How Your Skin Works
When you understand the workings of your skin you are less likely to fall for Beauty business hype. It may also help you appreciate what an amazing creature you are, never a bad thing.
Your skin is made up of two distinct layers; the dermis and epidermis.
The epidermis is the outer layer of your skin. It allows your insides to live in the hostile environment that is the world. The epidermis has two main functions.
- preventing invasions by pathogens
- regulating moisture loss
We tend to think of the epidermis as a water-proof membrane that stops anything getting in, but this is far from the truth. Your epidermis allows a certain amount of water to be lost to regulate your body temperature and it absorbs moisture from the air as well as drawing water from inside the body to keep itself moist and able to function correctly.
The Stratum Corneum
The outer protective layer of the epidermis is called the Stratum Corneum, hardened skin cells are arranged like 'bricks' in a 'wall' and held together with a lipid (natural oil) ‘cement’.
The Stratum Corneum prevents excessive ‘trans epidermal water loss’ thereby protecting the rest of the epidermis and the dermis below from drying out. If the Stratum Corneum itself dries out, cracks appear, pathogens can get in and excessive water is lost, leading to a vicious circle of further drying and further damage.
Pathogens can cause (for example): spots and acne (bacterial) cold sores and warts (viral) or athlete's foot (fungal).
Continual dry skin will lead to premature ageing.
The cells in the Stratum Corneum are constantly shed and replaced by new cells continually regenerated at the lowest level of the epidermis. As they work thier way to the outer layer the cells harden and die. They excrete the lipids used in the 'cement'. Because the Stratum Corneum is effectively dead, (it is no longer connected to the blood stream and cannot be nourished by the blood stream), it must be maintained from the outside with topically applied oils and creams.
At Lyonsleaf we believe this is the job of topical creams. The dermis below is maintained from within.
Diagram of the Epidermis
Caring For Your Epidermis
Your skin care routine must maintain the Stratum Corneum by protecting and repairing it’s lipid cement. Using 100% natural oils and butters rich in fatty acids identical to those in you Stratum Corneum will nourish, bolster and repair cracks and seal that moisture in. These substances are completely accepted by your skin and will not upset its natural balance.
There is no need to add water as water is naturally drawn from the dermis below and from the air. Successful moisturising is all about preventing excessive moisture loss as this is the cause of dry skin. Adding water to moisturisers plumps the skin giving an impressive, but temporary feeling of hydration and firmness. In fact adding water to the epidermis can disrupt the Stratum Corneum and actually be a cause of dry skin (which is why people who have their hands in water regularly suffer with dry skin damage).
We use Shea Butter or Beeswax in all our formulations because it has excellent humectant (moisture attracting) qualities. It helps your skin attract extra moisture it requires from humidity in the air
Petroleum based synthetic emollients are simply ‘occlusive’. They sit on the surface as a slimy film. They stop water loss to some extent, but they also stop your skin from functioning correctly and drawing moisture in. They can cause blocked pores, contact dermatitis, folliculitis and, ironically, dry skin.
Emulsifiers, necessary in water-based creams to blend the oil with the water. They build up in the epidermis seriously disrupting the delicate balance of lipids and moisture. By avoiding an aqueous element in our products, we avoid emulsifiers.
Easily Absorbed Oils
You may think that applying oil based products to you skin would leave it greasy, but by using oils that contain short and medium chain fatty acids (literally smaller molecules) it is possible to create product that quickly absorb beautifully into the skin.
Detergents and harsh soaps also disrupt the Stratum Corneum. For glowing skin consider using only natural soaps or better still use the oil cleansing method, especially on your face.
The dermis is the lower largest layer of your skin. Nourishment is mainly delivered via the bloodstream. The dermis contains (among other things) sebaceous glands, hair follicles, nerve endings, sweat glands, lymph valves and blood vessels.
The dermis is a matrix of collagen and elastin. It’s a bit like a sponge, the collagen and elastin are the fabric of the sponge and all the holes are filled with gel like substances that hold water, for instance hyaluronic acid (which can absorb 1000 times it’s weight in water). When the sponge is full of water your skin looks firm and plump like a fresh grape. When it’s dry it may start to look more like a raisin!
Collagen, Elastin and Hyaluronic Acid are constantly regenerated. Cell regeneration naturally decreases as we age but with the correct nutrition, hydration, and by protecting yourself from free radical damage you can promote cell regeneration and fend off the natural ageing process for a very long time.
Caring for your dermis
Because the dermis is fed by the blood supply what you eat will affect it dramatically. Eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water is the way to look after it, (See our foods for healthy skin page). Topically applied creams will have little effect on the dermis directly, they will however, help the epidermis protect it and prevent it from drying out.
Elastin and Collagen
We believe applying products topically that contain Elastin or Collagen is pointless. These molecules are way too big to pass through the epidermis. Boost these essential proteins with diet or supplements. (See our foods for healthy skin page)
The case of Hyaluronic Acid is more complicated. It’s molecules come in different sizes, the smallest can pass to the dermis and may help it retain water (although there is some debate about this). Larger molecule versions will stay in the epidermis. They will temporarily plump the top layers making skin smooth and even reducing the appearance of fine lines (briefly), however, no long-term benefit is achieved.
Beauty product formulators do not need to specify which size molecule they use. Worse still because Hyaluronic Acid attracts water so effectively, in low humidity, if it sits in the epidermis, it will take excessive water from the dermis below. This water will evaporate when the epidermis is saturated and more water will be taken, effectively draining the delicate dermis. There are further issues regarding its affects on the more complex mechanisms in the skin such as anti-inflammatory processes.
The safer, cheaper and more effective way to boost your reserve of Hyaluronic Acid is, believe it or not, chicken soup! See our foods for healthy skin page for more info.