A couple of weeks ago, Rati and I had gone for a meeting and I heard a cute statement from the woman sitting across the table, “IITians running a beauty blog? What is the world coming to?” The lady had a point. I don’t understand this beauty business at all. Nor do I understand the passion women have for all things makeup or skin care. To me, one cream is as good as the other. So there. 🙂
But there IS one place where I can help- in making others understand how things work. I have seen that often women are using products or undergoing skin routines without questioning the reasons behind it. Often, there is no problem with it. But my contention is that women can achieve the best results if they know what they are doing.
For example, how many of you know that the skin that you touch is completely dead? Yep, if not for the nerve endings in the outer layer you’d not even feel that you were touching your skin. The skin consists of three layers- epidermis (outer), dermis (the ‘real’ skin) and the subcutaneous fat layer- and the outer layer of the epidermis is dead. Skin cells are produced at the basal layer of dermis and they are gradually pushed upwards. In about four weeks time, they reach the top layer of the epidermis and by that time, they are completely flat and dead.
What does it mean for you? It means that most skincare creams are not going to affect you at all if they are not able to penetrate the epidermis. And often all you need in your skin care regime is a cleanser (for cleaning up the top layer and unclogging the pores), a moisturizer (if you have a dry skin), and a sunscreen.
Really? Yes. Let me show you the structure of the skin (something you have never bothered to look up and biology classes were too boring in school anyway). The structure will also answer some of the common questions such as
- How to get rid of my acne?
- Which is the best anti-aging cream?
- How to make my skin glow?
- How to reduce pores?
And so on. Well, let’s have a look at the structure first:
Skin makes 12- 15% of body weight. So 6- 8 kg of Jomol (who says she is 57 kg now after shopping), only consists of skin. Each square centimeter of skin contains 100 sweat glands and 15 sebaceous glands. Sweat glands excrete water and electrolytes (waste products and toxins) and help main the thin layer of acid on the skin to protect against bacteria and other harmful organisms. Sebaceous glands are attached to the hair follicles and deposit sebum (waxy substance made of fat, wax, and dead fat-producing cells) on the hairs, bringing it to the skin surface along the hair shaft. Sebum lubricates the skin and hair and provides protection by forming an acid layer when mixed with sweat. When sebaceous gland produce too little sebum, as is common in older people, the skin becomes excessively dry and more prone to wrinkling. Too much of sebum, as is common in teenagers, often leads to acne.
So the pores that you see on your face are basically the glands or the follicles. And you cannot reduce them. 🙂
As I’ve already said, skin is made up of three layers:
The outer thin layer which basically forms the skin that you touch. It is made up of cells called keratinocytes, which are stacked on top of each other. The keratinocytes develop at the bottom and rise to the top, where they are shed from the surface as dead cells. So this layer is constantly renewing itself, the live cells at the bottom changing into dead, hard, flattened cells at the top. The process of shedding dead cells from the top layer speeds up as we age. There are two important things in the epidermis which you need to pay attention to:
The prickle or squamous cell layer- The third layer from the top in the epidermis and called this way because the cells have spines which prevent bacteria entering the cells and moisture being lost. Within this layer are the basal cells that have been pushed upward, however these maturing cells are now called squamous cells, or keratinocytes. The squamous cell layer is the thickest layer of the epidermis, and is involved in the transfer of certain substances in and out of the body. It is made up of tightly packed skin cells which are aquaphilic (allowing only water-soluble molecules) and are ‘cemented’ together by lipids that are lipophilic (allowing only oil and fatty substances to pass through). So it would be highly difficult for any cosmetic susbtance to pass through. So any ingredient which needs to reach inside the skin has to be not only water soluble but also moderately fat soluble.
Melanocyes and Dendritic (Langerhans) cells- Melanocytes produce a dark pigment called melanin which contributes to skin color and provides UV protection. Melanin forms a natural sun block for skin by absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun and converting it into harmless heat in a very fast reaction. So staying in the sun for 5- 10 minutes would not harm our skin. But staying in the sun for longer duration puts stress on the melanocytes and they try to produce more melanin and cover the whole skin with it, and hence the ‘tan’. And you though that a ‘tan’ was a good thing.
But the good news is that melanocytes lie in the epidermis whose cells are dying and getting pushed out. Therefore, if you curtail your exposure to the sun and use bleaching an exfoliation, you can get rid of your extra melanin in 2- 4 weeks as they are pushed out. Simple, isn’t it? 🙂
Langerhans cells are involved in the epidermal immune system. They engulf foreign material that invades the epidermis and migrate out of the skin to stimulate an immune response.
