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SKIN FOCUS: Dehydrated skin

December 24, 2009

This week’s Skin Focus brings you a topic not so commonly discussed about in Singapore – dehydration.

Water and the skin

The skin is a living organ that accounts for 20% of all the water in the human body. The dermis consists of 70% water supplied via the network of blood vessels that runs through it. The epidermis contains 15% water which is fundamental in the creation of the hydrolipidic film which acts as a protective barrier. As the epidermis contains no vessels, water is absorbed via the dermis, which acts as a reservoir from which the epidermis draws the water it requires for hydration.

Causes of dehydration

When the water content of the epidermis drops to below 10%, the hydrolipidic film cracks, and becomes rough and permeable. The epidermis hardens. The skin loses its elasticity and becomes less supple. Dehydration occurs.

Dehydration can either be intrinsic or caused by external factors related to climate (heat, cold, wind). If this condition is not corrected, the barrier function of the skin is altered. The skin becomes fragile and more vulnerable to all types of aggression.

Signs of dehydration

Dry skin is very often dehydrated evenly over the whole face. The reason for this is a lack of natural moisturizing factors, elements situated at the surface of the skin and whose role is to retain water. In people with normal and combination skin, dehydration is more marked in areas where the skin is the finest and most frequently exposed to environmental factors such as the sun.

Some of the common signs of dehydrated skin are:

  • Fine lines at the cheekbones and forehead
  • Rough skin surface
  • Flaking and scaling
  • Feeling of tightness

Who are vulnerable to dehydrated skin?

The term dehydration often evokes dry skin. Yet, all skin types can be dehydrated.

Dry skin often becomes dehydrated. This is because they lack the natural moisturizing factors normally found at the surface of the skin and whose role is to retain water. Dry skin is finer and particularly sensitive to the sun.

However, oily skin can also become dehydrated: anti-seborrhoea (excessive secretion of sebum by sebaceous glands) cosmetics and locally irritating anti-acne treatments can damage the skin barrier and thus increase moisture loss.

If a normal or mixed skin becomes dry, this is generally the result of extrinsic or environmental factors such as cold, dry weather or frequent exposure to UV rays. Oxidation of surface sebum makes this skin more sensitive to the sun.

Can water dehydrate the skin?

As surprising as it may seem, prolonged or repeated contact with soft water, especially hot water, is a major cause of skin dryness. The hydration of the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of the skin and epidermis) from daily baths or showers is very short term (a few minutes), followed by reactive dehydration that lasts much longer. Prolonged contact with water removes natural moisturizing factors elements. This causes a reduction of the ability of the stratum corneum to retain endogenous, or internal, water. Therefore, it is always necessary to dry the skin well to prevent dehydration.

Dehydrated skin versus dry skin

Dry skin lacks lipids (oils) and needs to be nourished. Dehydrated skin lacks water. Dry skin can also be dehydrated and therefore need to be both nourished and moisturized.

Caring for dehydrated skin

  • Remove your makeup and hydrate your skin daily.
  • Drink at least 1 litre of water per day; a good way to prevent skin dehydration.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Smoking and drinking excessively dehydrates and damages your skin, accelerating the ageing process.

La Roche-Posay’s recommendations

The Hydraphase range of products offers triple rehydrating efficiency by providing intense, long-lasting and targeted hydration to the skin.

  • HYDRAPHASE XL Light offers intensive rehydration combined with the highest level of protection against daily UV rays.
  • HYDRAPHASE Masque is an intensive rehydrating treatment for the face to be used once or twice a week.

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