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What can I do about my dry, dehydrated skin?

Dry, dehydrated skin can be a temporary problem — one you experience only in winter, for example — or a lifelong concern.

Dry skin, also called xerosis, is a very common problem in modern life, affecting people of all ages, even infants. And scientists agree – because of a sharp decline in the Stratum corneum lipids (lipids are fats that are essential for the structure and function of living cells), especially the significant drop in ceramides (one of the more important structural components of the lipid barrier), by the time we reach age 40, our skin will almost certainly be dry and/or dehydrated.

However, some people experience the trials of a dry skin condition before they reach this time in their life. An increasingly stressful lifestyle coupled with continual exposure to the sun, wind and chemicals in the environment contribute to dry, dehydrated skin in people of all ages.

What is dry, dehydrated skin?

Dry skin, or alipoid skin, generally refers to skin that is lacking oil, whereas dehydrated skin is characterized by the lack of moisture in the Stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis. Typically, cells that comprise the deepest layers of the epidermis have about 80% water content, while cells of the Stratum corneum are about 10% water. Anything below 10% is perceived as dehydrated.

Both dry and dehydrated skin is often irritated, inflamed and itchy, and it is generally worse in areas with relatively few sebaceous (oil) glands such as the arms, legs and torso, as well as the cheeks and eye area.

There is also a widespread misconception that dehydrated skin is the opposite of oily skin. “Dehydrated” refers to lack of moisture (not a lack of oil), while “oily” refers to levels of sebum or oil on skin. While adequate sebum does help maintain water levels on skin, oily skin can be dehydrated. Dehydrated skin may lack water only in the outermost layers of the epidermis while maintaining normal levels in the deeper layers.

Other symptoms of dry skin can include a feeling of tightness or tautness, especially after showering, bathing or swimming, skin that feels and looks rough rather than smooth, slight to severe flaking or scaling, fine lines, cracks that can sometimes bleed, and severe redness.

The top five causes of dry, dehydrated skin

These sources of dry, dehydrated skin are among the most common, and fortunately, the most treatable when combined with lifestyle changes and when under the care of a professional.

Intrinsic Aging
Intrinsic aging, also known as healthy aging, is the normal process of physical change over time that is more about genetics than lifestyle. (Lifestyle-induced aging is known as premature aging.) This process begins in our mid-20s, 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.

This goes for forced air heating as well. Warm, dry air acts like a giant sponge, soaking up moisture from everything it touches.

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 prostaglandins (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 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, an excess intake of alcoholic beverages and certain medications (such as nasal decongestants) can also contribute to dry skin.

The Sun
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 moisturization 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. 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.

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. The use of electric brushes will also greatly enhance the penetration of the exfoliation ingredients.
  • Galvanic current can also be used to increase product penetration. This professional tool creates gentle electrical currents that work to push hydrating and replenishing ingredients deep into the layers of the epidermis.
  • Emollients (such as Shea Butter and Organic Silicones) 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.

It is also imperative to recognize that the success of your skin treatments will be heavily influenced by your professionally prescribed at-home regimen and the wearing of sunscreen for anytime skin is exposed to daylight.

Research shows sunscreens formulated with antioxidant vitamins provide enhanced daylight protection against damaging UV light and free radicals. With this increased protection from antioxidant vitamins, there is no need to add more potentially-irritating sunscreen chemicals to create a higher SPF level.

Dermalogica’s Solar Defense System delivers this antioxidant technology through UV Smart Booster Technology, a microcapsule containing antioxidant vitamins that bursts upon contact with UV light, spilling the antioxidants onto skin, providing protection when it’s needed most.

Make sunscreen as much a part of your skin care regimen as cleansing and moisturizing. Apply at least a walnut-sized amount of sunscreen to skin and neck before going out into the daylight, and after swimming or exercising, to impede the damage caused by UV light.
Also important is proper home skin care products and techniques. Do not use hot water when cleansing, don’t use excessive or abrasive movements (instead, go for gentle, upward circles), and stay away from products that contain artificial fragrances or colors.

Keep your surrounding temperature as moderate as possible, and never place any heat directly at your skin. The use of a humidifier will also help add moisture to surrounding air. And when in colder temperatures, use a protective salve or extra rich moisturizer containing Zinc Oxide which helps soothe skin, provides anti-itch relief, moisturizes and promotes skin repair.

get mapped. get results.
Speak with your skin therapist about Face MappingSM, the skin analysis that breaks your skin down into 14 individual zones so that your condition can be effectively treated. Regardless of your needs, your skin therapist can accurately prescribe a regimen with Face Mapping that will effectively treat all areas of your skin.

After your Face Mapping, your skin therapist will outline a home regimen for you to follow. This will help keep your skin it’s healthiest between professional treatments. Some of the products that may be suggested will include:
Essential Cleansing Solution
Extra Firming Booster
MultiVitamin Power Recovery® Masque
MultiVitamin Power Concentrate
MultiVitamin Power Firm
for eye and lip area
Super Rich Repair
Extra Rich FaceBlock SPF30
MultiVitamin BodyBlock SPF20

It’s also important to note that Dermalogica products are free of the following ingredients known for increasing skin dryness as well as skin sensitivity:
• Artificial colors
• Artificial fragrances
• S.D. Alcohol
• Mineral Oil (skin sensitivity and congestion)
• Lanolin (skin sensitivity and congestion)
• PABA (found in sunscreens)

Jumpstart your healthy skin care regimen today! Ask your skin therapist for your free Face Mapping analysis and your customized zone-by-zone prescription.

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