Hydrating the skin

Hydrating the skin

Skin Care Matters

with Michelle vernon

Saturday, December 17, 2016

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THE best way to nourish skin is from the inside and from the outside in.

Hydration is an essential part of skin care. Dehydration compromises the skin’s immune functioning and causes it to look older and more wrinkled.

Skin tissue is constantly being renewed and, depending on the factors produced in the dermis, can be regenerated every two to three weeks. Targeted nutrition — both dietary and topical — can dramatically increase the moisture level of the skin.


There are two ways to keep skin moist: By stopping trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), and by adding moisture from the outside with topical skin care products.

The ingredients applied to skin can make a big difference in its hydration status, and just as with dietary nutrition, consider good, clean, topical nutrition options for the best results.

The skin’s barrier, often referred to as the acid mantle, holds in water and lipids, and keeps bacteria and environmental pollution out. A crucial part of the acid mantle’s success is its pH. The ideal pH for skin falls around 5.5, which is slightly acidic. Skin with higher pH levels tends to be dry and fragile.

Key nutritional players in skin hydration include certain vitamins, essential fats, and antioxidants.

The inside-out or outside-in story applies to skin hydration, as with so many other areas of skin care. If these nutrients are taken in through the diet or applied to the skin, results are increased. To build healthy skin, feed the body the right nutrients and protect it from outside damage.


Most aestheticians consider vitamin C an essential component in the synthesis of collagen, and as an antioxidant that helps to fight free radical damage in the skin. In addition to these important jobs, this vitamin contributes to skin hydration and elasticity.

When using vitamin C in skin care routines, it is important to choose the form carefully, as the delivery method can make a big difference in effectiv­eness. Ascorbic acid, the basic form of vitamin C, oxidises quickly when exposed to air. Better choices include tetrahex­yldecyl ascorbate (the lipid form) or water-soluble sodium ascorbyl phosphate to ensure the vitamin C is delivered to skin without oxidising.

For delivery of vitamin C from the inside out, it can be obtained in foods such as oranges, papaya, broccoli, and plums.


Vitamin E is the most potent lipid-soluble antioxidant for skin hydration. It is an essential part of skin cell membranes and has a role in cell signalling and cell nutrient transport. Therefore, it appears to enhance the penetration and resorption of skin lipids, creating an effective regulatory mechanism for restoring and maintaining the barrier function.

Topically applied vitamin E is a moisturiser that helps keep the skin healthy and soft.

Vitamin E has a special relationship with two other antioxidants — vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid. Both vitamin C and alpha lipoic acid are capable of removing the extra electron from a used vitamin E molecule, essentially reactivating it. This capacity to recycle and restore its power makes vitamin E a prominent factor in the skin’s first line of defence against free radicals.

Thus, vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining the barrier function of skin and appears to enhance the penetration and resorption of skin lipids, making it an invaluable nutrient for locking moisture into the skin and preventing dehydration. Good food sources for obtaining vitamin E are nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.


The B vitamins are a complex and busy group, but offer a wealth of benefits for skin, internally and externally.

Niacin (Vitamin B3): One important B vitamin is B3, also referred to as niacin or nicotinic acid. This B vitamin has three critical roles in the body: converting glucose to energy, aiding in the production of fatty acids and cholesterol, and facilitating DNA repair and stress responses.

As a player on the topical nutrition team for skin hydration, niacinamide (its skin care form) increases the production of ceramides and fatty acids — two key components of the skin’s outer protective barrier. With a strong acid mantle, the skin is better able to keep moisture in and irritants out.

Dietary sources of vitamin B3 or niacin include tuna, chicken, turkey, and peanuts.

Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5): Vitamin B5 is a component of coenzyme A (CoA), an essential coenzyme required for chemical reactions that generate energy from food (fat, carbohydrates and proteins). It is also involved in the synthesis of essential fats, cholesterol and steroid hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone.

On the topical side, B5 contributes to skin hydration via its role in the maintenance of skin barrier function. When applied to skin, B5 converts to pantothenic acid, which works as a humectant by infusing water in the cells, retaining moisture deep within the skin tissues.

In the diet, good sources of vitamin B5 include avocado, lentils, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms.


Vitamin A is fat-soluble and comes in various forms, for example retinol. Among other important functions, vitamin A supports cell growth, which is how it may contribute to hydration in the skin.

In topical form, vitamin A improves hydration in and around skin cells in a number of indirect ways, mostly by supporting healthy cell membrane functioning and encouraging skin cell turnover.

Many forms of topical vitamin A are available for skin care formulations. The main goal is to balance delivering an effective amount of vitamin A to the skin while managing the side effects such as sun sensitivity that often accompany vitamin A application.

It is critical for clients to get adequate vitamin A each day through dietary sources and by applying a topical dose to skin as part of their regular skin care routine. Dietary vitamin A comes from sweet potatoes, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, dairy, fish, and meat. Liver is also an excellent source of vitamin A.


Combining dietary and topical nutrition for skin health is especially important for skin hydration. This article explored some of the most clinically significant players, but there are many other beneficial compounds. The key message remains the same: Consume a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables every day and take care when choosing sources of nutrition for skin.

Clean diet and skin care on the inside equal healthy, glowing skin on the outside.

Michelle Vernon is a licensed aesthetician who operates the Body Studio Skincare establishment at 23 Central Plaza, Kingston 10 and Fairview Shopping Centre, Montego Bay. She may be reached at telephone 908-0438 or 6849800; IG@bodystudioskincare; Email: bodystudioskincare@gmail.com; Website: www.bodystudioskincare.com


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