There isn't a woman on the planet who wouldn't like to boast flawless, beautiful skin. Unfortunately, the reality is we're different, our skin reacts in different ways, and we haven't all got Eve Lom on speed dial.
Unless you've got the genetic makeup of Halle Berry, Julia Roberts and Jessica Biel (combined), then great skin pivots on a three-sided triangle made up of firmness, smoothness and hydration. With hydration playing the most important role.
The skin matrix
Imagine your skin cells as a network of strands that work much in the same way as the basic structure of a house. What would be the main frame of your home is the equivalent of the role of collagen and elastin in your skins matrix. And, as your house needs windows, and floors and ceilings, your skin also needs fillers or cushioning to support the whole structure. Within this cushioning, your skins cells contain natural chemicals which make up your Natural Moisturising Factor, or NMF. Water binds itself to your NMF, which then in turn hydrates your skin. The production and health of your NMF is what makes your skin well balanced.
As skin is the biggest organ of the body, and mostly made up of water, it would be easy to point the blame finger at a lack of water when it comes to dehydration. Just losing two per cent of the body's water volume in a day can lead to mild dehydration problems. However, if you are dutifully drinking your two litres a day, your skin could still become dehydrated thanks to a number of internal and external factors.
According to Dr Naina Sachdev, medical director of the Advanced Aesthetics and Integrative Medical Centre in Lake Oswega, Oregon, and Olay ambassador, there are several important factors that reduce skin hydration levels. "Declining hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can result in loss of collagen and skin elasticity, cause a thinning of the skin, making it more prone to dehydration," she says.
Dr Sachdev goes on to say that drinking alcohol, coffee and smoking can put oxidative stress on the skin, which in turn makes the skin prone to dehydration and wrinkles.
Dr Vandana Rajesh Kadam, Dermatologist at Kaya Skin Clinic, agrees but says that there are also external dangers to watch out for. "Environmental conditions - over-exposure to the sun, cold and wind - are responsible for dehydrated skin," she says. Dr Kadam also suggests that taking long hot showers or baths can contribute to dehydrated skin as it draws moisture out of the skin.
Solen Marie, product development manager for Dermaglow, believes that ageing is the biggest concern when it comes to your hydration levels. "There are a lot of factors that cause dehydration of skin. Ageing, of course, is the main one," she says. And along with environmental factors, Solen also says that aggressive cleansing methods and strong active ingredients in the products you use causes the protective skin mantle barrier to be disrupted, increasing your skin's chances of dehydration. So your twice-a-week exfoliation could actually be doing more harm than good!
"You'll instantly know if your skin is dehydrated," says Angela Turovskaya, spa manager at Nivea Haus. "You'll notice it first around your eyes which will show fine lines." Angela says that, especially here in the hot climate, air conditioning is one of the biggest factors to affect the skin's hydration levels. Skin regenerates itself at night and when you sleep in a heavily air conditioned room, any moisture in the air is being instantly sucked up. Combine that with lack of sleep (not getting your eight hours a night), and your skin will soon start to show the early signs of ageing combined with puffy eyes.
"Many of the symptoms of dehydrated skin mimic dry skin," says Dr Kadam. "This might include a rough, tight feeling with little elasticity and incessant itching. You may also experience flaking or peeling, redness, coarse thick ashy skin, and in extreme cases, you may get cracks which can bleed on occasion," she says.
However, dehydrated skin is not to be confused with dry skin. Dry skin is the condition of your skin, much like oily or combination skin. Dehydrated skin is what can happen to the condition of your skin. So, if you have dry skin it doesn't necessarily mean your skin is lacking in moisture, but if your skin is oily, it is more likely that it is dehydrated. Your oil glands produce even more sebum at the first signs of dehydration, so often if you're using products to combat oily skin, again you're probably doing more harm than good. By using treatments to dry out your skin, you won't be putting back any of the much needed moisture.
"My advice is to identify the reason for dehydration and take the appropriate corrective actions," says Solen. She goes on to advise reviewing your beauty regime, making sure you are using the right products to target hydration. Have your skin analysed - available in most department stores - to understand your skin's needs.
Treat it right
One of the main ‘fillers' in the skin's matrix is known as Hyaluronic acid and plays a major role in the skin's rejuvenation process. It holds moisture, regulates tissue repair and helps to keep the skin supple. It's an ingredient most skin care experts recommend you look for in hydrating products. "Hyaluronic acid holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water," says Dr Kadam, "making it super moisturising!"
Turovskaya agrees on using water-based products to boost hydration, but only recommends using them as part of your morning routine. "Skin, like us, needs food. It needs vitamins and nutrients," she says. "So it's important to use your oil-based, more nutrient-filled products at night when your skin is at its most regenerative and can soak up the benefits."
Aside from your daily moisturiser, Turovskaya also recommends choosing a shower cream rather than a gel as creamy-textured washes contain oil and have more nourishing properties.
You could also try sleeping with a humidifier when you have got your air conditioning on as it helps stop the dry air from drying out your skin. Filling a bowl with water and putting it in your bedroom overnight will also do the trick as the air conditioning will dry up the water from the bowl rather than your skin.
Aside from topical aides, one of the main ways you can keep your skin hydrated is through what you internally ingest. Dr Naina says, "There is no hard evidence to say we need eight glasses of water a day, but we have so many factors that can easily lead to dehydration, that this is a good benchmark to aim for. Just one cup of coffee can lead to significant dehydration!"
Dr Naina recommends drinking half your body weight in water a day. So, for example if you are 140lbs, then she recommends loading up on 70 ounces of water (approximately two litres). She also believes that the quality of our drinking water has a lot to do with how we feel. "A lot of water can be acidic and can cause increased oxidative stress on the body. I would recommend San Pellegrino, Evian or Fiji water," she says. The good"Some foods are as much as 90 per cent water, making them an excellent choice to stay hydrated, especially in the summer months," says nutritionist Michelle Gelok.
"Most fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fluids, and offer the additional benefit of fibre, vitamins, minerals as well as antioxidants."
"In terms of the best hydrating drinks, water comes out ontop - it hydrates the body andis naturally calorie- and sugar-free," says Michelle. "If you have trouble drinking plainwater, mix things up a bit by adding freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, or make your own calorie-free iced tea, by steeping herbal tea bags in a pitcher of cold water."
The bad "Keep in mind that while most beverages contribute to your daily fluid intake, not all beverages are equal," says Michelle. "Avoid drinks that offer empty calories, they don't offer any benefit in terms of nutrition. Sweetened coffee, as well as fruit juice with added sugar should also be limited."
According to Michelle, any foods very high in sodium will naturally draw water from your body, possibly contributing to dehydration. Limit your intake of these foods, such as crisps, fast food and many packaged foods - canned soups, frozen pizza, processed meat and canned vegetables. Michelle says you should also be wary of condiments high in sodium as well, including soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce.
- 10. Celery
Change your daily habits
- Drink fluids with every meal and snack to boost your intake.
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times - it'll make it easier to drink up when you're thirsty.
- Keep a water bottle on your desk, you're more likely to drink water if it's close at hand.
- Drink before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration, especially when exercising outside.
- Drink a full glass of water when you feel hungry - often we confuse feelings of hunger with cues that our body needs more fluids.
- Taking supplements like vitamin E and Cwill help your skin'scells hold more moisture and elasticity.
- Swap your regular morning latte for a green tea, which contains catechins and potent antioxidants alongwith the water to keep skin hydrated.
- Stock up on Omega-fatty acids by adding salmon, mackerel, almonds, walnuts and flaxseed to your diet, which will give your skin that fresh, dewy glow.