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How The
Skin Works

Your skin is amazing. It is the largest organ in your body, and it grows with you from birth to adulthood. It allows you to feel a wide range of sensations, and it protects you from a variety of harm. In addition to providing protection from physical damage, your skin also helps keep out germs and bacteria.

It triggers your immune system when germs do manage to make their way through your skin. Plus, skin helps regulate your body temperature and it synthesises chemicals (like Vitamin D) that provide your body with the nutrients it needs.

Learning how skin works will help you protect and care for it, no matter what your age.

How Skin Works

Your skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. These layers work together and support each other. To learn how skin works; you must understand the purpose of each of the following layers:

The epidermis is the outer layer of skin. It contains melanin, which gives your skin color and protects against infections.

The next layer is the dermis, which is where blood vessels are located. It’s also where you find collagen (which supports your epidermis) as well as sweat glands, hair follicles, and nerve endings.

The final and deepest layer of skin is the hypodermis. This layer of skin connects to muscle and bone, and it is made of subcutaneous tissue, which provides insulation and helps control the body’s temperature.

A Little TLC

Although your skin is tough and can withstand a lot of damage, it’s important that you give it all the help you can. When skin is in poor condition, it will have a hard time doing its many jobs. Skin that is not properly nourished, hydrated, and protected may become dry, itchy, painful, and easily damaged.

Every 28 days or so, your skin will regenerate itself. This means that it won’t take long to see dramatic improvements when you start caring for your skin.

However, it’s important to note that some damage may not be healed in just a month’s time. For example, spending too much time in the sun or smoking can permanently damage the collagen you currently have and reduce collagen production.

Collagen supports your skin. When your collagen levels drop, your skin will begin to sag and can form wrinkles. Collagen damage may not be replaced when your skin regenerates.

Proper Skin Care

Although it’s best to start caring for your skin early in life, it’s never too late to start. Your main focus should be keeping your skin hydratednourished, and protected.

  • Hydration involves making sure that you drink enough water, and minimise your intake of fizzy or sugary drinks because they can dehydrate you. It’s also very important to use a daily moisturiser to hydrate your skin after cleansing.
  • Nourishing your skin means eating right, although some nutrients can be delivered with oils, serums, and moisturisers. Your skin needs beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and antioxidants (from Rooibos and Green Rooibos), amongst other nutrients.
  • Finally, protecting your skin means staying out of the sun and making sure you’re properly covered when you do go out. In addition to using sunblock, you need to make sure that you’re selecting an SPF that offers broad spectrum (both UVA & UVB like for example Derma Protect SPF 20) protection for your climate.

Knowing how skin works can help you protect and take care of your body. Create a solid skin care routine to handle problems proactively, improve your overall health, and maintain a youthful appearance.

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Skin Types

Normal skin type is characterised by a radiant complexion. There are very few imperfections, barely visible pores, and no severe sensitivity. It glows with an inner health which indicates good blood circulation.

Normal skin is not too dry or too oily. It displays a rosy, smooth texture, and the skin’s elasticity is good. There are no visible blemishes, flaky areas or greasy patches on the skin.

In addition, the production of sebum or oils and moisture content are well-balanced. All of these characteristics of normal skin are often found in younger individuals.

However, it is quite rare to find all these characteristics. Normal skin, in essence, describes a near perfect skin with no to only a few visible skin imperfections. But even if you have normal skin that doesn’t mean you are immune to various skin concerns.

It is important to take precautionary measures such as a good skin care routine to avoid potential skin related problems. When someone has normal skin, they can become quite complacent with its care. Overtime skin will naturally become drier with age.

Skin can develop wrinkles, sunspots, and other lesions likely to occur due to a lack of sun protection or failure to implement a daily skin care routine. In women, there may be occasional pimples just before menstruation due to a surge in body hormones.

This makes the sebaceous glands produce more oils and clog the pores of the skin. Also, incorrect use of skincare products can develop breakouts and other skin problems. Over time, a normal skin type can change due to the aging process as well as additional internal and external factors.

As the name implies, a combination skin type can be part dry, part oily or part normal in some areas. Like the T-zone (chin, forehead and nose). The most common combination skins are dry with a normal T-zone, or normal with an oily T-zone. Usually the T-zone suffers from large pores, shininess and blackheads.

