Intrinsic aging, also known as healthy aging, is the normal process of physical change over time that is more about genetics than lifestyle. (Livestyle-induced aging is known as premature aging.) This process begins in our mid-20’s, but, unlike premature aging induced by external factors, does not begin to show on our faces until decades later.
Dry, dehydrated skin is common in older skin, since the activity of the sebaceous glands in the skin tends to decrease with age, and the skin’s natural hydrators decline over the years. Aging also may cause blood flow to the skin to decrease, causing a drop in sebum production.
The loss of existing sebum (oil) is commonly caused by excessive bathing or showering, scrubbing, or the use of harsh soaps that dissolve the protective layer of sebum. Often times, dry skin can affect the hands, as those in health care or food preparation must frequently wash to rid their hands of potential germs.
Cold Weather and Low Humidity
Cold winds and low temperatures can dry out your skin, depriving it of balanced levels of sebum (oil) that keep skin lubricated. Without these oils, skin becomes dry, and is more prone to premature aging because of the lack of protective oils.
The sun can also contribute to dry skin. Although many people only complain of dryness in the winter, others experience dry skin in the summer. Prolonged exposure to the sun causes water to evaporate from the skin, which is why skin that has been recently tanned or burned often requires more moisturisation than areas that were not exposed.
While many of us are responsible enough to apply sunscreen at the beach or when we’re spending a long time outdoors, there is still not enough understanding that cumulative exposure to sun can also cause extensive damage. A fifteen minute walk outside and an occasional lunch outdoors can add up to dry, damaged skin, and of course, skin cancer. And even if you don’t see pink or red skin after being in the sun, that doesn’t mean that the damage hasn’t been done.
Summer activities, such as swimming, can also contribute to dryness, as chlorine in pools and salt in ocean water causes skin irritation.
Nutritionists say that those surviving on a litany of diet sodas and fat-free fad food items are missing out on vital, skin-friendly essential fatty acids (EFA) and fat-soluble vitamins. (And don’t forget that fat-free foods often substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners that can cause skin sensitivity).
An EFA deficiency can result in skin problems such as chronic itching, dryness, scaling and thinning, and lead to an imbalance in prostaglins (prostaglandins are chemical messengers that do many things, such as control inflammation). The lack of “good” fats in our diets could also be contributing to the increase in the percentage of the population that suffers from psoriasis, eczema and dandruff.
A deficiency of the mineral Zinc, which plays a key role in wound healing and in the metabolism of fatty acids and vitamin A can also affect the integrity of the skin.
Smoking can also have a drying effect on skin, as smoking inhibits the body’s ability to provide oxygen and nutrients to skin. Smoking drains skin (and the body) of vitamins A and C and restricts blood vessels (which equates to less blood flow) – meaning smoking is somewhat like suffocating skin from the inside. And, medications (such as nasal decongestants) can also contribute to dry skin.
Proper treatment for results
There are many steps you can take to help prevent or lessen the discomfort associated with dry, dehydrated skin. Professional skin treatments coupled with the right lifestyle choices are great ways to begin treating and relieving dry skin.
An effective skin treatment for dry skin will include exfoliation to help prep skin to receive nourishing ingredients, the use of emollients and hydrators to replenish skin, and vitamins to help smooth skin, stimulate collagen production and increase skin’s natural protective barrier.
- Exfoliation helps remove dulling skin cells while improving penetration of beneficial ingredients.
- Emollients (such as Shea Butter) will help maintain soft, smooth, pliable skin and will act as a lubricant, helping to reduce flaking and moisture loss while improving appearance.
- It has been scientifically proven that topically-applied vitamins do improve the health of skin. Vitamin A helps inhibit collagen breakdown while stimulating collagen production for more plump-looking skin, Vitamin B5 aids in wound healing and Vitamin E is an antioxidant that provides barrier protection while smoothing skin.