So in essence, any anti-aging cream which can work has to go through the epidermis, fighting all these, and reach the next layer, the dermis. Not only that, at the junction with the epidermis, the surface of the dermis bristles with fibrous, vascular and nervous projections – the dermal papillae. One more barrier to be crossed.
No wonder many creams don’t work. 🙂
Dermis is where the action is. This the layer targeted by all the cosmoceuticals. Dermis makes for 90 percent of the thickness of the skin. The dermis is the layer responsible for the skin’s structural integrity, elasticity and resilience. Wrinkles develop in the dermis. Therefore, an anti-wrinkle treatment has a chance to succeed only if it can reach the dermis. Typical collagen and elastin creams, for example, never reach the dermis because collagen and elastin molecules are too large to penetrate the epidermis. Hence, contrary to what some manufacturers of such creams might claim, these creams have little effect on skin wrinkles.
Dermis contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, nerve endings, collagen and elastin.
Collagen forms the structural network of our skin and is the most abundant protein in the body. It is primarily composed of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. It is one of the strongest proteins in nature and gives skin its strength and durability. As we age, it is believed that collagen begins to deteriorate and causes the skin to become thinner and eventually sag. Elastin is similar to collagen but is a more stretchable protein that maintains the skin’s elasticity. It provides the matrix that holds individual skin cells in place. Glycosoaminoglycans (GAG’s or mucopolysaccharides) and proteoglycans hold water in the skin (these are very similar to mucus proteins) and are the true skin moisturizers. In contrast, cosmetic moisturizers cover the skin with a water impermeable barrier such as petrolatum or a heavy oil. This artificially slows the loss of moisture from the skin and gives the skin a temporary appearance of plumpness and fullness.
Collagen and elastin are often incorporated into cosmetics. This material is derived from either bovine (cattle) or avian (bird) sources. Neither collagen or elastin present in the cosmetics are able to penetrate the skin. Sometimes fragments, or digests, of these molecules are used, but these fragments also cannot penetrate the skin.
3. Subcutaneous layer
The subcutaneous layer below the dermis consists of loose connective tissue and much fat. It acts as a shock absorber and heat insulator, protecting underlying tissues from cold and trauma. The loss of subcutaneous tissue in later years, leads to facial sag and makes wrinkles more visible. To counteract it, a cosmetic procedure where fat is taken from elsewhere in the body and injected into facial areas, is common these days.
Well, there you have it. 🙂 And as for answers to your common questions? Here they are:
I believe I have already said that acne is caused by excess of sebum produced by sebaceous glands. The onset of acne is triggered by the production of hormones called androgens. Androgen production stimulates sebaceous glands and cause them to enlarge. People who develop hormonal acne have over stimulated sebaceous glands. The production of androgen usually goes into full force between the ages of 11 to 14 when most young girl and boys go through puberty. Acne in young women may be influenced by hormonal changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy, stress, endocrine imbalance, and ovarian disease.
Solution: A lot of exercise, sleep and a healthy diet. yep, such a boring advice. But if you really want to control your acne, hitting the gym would regulate your hormones and keep you relaxed. It would also let sweat glands secrete all the toxins and clear clogged pores. No serious outbreak of acne would occur. 🙂
Skin Glow: Suffering from a dull skin?
Solution: Well, you need to question yourself- “which layer would contribute to making my skin glow?” Well, both epidermis and dermis. Epidermis can be taken care of by diet which promotes cell regeneration. Eat diet rich in Vitamin A, C, E, protein, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats. Exercises promote blood circulation to the dermis and promote that healthy, rosy flush. It replenishes the nutrients and oxygen that your skin needs. And a good long sleep gives time to skin to repair and refurbish itself. Once again, exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet. 🙂
Dry Itchy Skin
Harsh cleansers, overcleansing, sudden changes in temperature, etc. can cause dry itchy skin.
Solution: Don’t worry about the inflammation. It is the Langerhans cells working overtime to destroy bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. Just restore moisture to the skin through olive oil, grape seed oil, jojoba oil or Shea butter.
Once Again, you need only a cleanser (to clean away dead cells and unhealthy secretions), a moisturizer (if you have dry skin) and a sunscreen to take care of your skin. 🙂
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