Typically a combination skin has a different T-zone to the rest of the face. It is a tricky skin type to treat as both areas need a different routine. They may need different products, although this is easy to over-come with the Annique Hydrafine range with its unique combination of active ingredients including Green Rooibos.

Several factors contribute to the development of combination skin, but sometimes its genetics. When it comes to this skin type, the causes and combinations vary from person to person. The areas around the face contain the most active sebaceous or oil glands. So these areas are prone to developing combination skin type.

Dry skin is a common skin condition characterised by insufficient oil content in the upper layers of the skin called the epidermis. Dehydration of the skin or lack of water is confused with a lack of oil in the skin.

Dry skin can affect all age groups but is more common as we age due to the reduction of oil production. In elderly individuals, the skin loses natural oils and lubricants over time. This increases their risk for dry skin.

Body areas commonly affected are the arms, hands and lower legs. Humidity or the amount of water vapour in the surrounding air greatly affects hydration of the skin. Normally, the epidermis is composed of protein and fat (lipid) portions which helps prevent dryness of the skin.

When the fatty oils are removed, it loses its natural protection and moisture more easily. Over time, the skin becomes dry, more sensitive and prone to the development of rashes and worse, skin breakdown.

Dry skin can sometimes be invisible to the naked eye, or it can be characterised by a fine, dry, powder-like appearance. If left untreated, the skin may become more irritated and can lead to the development of red rashes. Also, secondary bacterial infections such as eczema, cellulitis and skin discoloration can occur.

Dehydrated skin means that your skin is lacking water. It can be dry and itchy and perhaps dull looking, too. Your overall tone and complexion may appear uneven, and fine lines are more noticeable.

While dehydrated skin can be a nuisance, it’s relatively easy to treat with the right lifestyle changes and Annique skincare products. Treatment begins from the inside out to replenish and maintain hydration throughout your body.

Dehydrated skin can appear dry, but it’s not the same as having a dry skin type.

Dehydrated skin vs. dry skin

Dehydrated skin is sometimes discussed synonymously with dry skin. However, these are two different phenomena.

While dehydrated skin lacks water, dry skin lacks natural oils (also called sebum). Also, dry skin is a skin type, while dehydration is considered a condition.

Skin types are classified as normal, dry, combination, and oily. You’re born with one type of skin, but it can change with age and season. When you have dry skin, your sebaceous glands don’t produce enough natural oils.

Oily skin is characterised by thick, shiny appearance with visible large pores. The skin becomes too oily because the sebaceous glands produce an increased amount of lipids on the skin surface.

This makes the skin prone to blackheads, blemishes, acne, and other skin imperfections. Oily skin occurs in men more than women and can significantly affect younger persons, specifically adolescents. Since more active oil glands are in the T-zone, the nose, forehead, cheeks, chin, neck and even the chest tend to be affected the most.

During puberty, there is a surge in androgen levels, which are male hormones, present in both sexes. This signals the sebaceous glands of the skin to mature. During this time, the body starts producing more skin oil. To get from the glands to your skin, the secreted oil flows into nearby pores and eventually works its way out to the skin surface.

For some people, the sebaceous glands go into overdrive resulting in an oily and greasy look. This oily appearance usually resolves on its own after puberty, but can persist into adulthood. The good news is that according to experts, oily skin can delay the effects of aging as the oil absorbs some of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, and the sebum also helps the skin to moisturise.

Over time, the ability of the sebaceous glands to produce oil slows down, often leading to skin dryness, wrinkles, fine lines, flakiness and other imperfections. Even if you had perfect skin, no one is immune to the skin changes brought about by aging.

The first thing you may notice as your skin matures is that it is not that firm anymore. This is because your skin loses both collagen, which makes the skin firm and plump, and elastin, which gives skin strength and allows it to stretch.

Exposure to free radicals and UV rays from the sun can damage collagen and elastin, which causes your skin to sag and make you look old. This skin type is referred to as ageing mature skin.

Another characteristic of this skin type is that it is generally associated with thinning of the skin, fine lines around the lips and eyes with deeper lines around the mouth and forehead, eye bags, darker circles and skin dryness.

As you age, the skin may not regenerate new and healthy cells easily, and dead skin cells do not shed quickly. This causes your skin to appear dull and rough. As the epidermis flattens, the skin also becomes more fragile and transparent, and it can bruise more easily.

