It’s that perennial problem: the weather starts to change from pleasantly warm to very hot and hey presto, it’s like a switch has been flicked, your skin has a personality transplant, and it’s gone from feeling smooth and soft to dry, flaky, and even itchy, almost overnight. So what can you do to rectify the problem? Savoir Flair has the low-down.
First, the Science Bit...
Your skin is made up of different levels — the epidermis and the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis. Both are important in determining why you develop dry skin. As cells move up from the deepest levels of the skin into the epidermis, they bring water to hydrate and plump. Eventually these cells reach the stratum corneum, forming a barrier a bit like a brick wall, bonded together by a kind of mortar, made up of fats and oils. This protective layer helps to keep moisture within the skin and prevents bacteria and toxins getting in. But if the protective top layer gets damaged, the water in the skin evaporates and that’s when dry, dehydrated skin becomes a problem.
“In normal skin, the outer layers have a water content of ten to 30 percent, and this gives the skin its soft, smooth, and flexible texture,” explains Dr. Liga Jacevica, Specialist in Dermatology & Cosmetology at the Canadian Medical Center & Plastic Surgery in Dubai. The water comes from the atmosphere, as well as the underlying layers of skin, and sweat. “Oil and fatty substances produced by the skin act as natural moisturizers, allowing the stratum corneum to seal in water,” adds Dr. Jacevica. “We continuously lose water from the skin’s surface by evaporation. Under normal conditions, the rate of loss is slow and the water is adequately replaced, but dry skin occurs when the water loss exceeds the water replacement and the stratum corneum’s water content falls below ten percent.”
Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated?
Dry skin is a skin type that’s lacking in oil. “This could be caused by aging, when the number and activity of sebaceous glands in the skin tends to decrease, or as a side effect of some medicine. It can also be genetic,” explains Dr. Jacevica. It’s the oily barrier on the surface of the skin that stops moisture escaping and bad stuff getting in, so if you have a dry skin type then the oily top layer is less effective and the skin all over your body is likely to feel tight, scaly, and sensitive, most of the time. If you have a dry skin type then you need to use a skincare regime specially designed for dry skin, which can help to replenish oil levels. As well as this, eliminate all harsh soaps, shower gels, and bubble baths that contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulphate, and avoid alcohol-based products in your cleansing regime as these both contain strong surfactants which can strip away the skin’s surface oils.
Use a rich moisturizer regularly, all over your body – including hands, feet, and face. This will form a thin oily film over your skin and help to build up the skin’s protective barrier. Make sure your moisturizer is a thicker, oil-based formulation. These are called occlusives and stop the moisture escaping from your skin. Look for rich creams, body butters, and oils with ingredients like argan oil, Shea butter, and vitamin E. Try the African Botanics ‘Marula Intense Skin Repair Body Balm’, which is enriched with Shea butter and marula oil to give an intense boost to stressed out, itchy, even eczema-prone skin. For your face, try the Murad ‘Hydro Dynamic Ultimate Moisture’, which contains avocado, sunflower, and olive fruit oils as well as Shea butter to enhance the skin’s ability to retain maximum levels of hydration.
Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, can look and feel similar to a dry skin type, but it’s actually due to skin that’s lacking in water. In contrast to dry skin, dehydrated skin is a more temporary skin condition – it’s basically skin that’s moisture deficient caused by lifestyle. “Things such as excessive bathing, scrubbing of the skin while washing, or using soaps which dissolve the protective layer of sebum can all contribute,” says Dr. Jacevica. “But extreme environmental conditions can also damage the skin’s natural protective barrier causing water loss. Excessively dry indoor air, and air conditioning, as well as spending lots of time outdoors being exposed to wind and baking sun can cause skin to become dehydrated, making the surface feel itchy and dry.”
Ensure you’re consuming enough water to keep your skin hydrated. Drink enough to prevent dehydration, but also try and eat water-rich foods too.
If you put a raisin in a glass of water, after a few hours the raisin will have swelled up. Dehydrated skin is the same; you need to replenish it with water to make it plump and hydrated again. So first things first, ensure you’re consuming enough water to keep your skin hydrated. Drink enough to prevent dehydration, but also try and eat water-rich foods too. Dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad believes this is the foundation of youthful skin. In his book ‘The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger’, he proposes that it’s our cells’ ability to remain hydrated and retain water that keep us looking young and healthy. His belief is that by “eating our water”, namely through fruit and vegetables with a high water content, such as watermelon, citrus fruits, and legumes – your skin will stay plumped and hydrated.
But humectant moisturizers are also key. Humectants have an amazing ability to attract water like a magnet, locking moisture into the skin. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which occurs naturally in the body and is capable of holding up to 1000 times its own weight in water, as well as glycerin, seaweed, and algae, which create a film over the skin to keep moisture in the upper layers. For the face, try Mario Badescu’s ‘Hydrating Moisturizer with Biocare and Hyaluronic Acid’, which quickly rejuvenates dry skin, making it plump and supple again. For your body, try the Dr. Organic ‘Dead Sea Mineral Smoothing Soufflé’, which contains Dead Sea minerals and sea kelp to immediately hydrate and nourish dehydrated skin.
Promo Photo: Courtesy of @victoriassecret