Our skin, the largest organ of the body, is essentially our frontline defence system against the outside world, protecting us from environmental elements such as pollutants, allergens, irritants and UV rays, whilst regulating body temperature and body fluids, eliminating waste products and guarding against disease. In short, our skin helps to maintain homeostasis – or balance – within the body, helping us to stay healthy inside and out.
One of the drawbacks of performing such a high profile role – skin literally surrounds and shields the body – is that any damage sustained in the line of duty will be visible on its surface. Damaged skin can look dull, red, dry, flaky, rough, wrinkled and saggy. But there are ways to maintain skin health. Lifestyle factors including eating a healthy diet, reducing alcohol, increasing water intake, giving up smoking, getting enough sleep, minimising stress and limiting exposure to UV light will all contribute to healthier looking skin, but it’s also essential to use a good moisturiser. A blend of natural plant - derived oils provide effective moisturisation, with many containing vitamins A, C and E for added antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection while also helping to prevent excess water loss through the epidermis (trans epidermal water loss or TEWL). TEWL is a natural process which helps regulate the skin’s water content but too much water lost through the epidermis compromises the integrity of the skin barrier, the skin’s first line of defence.
It’s helpful to think of the barrier function of the skin in terms of a wall made up of bricks and mortar where the “bricks” are the keratinised cells of the stratum corneum and the “mortar” the intercellular lipids. If we keep this “wall” intact it locks in moisture and hydration, keeping skin soft and smooth. Essential for skin barrier function is the outermost layer of the epidermis, a lipid barrier called the stratum corneum, which protects against outside environmental elements and excessive water loss. The stratum corneum is composed of lipids and triglycerides (50% ceramides, 35% cholesterol and 15% free fatty acids), so for optimum skin barrier support and repair it makes sense to choose a moisturiser similar in composition, such as a blend of plant-based oils. These oils are able to penetrate the skin’s upper layers to strengthen the skin’s natural barrier, prevent free radical damage and increase skin elasticity. This is especially important after the age of 30 when the skin’s ability to produce its own lipids and triglycerides diminishes. Plant oils are able to compensate for this loss and delay the signs of ageing.