Other bodily changes brought by aging can also affect the skin appearance. Normally, fat loss can cause facial skin to sag or to appear more sunken – the same effect as a maturing skin.

There are several problems that people with ageing and mature skin can encounter. Because the sweat glands deplete with age, the skin loses most of its natural moisture resulting in a dull appearance.

Another problem is hyperpigmentation, especially in those persons with a history of prolonged sun exposure. While it is important to meet the daily needs of mature skin, it is necessary to keep in mind that not all elderly experience these skin problems.

What can cause early aging or maturing of the skin?

Chronological age and biological age are two different things. The process of aging is only remotely connected to your true age. Your physical appearance is sometimes an indicator of your biological age, which sometimes can be deceptive, especially if you have mature skin.

Our genes are mainly responsible for maturation of the skin. The medical term for this type of aging is called “intrinsic aging”.

There are different causes of mature skin for each individual.

Early or premature aging is related to a variety of factors such as the following:

Sun exposure:

UV rays from the sun can destroy the elastic-like fibres in the skin, which causes it to sag and lose its elasticity. Over time, the sagging skin gets pulled by gravity resulting in a droopy appearance.

Smoking:

The nicotine in cigarettes accelerates aging by decreasing collagen synthesis. If the production of collagen (protein that makes your skin firm and plump) is delayed and its amount decreases, your skin can sag and may look old.

Diet:

A diet rich in sugar and other refined carbohydrates accelerates aging through a process called glycation – a process in which blood sugar molecules and fat molecules interacts with protein molecules and damage the protein.

Wrinkling of the skin is one example of what this process can do. Also, frequent alcohol consumption can accelerate aging as it depletes the body’s nutrients.

Medications:

Drugs used to treat cholesterol such as statins can speed up the process of aging.

Chronic illness:

An underlying medical condition can cause premature aging of the skin.

Although not a “skin type” but rather a symptom caused by different factors, Sensitive Skin is characterised by frequent redness, burning, itching or dryness as a reaction of the topical application of skin care products or other stimuli.

A healthy skin functions to maintain balance by protecting the body against external influences, while regulating the levels of moisture. Much of these processes take place in stratum corneum (found in the epidermis), which is composed of lipids and cells, forming the uppermost layer of the skin.

These lipids provide stability and permeability, regulates fluid, maintains elasticity and firmness. In healthy skin, the barrier function of the stratum corneum retains moisture to prevent dryness and sensitivity.

However, their effectiveness greatly depends on enzyme activity which is often weaker in sensitive skin. As a result, the barrier function of the skin becomes compromised, resulting in water loss and enabling the penetration of irritants or other foreign bodies.

The body’s immune system now will respond by activating the inflammatory response, because it sees the irritants or commonly known as antigens, as a threat. Symptoms of sensitive skin now arise as the body’s response to maintain balance.

What causes sensitive skin?

Our skin is a living organ and it is designed to react to something that isn’t right in our body. Our nerve endings underneath the skin barrier detect everything that comes in contact with our skin – harsh chemicals, pollutants and irritants.

In sensitive skin, the barrier that protects the skin from its external environment is compromised, leading to various symptoms such as redness, stinging sensations, bumps, dryness, breakouts and tightness.

Sensitive skin may be triggered by the following:

Weather changes: During the winter season, cooler air combined with central heating can cause the skin to become dehydrated and more sensitive. In contrast, the sun’s UV rays during summer can damage the skin barrier and cause sensitivity as well.

Dirt and Pollution: Smoke, dust, exhaust and other pollutants that mix with the air are absorbed by the skin’s natural barrier. Over time, it can weaken and irritate the barrier, affecting its function to leave the skin feeling more sensitive.

Lifestyle: Lack of sleep and exercise, smoking, and poor diet are associated with skin sensitivity. They have negative impact on the skin and may alter its natural function.

Hormones: This particularly affects women more than men. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menstruation and menopause can cause skin sensitivity. Lack of hormones called estrogen may significantly affect the function of the skin’s barrier, resulting in dehydration, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and skin sensitivity.

Stress: When the body suffers prolonged stress, it produces more cortisol which may trigger an increase in oil production, and in severe cases, limits the blood flow to the skin. All of these may affect the function of the skin’s barrier which can lead to skin sensitivity.