Understanding Your Skin: What it Takes to Keep it Healthy
By Diann Poole on 08/31/2020
Your skin is amazing. In addition to being a paragon of beauty, it’s the largest organ in your body. It’s an adaptable living organ and its primary function is to act as a protective barrier. Your skin provides protection from impacts and pressure, variations in temperature, micro-organisms, radiation and chemicals that can adjust in an instant. It is also highly sensitive to heat, vibration, movement and pressure.
Let’s take a look at how your skin functions from the inside out.
Your skin has a series of vital functions:
- Preventing water loss (transdermal water loss)
- Protecting against harmful ultraviolet radiation
- Cushioning against bumps and shocks
- Keeping out microorganisms like bacteria, particles and chemicals
- Producing Vitamin D
The structure of your skin: three main layers
Photo courtesy of Natural Skincare School
The epidermis (top layer)
This is the skin that you can see. The epidermis has several layers and each layer is made up of different types of cells and each cell is programmed for specific functions.
The epidermis is continuously being regenerated. The lower layers cells are called keratinocytes that move upwards to the top layer, stratum corneum. These cells get tougher and become dead skin cells, which constantly flake off and get replaced by layers of new cells. If the tough, dead skin cells do not flake off naturally, your skin will feel rough and look dull so this is when you’ll need to exfoliate.
The dermis (middle layer)
This is the tough middle layer, and it’s much thicker than the epidermis. This layer is held together by a protein called collagen that gives skin its strength and flexibility and provides protection to the body from strain and stress. To keep healthy levels of collagen, keeping your skin hydrated.
The subcutaneous layer (bottom layer)
This is the bottom layer and is made up of fat and connective tissues. It helps to insulate the body from the cold and provides a cushion to protect your muscles and organs. The fat in this layer has a direct effect on your complexion and how your skin looks and feels as well as an important source of energy.
The role of your skin’s outer barrier
One of the most important functions of your skin’s epidermis is to act as a barrier that protects you from the outside world (called the skin barrier function).
Think of this outer layer as the skin’s bricks and mortar. The bricks would be protein from skin cells (corneocytes). The mortar (intercellular matrix) is mostly oil soluble molecules called lipids (oils). This layer of lipids forms a protective shield (lipid barrier) that’s vitally important to the healthy function of your skin.
The lipid barrier prevents water loss that helps to keep your skin hydrated. It keeps natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) from leaching out of the skin. It also keeps things out, preventing the entry of undesirable environmental chemicals and bacteria. The lipid barrier helps your skin look moist and dewy.
The acid mantle
Your acid mantle is a very fine, vital film on the stratum corneum (top layer of epidermis). It’s an extra layer of protection that also acts as a barrier between skin and the outside world. It’s formed by a combination of sweat and sebum (the oil your skin naturally produces).
This protective layer is slightly acidic, with a pH range of 4.5 to 6.5, depending on your skin’s chemistry and the type of products you’ve been using (more on this later).
The acid mantle helps to keep skin soft, supple, smooth and strong; helps to prevent transdermal water loss (TWL) and helps protect against pollutants and UV rays. It provides resistance to infection, because the acidity prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, which thrive in alkaline environments. It also boosts the immune system by producing antigens close to the surface of the skin so they can kill the ‘bad’ bacteria.
What happens when the skin barrier functions aren’t working
Put simply, your ability to maintain glowing, well-nourished and healthy skin is compromised.
If your skin is dry, flaky, cracked, bleeding, or has a rough or scaly texture, it’s a sign of a damaged skin barrier. If the acid mantle is disrupted, it can result in burning or itching skin, or conditions like eczema and can also affect TWL levels.
The effectiveness of the skin barrier can be influenced by many different factors, including:
- Ultraviolet light – prolonged exposure to sun or tanning beds can weaken the skin’s natural defense system
- Chemicals – detergents, solvents and perfumes can change the skin’s pH balance leaving it dry and sensitive
- Cleansing – too much washing can result in a loss of the skin’s NMF
- Aging – the skin can lose some of its protective function as it matures leading to premature aging
- High humidity and temperatures can cause excessive dryness or oiliness
This is where we can make a difference in the skincare products and cosmetics we use.
How natural skincare products can help protect your skin
Choosing the right products ensure that your skin’s essential protective functions are maintained, keeping your skin looking and feeling good.
Effective skincare products play a vital role in supporting your skin’s barrier function, promoting healthy skin cell growth, alleviating irritation and inflammation and encouraging healthy, glowing, soft, supple and well-nourished skin.
One of the most important things you can do for your skin is to keep it hydrated and moisturized. This maintains the suppleness or elasticity of your skin, which protects it from damage.
‘Truly natural’ skincare products contain ingredients that literally feed the skin! Not only do they help to replenish the lipid barrier, restore the acid mantle and maintain a proper functioning barrier repair system, they also provide vital nutrients that promote healthy skin cell growth, encourage blood circulation and combat irritation or inflammation.
Hydrating vs moisturizing?
Hydrating is when we actually increase the water content of the skin. Whereas, moisturizing is when we create a barrier on the skin to retain the water content and prevent TWL. Ideally, for your skin to look its best, you want to both hydrate and moisturize.
How can you keep your skin hydrated?
Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and only use gentle cleansers and moisturizers that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils.
You can help your skin stay hydrated by using natural ingredient skincare products that contain water. These are called hydrous products, e.g. facewashes, creams, lotions, milks, toners and spritzers.
Using a moisturizer that contain ingredients that draw water in from the atmosphere (humectants), as well as ingredients that prevent water from being lost (occlusives) through the layers of skin, can help to keep the skin moisturized and hydrated.
When selecting skincare products best suited to your skin, you need to think about what your skin requirements. For example, if you have dry skin it is probably better to use creams and lotions than balms and butters, because your skin needs the water from those skincare products to help keep it hydrated.
How do you keep your skin moisturized?
Along with the water you drink, which will help to maintain good hydration, selecting skincare products with the right type of ingredients will also help to ‘moisturize’ the skin.
So, you’ll need to select skin products with ingredients that when blended together have these three qualities:
Emollients lubricate your skin’s surface and gives it a soft and smooth appearance and feel. This quality tends to come mostly from carrier oils and butters.
Humectants are water soluble ingredients that increase the water content of the top layers of your skin by drawing moisture from the surrounding air or up from the dermis. Glycerin is an example of a good humectant.
Occlusives are usually oil-based ingredients that coat the surface of your skin to form a barrier that prevents TWL. Butters (e.g. shea butter), waxes (e.g. beeswax or jojoba oil) and some carrier oils (e.g. avocado oil) are examples of good occlusives.
A good moisturizer makes use of ingredients that possess all three of these qualities and helps to maintain your skin’s barrier function.
Skincare Products that Work: Balanced NATURAL Skincare Products
Balanced offers skincare products that are formulated using only natural and/or organic ingredients packed with anti-oxidant rich nutrients to help you achieve optimum skin health.
So what makes the difference? “Aromatherapy.” Essential oils uses natural plant extracts for their healing properties that promote health and well-being. Balanced skincare products harvest the power of aromatherapy to restore your skin’s health. The essential oils penetrate the surface of your skin’s (epidermis) down into its subcutaneous tissues. It is vital to treat your skin at the deepest level for a youthful and healthy complexion.
Many skincare products on the market are made using synthetic ingredients. Chemicals make it cheaper to mass produce skincare products — but do nothing to nourish your skin. They can even harm you. Why risk your health and the health of your skin on these products?
Balanced offers quality therapeutic skincare products that are handcrafted using the power of plants (Phytonutrients). Plant Power! No chemicals added—ever! Check out healthier skincare options:
Balanced Honey Rose Lavender Face Wash
This gentle face wash is formulated using plant ingredients. One active ingredient is honey, which is both slightly astringent and humectant (moisturizing), helping to regulate your skin's production of sebum. Honey preserves the skin's acid mantle and regulates the skin's pH. Its natural powerhouse properties help keep your skin hydrated and fresh — preventing dryness — leaving it feeling silky soft and supple.
This face wash also has jojoba oil and rosehips oil—both are occlusives, as you know, helps prevent TWL.
Balanced Rose Lavender Clarifying Skin Toner
Don’t overlook adding a toner to your daily skincare routine. It helps improve the overall look of your skin, as well as balance oil production and reset the skin’s pH balance back to optimum levels.
Rose hydrosol is the main active ingredients in this toner, which helps maintain the skin's pH balance, and controls excess oil. It is also an anti-inflammatory that soothes irritated skin. It is a rich source of antioxidants that can help strengthen and regenerate skin cells. This gentle toner has just enough glycerin (humectants) to help draw moisture to your skin’s surface, but not enough that it leaves your skin feeling sticky.
Calendula + Carrot Seed Moisturizer
This vegan moisturizer is packed with plant sterols, nutrients, anti-oxidants, natural humectants that penetrate deep into your skin’s layers protecting it from free radicals that breakdown skin’s collagen resulting in premature wrinkles. Dermal absorption is key to revitalizing your skin. Moisturizing fatty acids minimize fine line and wrinkles, hydrates and plump your skin giving you the appearance of fresh, dewy skin. You’ll love your skin — again.
This moisturizer is loaded with emollients, humectants and occlusive (hyaluronic acid, olive squalene, cupuacu butter, and bisabolol).
Restore and Revitalizing Face Oil Serum
This oil serum is a silky, fast absorbing, and anti-aging formula enriched with emollients and occlusives that boosts cell regeneration and oxygenation. This nutrient rich face oil will soften and rejuvenate your face and enhance absorption into your skin tissues, delivering the abundance of nutrients where they do their best work.
This face oil has cell regenerative properties that firms, balances and tones combination skin, which provides relief to dehydrated and ultra-sensitive skin. It has the ability to rejuvenate a lack luster complexion and transforms your skin to a softer, smoother texture without leaving an oily residue. You will notice the difference immediately.
About the Author
- Diann Poole
Balanced, LLC owner/formulator/Holistic Wellness Practitioner
My passion is formulating healthy natural ingredient skincare products that address your most critical skin issues. As a holistic wellness practitioner, I believe you don’t have to sacrifice quality and “taste” to live a healthy lifestyle responsibly. Living naturally can be fun, tasty and beneficial to all aspects of your life. I also like interior design and crafting, and my fur-baby Beau.