application. Using inadequate amounts of sunscreen is of no use. Most people only use 25-50 per cent of the recommended amount. Sunscreen has to be applied liberally on all sun-exposed areas of the skin
- It takes 20-30 minutes for sunscreen to be absorbed; so, be sure to apply it half-hour before stepping outdoors
- It should be reapplied after swimming, excessive sweating, or towelling the body dry. Also, re-apply 2-4 hours after you are out in the sun
- Even when out of a swimming pool, or outdoors, apply sunscreen, or when in the shade. Concrete, sand and water, all reflect harmful rays
- Sunscreen should also be the last product applied on facial skin as some sunscreens can break-down in the presence of water used in water-based foundations and moisturisers.
Alpha-hydroxy-acids: Skin rejuvenation
Alpha-hydroxy-acids [AHAs], derived from fruit and milk sugars, are great skin-rejuvenating products. The following are the five major types of AHAs found in skincare products and their sources:
- Glycolic acid: sugarcane
- Lactic acid: milk
- Malic acid: apples and pears
- Citric acid: oranges and lemons
- Tartaric acid: grapes.
- Nourishing the skin with proper diet and exfoliating dead skin cells are a great way to keep your skin youthful
- Drink plenty of water. Water flushes out built-up toxins and pollutants from your body. It also lubricates the different layers of the skin
- A mask of honey along with the contents of a vitamin E [400 mg] capsule can be applied to the face. Allow to stay for 10 minutes; wash off with warm water and pat dry. Or, rub vitamin E directly into wrinkles
- Your skin repairs itself when you sleep. Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night
- Avoid being out in the sun, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun’s rays are intense
- Quit smoking. Smoking robs your skin of precious moisture and causes premature wrinkling
- Never forget your night-time moisturising routine
- Work-out for at least half-an-hour daily. This improves blood supply to the skin’s surface, and gives it a glow
- Omega-3 oils greatly improve skin elasticity. Flaxseeds are an excellent source [Read, “Value Addition:” Seeds of Good Health, CW, June 2007]
- Aloe vera gel is a great healing moisturiser. Use it on your face and body as often as possible
- Anti-oxidant-rich foods, like carrots, are good to eat and apply on your skin. Fruit and vegetable juices are great moisturisers
- Crushed bananas and cucumber make an excellent nourishing and exfoliating mask.