Winter is the time when our skin gets the most dry and dull, and suffers a condition called “winter itch.” We moisturize as much as possible to keep our skin from cracking due to cold temperature. Understanding how your skin functions and what natural ingredients are most beneficial will help you choose the proper skin care product and regime.
Stratum Corneum: The key to healthy and attractive skin.
The stratum corneum is the outermost of the 5 layers of the skin and is largely responsible for the vital barrier function that prevents moisture loss. This layer is mainly composed of keratin which holds water and gives skin its strength, along with another compound called natural moisturizing factor or NMF, a collection of water-soluble compounds only found in the stratum corneum. These compounds compose 20-30% of the dry weight of these layers.
NMF components absorb water in the atmosphere and combine it with their own water allowing the outer skin layer to stay hydrated despite exposure to the elements. The skin also produces sweat to form a thin acid mantle that kills bacteria and prevents toxins from invading the body – but this is only possible when the skin is properly hydrated.
Normal, healthy skin is 20-35% water. Each day it loses approximately a pint of water through transepidermal water loss (TEWL), the natural process of evaporation and diffusion of water from our body to the atmosphere.[sup]1[/sup]
When humidity drops, as it does in winter, there is a dramatic increase in TEWL. Dry weather can impair the natural function of the skin which may crack and become infected – a condition we should all be avoiding, especially diabetics.
Our skin also serves as a big nerve sensory function, and helps us heal.
Massage your skin with healthy moisturizers.
Touching in a nurturing way reduces levels of the stress chemical cortisol and increases levels of the feel-good chemical oxytocin. It also stimulates the vagus nerve which runs up to the brain to improve the health of our whole body.[sup]2[/sup]
The power of touch (massage) combined with a healthy moisturizer helps restore the barrier function of the skin without disturbing the acid mantle or clogging your pores. It also enhances the circulation of your skin thereby speeding the healing process of the body.
Cocoa butter has been called the ultimate moisturizer. It is one of the most stable, and melts at body temperature so that it is readily absorbed into the skin. Cocoa butter is often recommended for treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. It creates a barrier between sensitive skin and the environment and also helps retain moisture. In addition, cocoa butter contains cocoa mass polyphenol, a substance that inhibits the production of the immuno globulin IgE which is known to aggravate symptoms of both dermatitis and asthma.[sup]3[/sup]
Jojoba Oil. Jojoba seeds contain alpha, delta, and gamma tocopherols, all forms of vitamin E. The extractable liquid content of matured jojoba seeds ranges from 50% to 54%.[sup]4[/sup] Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that helps fight free radicals in our cells.
Aloe Vera. Scientific research shows that several components in aloe are used to regenerate skin cells. These include gibberellin, a growth hormone-like substance that increases protein synthesis, and lectin, a protein that increases collagen activity and improves the collagen matrix. Thus, aloe may be utilized to heal acne or eczema, while improving the overall health of the skin.[sup]5[/sup]
Nutritious food equals better skin.
In a recent study to be published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology researchers found that ingestion of a fruit- and vegetable-based concentrate increases microcirculation of the skin and positively affects hydration, density and thickness. The monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study followed two groups of 26 healthy, middle-age women for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the active group showed a 39% increase in the microcirculation; a 9% increase in skin hydration; a 6% increase in skin thickness; and a 16% increase in skin density. In the placebo group, microcirculation decreased and “a slight increase in density was observed.”[sup]6[/sup]
The key to healthy skin is a combination of proper diet, fresh water intake, and a healthier lifestyle that includes rest, relaxation, ample sleep and exercise. Massaging your skin with healthy moisturizers will help you maintain that glow through the dry winter months.
Jessica C. Blaisdell is a California State Certified Massage therapist with 8 years of experience and extended learning in holistic health care. Jessica can reach her at 760-401-1077 or email [email protected]
References: 1) Abdullah, Almed, MD. Skin Inc. Magazine 2011 page 58; 2) Oz, Mehmet, MD, Roizen, Michael, MD. You Being Beautiful, 2008 page 33; 3) vitaminstuff.com; 4) jojobacompany.com 2010; 5) lexli.com /aloe education; 6) “An Encapsulated Fruit and Vegetable Concentrate Increases Skin Microcirculation in Healthy Woman,” to be published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology (Vol. 25, No. 1, 2012), S De Spirt, et al. Med Esthetic Magazine Nov./Dec. 2011 page 5