Let me get under your skin

Skin is the body’s largest organ and the one that gets the most attention.

Our skin is “us” – it’s the visible bit that everyone sees. It reflects our emotions, our well-being, our feelings, our health. Blushing, a “deathly pallor”, blue lips, goose-pimples, our skin gives away all our secrets. Including our age!!! Especially our age. Maybe our kidneys age too, but we can’t see the wrinkles on our kidneys, so, unless we need to, who spends time worrying about the state of their internal organs? Our time, energy and money is focused on what we can see.

OK, so skin tells all.  We wish it wouldn’t and many of us spend oodles of dosh trying to hide the superficial signs of ageing. But have you ever wondered what happens below the surface? Knowledge is power. The more you understand what’s going on out of sight, the greater your chance of making the right decisions to keep your skin healthy, youthful and glowing.  So, today we’re going to dive under your skin to find out what’s going on.

Skin is an amazing piece of engineering and the condition of our skin has a profound effect on how we feel. Yet most of us have absolutely no idea how it works. 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. And the results I achieved astounded me, and my friends. 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.

Let’s get a little bit technical. There are three main layers, each having a specific function: (1) Epidermis (2) Dermis (3) Hypodermis or Subcutaneous Layer (Fat Layer).

Pictures tell it best.

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.

Our skin is constantly regenerating. New cells are formed in the basal layer.  As they age, they move up to the surface. By the time they reach the surface they are dying and ready to become dust. (Did you know it’s estimated we shed 30,000-40,000 skin cells per minute, and on average 8.8 pounds of dead skin cells fall off your body per year. OMG! I’d better get dusting!) 

Anyway, this cell turnover can take anywhere between 26 and 42 days. And, yes, us oldies take longer than the lovely fresh-faced kiddies. So our lovely new baby-soft skin cells are hidden way below. Isn’t that a bummer!  

Back to the science. The epidermis is the top layer of the skin, the one you can see. It’s important from a cosmetic standpoint because this layer gives the skin its texture and moisture, and skin colour. The uppermost portion of the epidermis is often referred to as the “horny layer” because it is contains all the dead cells. Strangely, this horny layer is essential for healthy skin.  It protects against moisture loss, sunlight, bacteria, and daily “wear and tear.”

The acid mantle is a thin layer on the surface of the skin which provide a protective barrier against external contaminants.  It sounds a bit yukky – it’s made up of sweat, dead skin cells, and bacteria, but it is essential. It keeps the skin slightly acidic which it is important to maintain for healthy skin. Many skincare products, especially those for oily skin, upset this balance and this can cause acne, blemishes, dryness and many other problems.

You still with me? Ready to dive a bit deeper?

The dermis is the dense second layer that gives skin its strength and elasticity. It is network of elastic fibres, known as connective tissue, which gives the skin its support, flexibility and strength.  Collagen gives the skin its durability and firmness. Collagen is easily damaged by UV rays from sunlight, free radicals from smoking and other environmental irritants. 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. which 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. You might have a little more than you’d like, but at least you know it’s keeping you warm!

Can we beat nature?
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, closely followed by not smoking.

Your skin starts to deteriorate from about the age of twenty-five. And all those late nights and partying probably didn’t help. From this age, collagen production slows down and the entire support structure starts to go a bit potty. Starting a daily skincare regime with products that slow down that process is the first step. (How I wish someone had told me that when I was too young to care!) Once the fine lines and wrinkles start appearing it’s essential to be providing your skin with ingredients that actively help the skin produce the building blocks for strong, stable skin.

A happy beautiful mature woman admiring herself in the mirror

It’s never too late or too early to start a preventive, proactive skincare habit. Using the right skincare products for your particular skin 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 which really does make a difference.  Choose carefully and you will be rewarded every time you look in the mirror.