Dehydration is one of the biggest concerns we find many of our clients raise regardless of our skin type.
By Jess Westwood, Skin Therapist at Ultimate Skin & Body Clinic
Put simply, it’s when our skin is lacking water. It generally paves the way for a lot of other skin concerns due to a knock on effect such as fine lines and wrinkles, dull skin, skin sensitivity and even acne. Ensuring our skin remains hydrated will create the stepping-stones for nice healthy skin. Dehydration can present itself in many ways such as dry flakey skin, sensitivity, roughness, lack of luster and even ineffectiveness of our products but we will go into more detail below.
A lot of us may think that we drink so much water, how possibly could our skin be dehydrated? Well in actual fact only about 13% of the water we drink has an effect on our skin because generally the water we drink will feed a lot of other components in our body first such as our major organs, our brain and our kidneys before it does anything for our skin, the other 87% of the water for our skin comes from our acid mantle.
Our acid mantle is a layer in our skin that just sits under the surface and it is made up of a layer of oil and then underneath that is a layer of water forming a lipid bi-layer. This is our skins barrier and our main protective function. Its responsible for our skins hydration, firmness, softness and also our skins PH levels.
When our acid mantle is nice and strong, all of the water that is underneath the oil is locked in for the deeper layers. A good way to think of how our acid mantle works is to imagine we have 2 glasses of water, we leave one glass outside on a hot day and the water will just evaporate. In the other glass we put a layer of oil on top of it and the water will not go anywhere because the oil is trapping that water. Dehydrated skin has a damaged or compromised acid mantle, meaning there’s parts where there’s no oil protecting it allowing for evaporation of water in the deeper layers of our skin. This is called ‘Trans-epidermal Water Loss’.
The Acid mantle also allows for absorption of products. Anything we put onto the skin has to make its way through the first layer of skin and then through its acid mantle. When our acid mantle is weak anything we put onto the surface such as our actives products (Vitamin C, Vitamin A/Retinol) will get into the deeper layers much too quickly that’s why a lot of the time we experience reactions to new ingredients or a burning sensation because the skin hasn’t had time to get used to the product. When the acid mantle is strong the ingredients have to filter through the layer of oil first which will make a slower absorption and less likely for an inflammatory response. This is how the chain reaction of dehydration works when it comes to sensitised skins
Our skin naturally sheds itself every 28 days however, when our skin is dehydrated the cells are dry and hardened and become stuck together, so rather than shedding off nicely they remain on the surface causing that rough scaly feeling. Because they’re not naturally exfoliating themselves they can block off our hair follicles causing an obstruction to the nice free flow of oil that our sebaceous (oil) glands are producing this can lead to breakouts as well as blackheads.
Our skin also uses the water within it to communicate between cells. When the surface of the skin is feeling dry there will be a message sent to our sebaceous gland through the water in our cells to tell it to produce more oil to lubricate the surface and vice versa, when the skin is feeling too oily on the surface a message will be sent through the cells to slow down the production of oil. This is why its still so important for us to moisturize correctly, even if we do have oily skin to make sure we have enough of a balance within our skin to remain healthy, hydrated and so all the messages can be delivered.
When our skin is dehydrated there has been a barrier of dead skin cells created on the surface. This surface of dead skin will soak up most of our products we put on it because they are so thirsty. If most of those ingredients are being absorbed by dead skin cells that aren’t serving any purpose to our healthy skin then they are not going to penetrate into the layers that actually need them and can utilize them. This is why the results from our products are sometime ineffective and we think there not working. Because there not, the surface is using them all up and there not sinking into the cells that can actually create the change within the skin.
As mentioned above the acid mantle is made up of oil and water. The oil in the bi-layer is what holds down the water and if there is a problem with the acid mantle there will be a problem with our skins hydration. The acid mantle gets its oil from essential fatty acids in the cell membranes in the deeper layers of the skin, as our cells begin to turn over and come to the surface they break down and the cell membrane will feed the acid mantle its oil. When this process isn’t happening correctly it is usually an internal cause its not just our skin cells that are not receiving those essential fatty acids but the cells in our whole body. External causes also break down the acid mantle and this is done by what we put on our skin in terms of our skincare, alcohols and detergents will over strip the skin causing too much oil to be removed damaging the acid mantle.
Make sure we are consuming enough healthy lipids so our cell membranes have the essential fatty acids to make healthy cells. E.g. nuts, avocados, olives, omega-3, omega-6 supplements (fish oils).
In summary, it is important to remember that no matter how much water and hydrating ingredients we put on the surface, if our acid mantle is not strong and cannot support and lock in our oil and water than everything we put on the surface will just evaporate. It is important to really fix the skin from the inside out in order to really make a change.
Subscribe to receive an exclusive welcome offer