We hear or read all too often that, as one becomes older, it becomes essential to keep our skin well moisturized.
Common sense tells us that if we lead a healthy lifestyle — practice sun safety, drink enough water, eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, harmonize our mind, body and spirit — we will stay looking youthful and beautiful until the last phases of our life.
However, one must remember that the skin is constantly being bombarded by external elements. It’s possible that certain factors can be controlled, and we can be rewarded with more youthful skin in our later years, but changes are inevitable, and good skincare practices will help us maintain a naturally youthful appearance for a long time.
Every phase of life requires adjustments, and so does our skin.
Moisturizers are cosmetic preparations such as creams or lotions that have the capability to restore moisture to the skin. Emollients are preparations that soften the skin and are particularly helpful in managing advanced forms of dry skin, a condition also known as Xerosis.
First, let’s examine the mechanics of young and mature skin, as well as the process of aging, so we can understand the importance of moisturizing.
Our skin is the largest organ of our body. It is a protective, lipid-producing, water-retaining and immunologically active sheath. This vital organ also plays an important role in the psychological and social profile of a person. Maintaining healthy skin is as important as taking care of any other part of your body.
Younger skin cells have a higher capacity to regenerate, replicate, repair damage, retain water and bind to water molecules. The epidermis, dermis, extracellular dermal matrix and oil glands are highly active during youth, with optimal cellular turnover and collagen and elastin production that, in turn, maintains resilient, smooth, hydrated, wrinkle-free skin. Oil/Sebum production is optimal during the youthful phases of life. This innate ability of the skin to heal itself is most remarkable in youth. When we enter the phase of maturity, alterations take place both in the functional and structural capacity of the skin that translate physically into dry, rough, wrinkled, blotchy, thin and sagging skin.
The pathophysiology of skin aging is complex and gradual. Aging is a combination of intrinsic (genetic/aging) and extrinsic (external) factors. The most striking structural changes that take place in the skin are due to environmental factors, and this is termed extrinsic aging, or dermatoheliosis (changes occurring in the skin due to solar radiation).
Young and mature skin: what are the differences?
Mature skin is less capable of healing itself, maintaining balance, retaining water and producing oil. Permeability of the skin will alter due to a decrease in oil glands and changes in certain integral epidermal proteins and lipids, such as natural moisturizing factors, resulting in reduced elasticity. The water-binding capacity of the skin will be reduced, adding to the dryness and flakiness of mature skin. The lipid balance is disturbed and reduced, leading to dull skin with reduced moisture-retaining capabilities. The main structural component of the skin, the dermis, thins with age. It diminishes in bulk. Collagen and elastin are cemented by the important ground substance, or extracellular matrix (ECM), which is composed of water-attracting and -retaining macromolecules that decrease in quantity with age. Even further, the fiber alignment itself becomes disorganized and haphazard, translating physically into sagging, lax, thin and wrinkled skin. Essential fatty acid and protein synthesis are markedly reduced, adding to dryness and roughness. All these factors combine to give the skin a weathered and dry appearance.
All these changes are backed by histological and clinical evidence and lead us to conclude that younger skin is indeed very different from mature skin.
All these changes are observed mostly in sun-damaged skin and the lifetime cumulative sun exposure the body has endured. Combine this with an arid or dry climate, an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking and pollution — premature aging is the result.
Based on scientific evidence, mature skin needs constant care and upkeep because the natural water balance of the skin has been altered.
Evidence points out that as we grow older, we need to apply high quality moisturizers to our skin frequently, since water-retaining properties, water-binding capabilities, natural moisturizing factors, and lipid production are all reduced, resulting in net water loss.
The end result is water deficiency in mature skin.
A few practical tips to maintain supple skin as we age:
- Take short lukewarm showers. Long, hot, soapy showers will remove the protective layer of oil from your skin and add to dryness.
- Avoid soaps, which wash off your natural skin oil. Instead, use soap substitutes or soap-free cleansers like bath oils, bath lotions, and soap-free bath cleansers.
- Keep a high quality body butter and facial moisturizer at all times. The best time to apply body oils and lotions is right after bathing. An old adage in dermatological practice is that the best moisturizer is the one that is best tolerated by the one using it. Try out a few and decide which works the best for you. This applies to both body and facial moisturization.
- Try to use products with least amounts of additives, colors, perfumes and preservatives since all these can lead to skin irritation.
- Drink plenty of water and eat a clean, fresh, nutty diet.
Stay joyful, stay well hydrated, stay healthy!
Dr. Ansul is our skin care expert with a passion for holistic methods of achieving and maintaining healthy skin. Her more specific interests include Laser Dermatology, non-invasive IPL systems, and her thesis is applauded for its bold new look at the future of non-invasive light based technology. Dr. Ansul’s expertise has allowed her to help individuals and companies alike, and has also garnered ample amounts of critical acclaim in her field. In her articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, Dr. Ansul offers insight on how to achieve and maintain healthy skin. You can learn more about her work by visiting her company’s website, Cuticonscious.