Without getting too scientific, I thought it’s time to do a post about the human skin, especially after getting a lot of clients lately having one complaint about their skin – dryness. So today I will talk about how dead skin cells (dry skin) are formed and how this can be dealt with.
About the skin
The skin is the largest organ of the body and with all other organs, our bodies are made up of about 70% water. Our skin is there to protect us from elements, but also to feel sensations such as temperature and touch as well as regulate our body temperature. The skin has a great purpose and we need to look well after it.
The skin is made up of three main layers:
- The Epidermis – this is the outermost layer and creates a waterproof barrier
- The Dermis – this is just beneath the epidermis and is made up op hair follicles, connective tissue and sweat glands
- The Hypodermis – also known as the subcutaneous layer, is made up of fat and connective tissue
This layer is responsible for producing new skin cells which happens at the bottom of the epidermis. These skin cells then travels up to the surface of the skin and flake off. This process takes about a month and reach a stage called desquamation, a latin term for “skin peeling”
The epidermis is made up of 5 layers called strata:
- Stratum corneum – also known as the “keratin layer”, most of the skins barrier functions comes from this layer. This is the layer where most skin flakes off.
- Stratum lucidium – is found on the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet. This is known as “thick” skin and has 5 layers of the epidermis instead of 4
- Stratum granulosum – the name comes from the skin cells in this layer which contains granules. A lot of keratin cells are produced in this layer and results in a process called keratinisation. Here the cells become flatter and more brittle.
- Stratum spinosum – is partly responsible for the skin’s flexibility and strength
- Stratum germinativum (also known as Stratum basale) – there is a lot of information about this layer, but I will keep it short. This layer is the most important layer of the epidermis and is the closest to blood supply. This layer is where new skin cells germinate – the only cells in the epidermis that can divide via the process of mitosis. For more information on mitosis, follow this link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitosis
Now, with all the basic biological facts out of the way, what can we do about the dry skin when it reaches the “skin peeling” stage? The severity of dry skin depends on each individual. It can also look different on every person, for instance some with severly dry skin will see dry patches and a white flakes, where others will not see many dry flakes, but when skin is gently pinched between two fingers, fine lines will form. Of course, a general tight and uncomfortable feel is a tell tale sign of dryness.
So what can be done to reduce dryness and flakiness of skin?
- Exfoliate – Many clients I see often have complaints about dry, flaky skin and that the moisturisers they are using, wether it is for face or body, makes no difference. When asking them if they exfoliate their skin, the majority of them would say no. It made me realise that a lot of people actually don’t know just how important it is to exfoliate regularly to reduce or banish skin dryness and discomfort. Without removing these dead, dry skin cells, creams and oils will not absorb as well as they should. Exfoliation should be done at least once a week.
- Hydrate – body oil and a body butter rich in Vitamin E is essential for renewing skin
- Do not bath or shower in overly hot water and dry skin thoroughly after washing
- Use a pH balanced body wash that will not strip the skins natural oils
- Use water softening salts such as bath salts (Radox does good ones) or dead sea salt
- Do not wear too tight clothing. Tight clothes creates friction on skin but also absorbs the skins natural oils, so especially wearing tights and leggings causes the skin to feel dry
- Do not spend too much time in the swimming pool – swimming pools contains chlorine which is the skin’s worst enemy. Even after washing in the shower, I can still smell it on my clients when they come in for treatments, so this says a lot about how much this nasty chemical sinks into the skin.
Suitable hydrating ingredients for skin dryness
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3 and 6
- Shea butter
- Coconut oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Cocao butter
Suitable exfoliation methods and ingredients
- Exfoliating mitts
- Sugar scrub
- Salt scrub
- Apricot Kernel
- Jojoba beads
It is also important to eat fruit and vegetables daily and drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluids. There are however drinks such as caffeinated drinks that also contribute to skin dryness as this is a diuretic, so my advice is to have a glass of water after every coffee or tea you have, although ideally it’s best to eliminate these drinks if you suffer with dry skin. Alcohol also acts as I diuretic and can equally have the same diuretic effect.
Looking after your skin needn’t be a chore and if implementing just the basic things everyday, your skin will look and feel radiantly glowing.
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