It really is not skin deep. Healthy skin, a manifestation of one’s beauty and wellbeing, is an asset which everyone wants. How our skin looks on the outside is a direct reflection on how healthy it is on the inside.
In the course of a regular day, our skin is exposed to multiple environments or microclimates (The climate of a small, specific place within a city, as contrasted with the climate of the entire city). Be it hot afternoons, evening showers, kitchen heat or the air-conditioning, each of these environments damage the skin from within. These fluctuations in humidity and temperature along with environmental stresses such as UV radiation and pollution play havoc with the skin.
The damage caused by such environmental variations is externally visible in the form of dull and tired looking skin or internally manifested in the breakdown of essential proteins like collagen, due to harmful free radicals.
Skin’s own mechanism of moisturisation operates through natural moisturising factors (NMFs). Extreme fluctuations in humidity, as well as UV rays have been shown to affect the production of NMFs, resulting in loss of skin moisture and essential nutrients. It starts to crack and peel, becomes irritated and show signs of inflammation like redness and rashes.
A normal skin with regular moisture levels sloughs-off dead cells naturally from the superficial layers to renew skin on a periodic basis. But, on the other hand, in dry damaged skin, lack of adequate moisture leads to disturbed peeling of cells. The superficial layers remain attached on the surface of the skin as scales or clumps of cells; these are seen as white flakes. Such skin damage requires proper care and nourishment of one’s skin—cell by cell.
The skin is protected by a primary protective barrier against external damage and moisture loss. This protective barrier is continuously renewed by division of the cells in the lowermost layer and shedding of cells from the topmost layer, thus repairing the damage. Under normal conditions, this process is highly regulated. But both an excessively fast and excessively slower than normal renewal results in an imperfect barrier. Skin moisturisation is an important factor to regulate the rate of skin barrier renewal and repair.
It’s never too late to start a protection regimen, no matter how far your skin is damaged. Creating a comprehensive daily regimen is quintessential, regardless of the amount of damage caused. When we talk about skincare, there are three simple steps one must follow for renewal of damaged skin cells: cleansing, toning and moisturising. Ensure that your moisturiser has sun protection or use a separate sunscreen. Cleansing is cleaning the dirt, sweat and the germs off the skin. Toning is a good second step that helps to clean the pores by removing oil.
The skin, like everything else in life, evolves through the four distinct seasons. A typical Indian skin experiences extreme climatic conditions (hot, cold & humidity) throughout the year which can cause skin damage due to loss of skin moisture and essential nutrients. Hot and humid conditions call for deep pore cleansing. As cooler months set in, your skin goes through a transition. The hydrated and healthy skin of summer turns into chapped and dry skin and therefore requires greater moisturisation.
Before adopting any regimen or using a product on your skin, it is indeed important to understand what constitutes the skin layers and where exactly the cell damage happens. Our skin is made up of a number of layers—it has got an upper epidermal layer; the middle layer or the dermis, and then the hypodermis that is full of fat tissues. The epidermal layer of our skin comprises cells which are subject to regular wear and tear. As we grow past the teens, our skin’s ability to retain moisture and renew itself diminishes. Externally, the skin starts to appear dull and lifeless. Internally, the skin cell barrier gets damaged, leading to the breakdown of essential proteins like collagen and to the loss of moisture and suppleness. The lower layer of skin that has collagen and elastin gets damaged due to over exposure to UV rays.
Apart from using advanced damage repair and cell renewal products for skincare and nourishment, it is highly recommended to maintain a balanced diet that includes healthy food choices. Include fresh and raw vegetables, fruits and nuts in moderation to ensure a nutritious diet. Foods rich in Vitamin E in particular help maintain ideal skin health and also contribute in repairing the damage caused to skin. Fortifying skin with vitamin and moisturisers enhance our skin hydration and help restore the impaired skin-barrier. Vitamin E is beneficial for skin because of its antioxidant activity.
(The author is chief scientist, Personal Care Products Business, ITC Limited. Vivel Skin Science, backed by five years of intensive research introduces a carefully crafted skin care solution that helps renew skin cell by cell.)