Factors That Influence Your Skin

Christina Kingsley

There are two groups that influence our skin, and they are referred to as Internal factors and External/Environmental factors. Internal factors include Genetics and Hormones. External/Environmental factors include Climate, Diet, Inappropriate Skincare and Chemicals, and Lifestyle. The following information is a summary of these factors that can influence our skin

Internal Factors

Genetics

Genetics is responsible for determining skin type (Normal, Dry, Oily, or Combination) and is responsible for affecting the overall skin condition.

Genetics determines the biological aging of skin which is characterized by:

  • A decline in cell regeneration and renewal.
  • Reduced sebaceous and sweat gland secretions.
  • Degeneration of the connective tissue so that skin is less able to bind in water and loses firmness.
  • Degeneration of elastic fibers that results in reduced skin elasticity.

Biological skin aging should not be confused with premature skin aging, which is caused by external factors like the sun. Additionally, there are also some diseases like diabetes and kidney disorders that can influence skin condition.

Hormones

Hormones and changes in their levels can have a significant impact on skin:

  • Hormonal changes can trigger the acne of puberty.
  • During pregnancy, hormones can encourage the increased production of melanin and a form of hyperpigmentation known as melasma.
  • Female estrogen levels decline as part of the biological aging process and especially after menopause. Estrogen has a beneficial effect on the moisture balance of skin and its decline leads to structural changes and the age-related atrophy of skin.

External and Environmental Factors

There are many external factors that influence skin condition. When the skin’s natural balance is compromised, it is less able to work as a protective barrier and prone to sensitivity. The external factors that influence skin health are determined by the environment around us, and our overall health, and the lifestyle choices we make.

Climate

The weather can have a significant impact on skin condition.

  • Sunlight in moderation is good for our overall wellbeing, but too much sun can damage skin. The sun’s rays affect skin in different ways.
    • UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. High Energy Visible Light (HEV Light) has not been associated with sunburn.
    • UVB rays and to a lesser extent, UVA rays have been linked to DNA damage which can cause skin cancer. High Energy Visible Light (HEV Light) is not associated with skin cancer.
    • Both UVA rays and High Energy Visible Light (HEV Light) can cause skin to age prematurely
    • Sun allergies are mainly triggered by UVA rays but can also be provoked by UVB rays.
    • UVA, UVB, and HEV Light rays can induce hyperpigmentation and may contribute to conditions such as age spots (also known as sun spots) and melasma.
  • Extreme temperatures and the speed of change between them can influence skin conditions.
    • In cold conditions skin reacts by narrowing the blood vessels to protect the body from losing too much heat. Sustained cold temperatures reduce sebaceous gland secretion and cause skin to dry out.
    • In hot and humid conditions sweat glands produce more sweat, leaving the skin moist and shiny, and in some cases, prone to acne. Low humidity, as found in airplane cabins and even caused by central heating, can cause skin to become dehydrated and lead to increased sensitivity.
    • Some skin conditions, for example Rosacea, can also be triggered by hot temperatures. This is one of the reasons why it is recommended to use warm rather than hot water for facial cleansing, hand washing and bathing.

Diet

A balanced diet will help keep skin healthy. Research on the best foods for healthy skin is lean, but:

  • Nutrition
    • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins (fish instead of meat)
    • Antioxidant-rich foods seem to have protective benefits. These include: yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (e.g. carrots and apricots), blueberries, green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach), tomatoes, peas, beans and lentils, fish rich in Omega oils and nuts.
    • Diets that exclude a particular food group and its nutritional value are not in general good for skin health. It is, however, advisable to limit the intake of sweets and dairy. It is also important to drink plenty of water, especially for elderly individuals
  • Medication
    • Certain medicines (e.g. chemotherapy, diuretics, laxatives, and the lipid-lowering drugs sometimes taken to treat cardiovascular conditions) and medical procedures (e.g. radiotherapy and dialysis) can make skin more sensitive and prone to dryness.

Inappropriate Skincare and Chemicals

Harsh skincare products, inappropriate routine, and exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace can stress skin:

  • Aggressive Products
    • Skin is naturally mildly acidic, with a pH of between 4.7 and 5.75. Aggressive cleansers and moisturizing products with an alkaline pH overtax the skin’s natural neutralizing capability, damage cell structure and impair the barrier function of the outermost layer of the epidermis. As a result, skin can dry out and become sensitive or even hypersensitive.
    • When skin is sensitive it is susceptible to skin infections and flare-ups of diseases such as Atopic Dermatitis or Rosacea. Sensitive skin (which is characterized by a weakened protective barrier) and hypersensitive skin (which additionally has hyperactive nerve fibers) are both particularly prone to the drying and damaging effects of harsh products.
    • Some chemical peels can have a similar affect and it is reccomended to consult a dermatologist to check that a particular procedure is suitable for your skin.
  • Some Individuals Are Particularly Affected By Aggressive Products:
    • Small children and the elderly: Young children and old skin is less resistant because skin barrier function is either not yet fully developed or is on the decline.
    • Those exposed to chemicals in the workplace: Professionals such as hairdressers, masons and industrial workers are in regular contact with detergents, solvents, lacquers and paints - all substances that are harmful to the skin.
    • Those with hypersensitive skin is characterized by a compromised skin barrier and hyper-reactive nerve fibers in the epidermis. Aggressive products can damage the skin barrier and trigger the underlying nerve fibers thereby causing unpleasant sensations.
  • Washing Too Frequently
    • Showering or bathing too frequently, for too long, and with water that is too hot leads to a loss of skin’s natural moisturizing factors and surface lipids. Skin dries out and becomes rough. The pH of healthy skin is mildly acidic, and frequent washing with tap water - that ranges from neutral to mildly alkaline - can impact on skin’s natural balance and impair its protective barrier function.

Lifestyle

  • Manage Stress
    • Uncontrolled stress can make skin more sensitive and trigger problems including acne. Stress needs managing: reducing workload, making time for leisure activities and relaxation techniques can help.
  • Exercise
    • Regular exercise has a positive impact on skin health as well as overall fitness.
  • Sleep
    • A good night’s sleep gives cells a chance to regenerate and helps with skin renewal.
  • Stop Smoking
    • Tobacco smoke is a major source of skin damaging free radicals. Smoking makes skin look older and contributes to wrinkles by:
      • Tobacco use narrows the tiny blood vessels in the inner layers of skin. This decreases blood flow and depletes skin of oxygen and nutrients such as Vitamin A.
      • Tobacco use damages collagen and elastin: the fibers that give skin its strength and elasticity.
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