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.
Our bodies have formed a network of physiological controls that help us maintain 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,
All of which contribute to plumpness, elasticity, and resilience.
Your Skin Has a 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 extreme scaling and flaking
- inflamed breakouts, papules and pustules
- fine lines, visible signs of premature ageing
We discuss this subject in greater depth in the article dehydrated skin under the Microscope.
Your Skin and Water Movement
Dehydration is due to a lack of water in your skin; somehow, your skin has been altered and lost its ability to retain moisture.
We can take dehydration one step further and focus on structures within the epidermis (the top layer of skin) 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 your skin tissues must 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
Understanding Dehydrated Skin
To fully understand dehydration, we need to recap skin anatomy, so please bear with us for a moment.
Your skin, the genuinely fantastic organ it is, has many functions, but its ability to create a protective barrier against water loss 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 water evaporation 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 your skin’s lower layers, helping to keep it adequately hydrated. Your NMF comprises 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 routine is essential.
The Importance of Exfoliation
Let’s take a minute to look at your skin’s natural exfoliation process; this is referred to in the beauty industry as desquamation.
Your cells constantly migrate from the bottom layer of the epidermis to the most superficial layer (outer layer) and finally shed.
The enzymes responsible for this shedding, “desquamation of corneocytes”, depend 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, dry, scaly skin, fine lines, and ageing.
Gentle, regular exfoliation will help stimulate the cellular renewal process in your skin, boosting your skin’s metabolism and helping you achieve hydrated skin.
Oily-skinned Folks can be Dehydrated
Interestingly, the sebaceous oil activity in your skin can still be normal or overactive with dehydration.
Our clients often get confused with oil production and hydration, so it is important to note that any skin type can become dehydrated.
Ingredients That Keep Skin Hydrated
Achieving optimal hydration within your skin cells 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 are critical for clear skin and hydration; they attract 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 great examples of humectants.
Occlusive skin protection ingredients 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 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), which also help to keep moisture balanced in a dehydrated skin type.
Barrier-restoring ingredients: Lipids are another range of skin-identical ingredients that mimic those found in the stratum corneum.
They are essential building blocks in your skin’s outer layer, including ceramides and cholesterol.
Formulas containing 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, which is essential if your skin lacks hydration.
To conclude. The naked truth
Phew, with so much to learn, it seems dehydration 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 condition’s underlying cause is essential for healthy, clear skin.
This is why we feel it is essential that you understand your skin type and conditions thoroughly; doing so will help you manage or correct any dehydration-related concerns.
Using the correct ingredients can replenish missing water reserves; your skin is greatly influenced by the ingredients supporting its environment, which help keep it hydrated and balanced.
These ingredients will help to ward off premature ageing and keep your skin healthy for many years.