Skin is the body’s largest organ and the one most affected by environmental elements. We see our skin every day and we notice the changes that happen as we age. It is quite possible that our kidneys get more wrinkled as we get older, but we don’t care because we can’t see them. As long as they keep doing what they’re supposed to do, we’re happy. But our skin is different. It is “us” – it’s the visible manifestation of who we are, and the condition of our skin has a profound effect on how we feel. Yet most of us have absolutely no idea what’s going on under the surface. We buy skincare products with no real understanding of what they are doing (if anything!) and how they work.
As a beauty consultant I have learnt so much about the skin and the ageing process. I completely changed my skin care products and routine once I learned how my skin works. I’m going to try explain it with help from the scientists and I hope it makes as much difference to you as it did to me.
What is skin?
Skin is our protective outer layer. It is (mostly) hairy and has multiple functions. It protect us from external elements, allows us to experience sensations through touch, regulates our temperature through sweating and shivering and gets rid of waste elements from the body. Skin is a complex structure and scientists are still making new discoveries about it. Our skin is affected by biological and environmental factors which cause the visible signs of ageing – wrinkles, lines and moisture loss. We can affect the rate of these changes through our behaviour – sun exposure, diet, smoking, etc. – and the products we apply to our skin. We need both protection and prevention to maintain a youthful appearance. Anti-ageing skincare can make a big difference. But to make the right decisions you need to know what’ going on under the surface. Understanding more about how your skin works allows you to make better decisions about how to treat it.
There are three main layers, each having a specific function: (1) Epidermis (2) Dermis (3) Hypodermis or Subcutaneous Layer (Fat Layer).
The skin regeneration process involves cell renewal and cell turnover. New cells are produced at the bottom layer of the epidermis, known as the basal cell layer. As cells age, they migrate to the surface where they are shed. The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. It’s important from a cosmetic standpoint because this layer gives the skin its texture and moisture, and supports skin colour. The uppermost portion of the epidermis is known as the stratum corneum. It is often referred to as the “horny layer” or “dead layer of skin cells” because it is composed of the most mature cells that are ready to be shed. They forms a protective barrier against moisture loss, environmental aggressions, bacteria, and daily “wear and tear.” A healthy skin barrier is needed to maintain healthy looking skin. New cells (keratinocytes) are formed in the basal layer and reach the surface of the skin 26–42 days later. This cell regeneration process is referred to as the cell cycle which helps skin repair itself.
The acid mantle is a thin layer of secretions on the surface of the skin which provide a protective barrier against external contaminants. This provides the pH balance for the skin which is around 5.5 – a slightly acidic environment which it is important to maintain for healthy skin. Many skincare products cause the pH balance to be upset and this can cause acne, blemishes, dryness and many other problems.
The dermis is the dense second layer that gives skin its strength and elasticity. It contains a network of elastic fibres, known as connective tissue, which gives the skin its support, flexibility and strength. Fibroblasts are the primary cell type within the dermis. They produce collagen, elastin, proteins and enzymes. Collagen, one of the skin’s strongest proteins, gives the skin its durability and firmness. Collagen is damaged by UV rays, free radicals, and environmental irritants, and as we age collagen production slows down leading to poor skin texture, wrinkles, and loss of firmness. Finding ways to promote collagen production is one of the main targets of anti-ageing research. Vitamin C aids in the production of healthy collagen. Elastin gives the skin its elasticity, resilience and flexibility. You know how a baby’s skin “bounces back” into shape when poked or pinched – that’s due to the elastin. With age, elastin production slows down. This leads to loss of hydration which, in turn, causes skin to lose its flexibility and tone and ability to bounce back resulting in lines and wrinkles and “saggy” skin.
The hypodermis is also known as the subcutaneous or fat layer. This layer helps insulate the body from heat and cold, provides protective padding, and serves as an energy storage area.
Looking after your skin
Taking care of your skin helps slow signs of ageing and improves overall skin health and appearance. Avoiding excessive sun exposure is the best thing you can do for your skin. Next is to develop a daily skincare regime with products that address the specific needs of your skin. It’s never too late or too early to start a preventive, proactive skincare habit. Using the appropriate anti-ageing skincare products with consistency will provide the skin with the nutrients and moisture to encourage cell regeneration which will give you younger looking, younger feeling skin. The anti-ageing skincare market is constantly growing, with new products offering skincare free of harmful chemicals and toxins that help you achieve these goals. Choose carefully and you will be rewarded every time you look in the mirror.