Water – it’s the elixir of life.
From the minute our primaeval ancestors ventured from ocean to land, prevention of dehydration has been the key to our survival.
Thankfully we have evolved a lot since then, and today, our bodies have formed an exquisite network of physiological controls that help us maintain our body fluid.
However, that’s not the case when it comes to our skin. Healthy, clear skin requires a water content of 15 – 20% to remain supple and intact, which contributes to plumpness, elasticity, and resilience.
Your skin has a protective hydro-lipid film
The overlapping cellular structure of the stratum corneum and lipid content serves as “waterproofing” for your skin; without this, it is susceptible to several conditions:
- a feel of roughness
- itchiness and irritation
- severe redness and inflammation
- cracks that can sometimes bleed
- slight to severe scaling and flaking
- inflamed breakouts, papules and pustules
- fine lines, visible signs of premature ageing
This is a subject we discuss in greater depth in this article.
Skin and water movement
Dehydration is due to a lack of water in your skin; somehow, it has been altered and affected and lost its ability to retain moisture.
We can take dehydration one step further, and focus on structures within the epidermis that are responsible for moisture retention and balance:
- acid mantle
- epidermal Lipids
- sebaceous lipids
- glycosaminoglycans (GAGS)
- natural moisturising factors (NMF)
- transepidermal water loss (TEWL)
To have hydrated skin, all the skins tissues must be able to maintain sufficient water balance for proper functioning, including the ability to adjust within your environment. Therefore, balanced hydration is based on the following:
- relevant ambient humidity in the environment
- the retention powers of the outer layer of skin, the stratum corneum
- the transit time and amount of water, which is transmitted from the dermis to the stratum corneum
To understand dehydration, we need to get under our skin
To fully understand dehydration, we need to do a recap on skin anatomy, so please bear with us for a moment.
Your skin the truly amazing organ it is has several functions – but it is your skin’s ability to create a barrier to water loss, which is one of its most crucial. The stratum corneum is responsible for maintaining appropriate water content. It is a superficial, wafer-thin layer that is an effective water barrier due to three characteristics:
- Cells referred to as corneocytes are surrounded by waterproofing lipids which prevent evaporation of water from the skin. Common lipids are fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol.
- Water-soluble compounds within the corneocytes make up our natural moisturising factor. They absorb water from the environment and the skin’s lower layers, helping to keep it adequately hydrated. Our NMF is comprised of amino acids, including urea, lactic acid, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA) and urocanic acid.
- Desmosomes are tiny protein bridges that hold the corneocytes together; their role is to keep skin hydrated, making water evaporation difficult.
When these mechanisms don’t function correctly, cells can’t shed effectively, adequate water content is impaired, and your skin becomes dehydrated – causing many of the conditions we discussed above. This is why including gentle exfoliation in your home care regime is of importance.
The importance of exfoliation
Let’s take a minute to look at your skins natural exfoliation process, referred to in the beauty industry as desquamation; your cells constantly migrate from the bottom layer of the epidermis to the most superficial layer and finally shed.
The enzymes responsible for this shedding, “desquamation of corneocytes”, are dependent on adequate hydration, if this process gets disrupted, your skin enters a “dry skin cycle” which gives it a rough, scaly appearance, this imbalance of your skin’s water barrier can be characteristic of eczema, scaly dry skin, fine lines, and ageing.
Gentle, regular exfoliation will help to stimulate the cellular renewal process in your skin, boosting the metabolism of your skin, helping you to achieve hydrated skin.
Oily skinned folks can be dehydrated.
Interestingly, the sebaceous oil activity in your skin can still be normal, or even overactive with dehydration.
We often find our clients often get confused with oil production and hydration, so it is important to note that any skin type can become dehydrated.
What ingredients will help to keep my skin hydrated?
To achieve optimal hydration within our skin cells, which all depends on a functioning natural moisture factor, the skin barrier and balanced sebum.
Below are some of the classes of ingredients, responsible for moisture retention and balance:
Humectant products for hydration: These are critical for clear skin and hydration; they work by attracting water from below the epidermis and the atmosphere, drawing it into the stratum corneum. Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, urea, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), lactic acid and sorbitol, are all great examples of humectants. These ingredients can be found in H20 hydrating complex, and if you find that your skin still requires more hydration, you can layer with Quench ultra-hydrating water gel, for a real moisture boost.
Occlusive ingredients for skin protection: These contain wonderful rich phytosterols for skin healing, which have natural water barrier effects. Shea butter, avocado, sunflower oil, cocoa butter, macadamia, jojoba, squalane, evening primrose and baobab oil are all lovely, rich emollients, that will keep your skin soft and supple.
Skin-identical ingredients: These are acid mantle restoring ingredients, such as copper peptides found in skin-strengthening DNA age delay complex, urea, lactic acid, and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), also help to keep moisture balanced in a dehydrated skin type.
Barrier restoring ingredients: Another range of skin-identical ingredients that mimic those found in the stratum corneum are lipids. They are essential building blocks found in your skin’s outermost layer and include ceramides and cholesterol. Formulas that contain intelligent ingredients such as Fortify barrier repair cream and Ceramide barrier repair balm act like a lock and key, keeping moisture locked against the skin, whilst repairing an impaired barrier function, important if your skin is lacking hydration.
Phew, with so much to learn it seems dehydration really is tricky to treat – this is because there are many factors involved when it comes to keeping the correct balance of moisture in your skin.
Dehydration may be a temporary condition within your body, or it may be a deeper issue, involving a lack of free water in the tissues of your skin, which can lead to trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), understanding the underlying cause of the condition is essential if you are to have healthy, clear skin.
This is why we feel it is essential that you begin to get a thorough understanding of your own skin type and skin conditions, by doing so, it will help you to manage or correct any concerns you may have, related to dehydration.
Through the use of correct ingredients, it is possible to replenish missing water reserves; your skin is greatly influenced by the ingredients that support its environment, that help keep it in a hydrated and balanced state.
This is essentially what your skin requires if you want to ward off premature ageing and keep your skin healthy for many years to come