From a physiological perspective, as skin care professionals, it is imperative that you understand the processes that the skin goes through on its journey to adulthood, both naturally and unnaturally.
A Brief Review
I’m quite confident that all of you are well educated when it comes to the basic physiology of the skin. The three primary layers; the epidermis, dermis, and sub-cutaneous layer. As aestheticians, our scope of practice falls within the epidermis, and its’ five layers. Each layer distinct in shape, components, and function. These layers work collectively to repair, protect, and maintain the integrity of the skin as a whole.
The epidermis is a miraculous self-renewing entity that continuously renews itself by a process known as differentiation. In this process, a single epidermal basal cell progresses from the basal layer, undergoing keratinization, becoming a keratinocyte, and ending in the outermost layer of the skin as a corneocyte. The completion of this process provides the skin with unyielding protection (as long as it is not damaged in some way), while simultaneously creating a network of fatty acids, lipids, triglycerides, and protective pH.
The efforts to renew the outermost layer of the skin can only be accomplished with inner workings of the dermal layer, the efforts of fibroblast cells, collagen, elastin, blood vessels, and capillaries. The dermis also contains a unique packing material known as glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans are polysaccharides, long chains of amino sugars that are naturally produced within the body and lubricate, protect, and even influence cellular activity. Examples of these include hyaluronic acid, dermatan sulfate, and heparin.
A Natural Progression
Aging, or “maturing,” really is a natural process. If the fountain of youth actually existed, we wouldn’t have a business! Regardless of environmental influences, there are aging factors that we simply have no control over; they are a result of our genetic makeup and make us who we are.
We have always learned that the average cell takes about 28 days to complete its journey to the surface of the skin to be sloughed off, depending upon age, health, and environmental influences. Realistically, things begin to decline “naturally” in our late 20s. By the age of 25, the production of collagen and elastin begins to decline, resulting in the slow decrease in firmness and elasticity. Likewise, the process of cell turnover begins to decline. This decline in the making of new cells and the sloughing process of corneocytes was the driving force behind the emergence of glycolic acids and retinols to promote the cell turnover process, resulting in softer, smoother, more youthful skin.
When cell turnover declines, a variety of physiological changes are also affected, and these changes directly influence the visible appearance of the skin. The decrease in the natural shedding of the skin results in a dull and uneven appearance and rough texture. This decline also results in naturally drier skin. The key lipids within the top layers of our skin are formed from the breakdown of skin cells in the keratinization process. Thus, when the breakdown slows down, the result is drier skin.
The true struggle begins for most as the skin grazes the 40 to 50 year “maturity” rate. This is a peak time in which proper care and nutrition of the skin is imperative. Once you understand why, it’s easy to create individualized programs for each client.
Hormonal changes within the body also play a key role in the “maturity” rate of the skin. At various stages of life, puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, the hormones fluctuate drastically within the body, but a key role in the skin maturing process occurs during menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Low levels of estrogen produce a decrease in the glycosaminoglycans that are found and produced in the dermal layer of the skin. The decrease in glycosaminoglycans result in a decrease in the lubrication, suppleness, thickness, and healthy glow of the skin.
I suppose it’s bad enough that there is a component of maturing that we have no control over, although there is a certain amount of sophistication that comes with “maturity,” but now we add to the mix the things that we DO have control over… smoking, drinking, pollution, UV exposure, harsh chemicals, improper products, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Ninety percent of the aging process is the result of environmental influences. Eighty percent of the condition of the skin is the result of home care. Share those figures and you will be guaranteed to have a client for life!
What to do With What you Know
You can not place a definitive definition on “mature.” Every one of our clients vary in age, activity, health, heredity, product use, and behaviors. What we can agree on is that “mature” skin is skin that has a decrease in cell proliferation, suppleness, moisture, firmness, and elasticity. It appears dull and presents with a range of visible aging signs that include hyperpigmentation, lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture.
As skin care professionals, we can influence some of theses changes, but only by completely understanding what these changes are and what caused them… we need to understand which ingredients and treatments will have an influence, how they will influence it, and why.
The primary skin care objective is to promote an immature appearance. I would love to see the look on your clients face when you tell them they look absolutely immature!
This means your objective is to stimulate new fibroblast activity, because this will stimulate the cell activity of collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans. Fibroblasts are stimulated as a defense mechanism when any type of damage is induced upon the surface of the skin; chemical peels, exfoliation, microdermabrasion, etc. The use of advanced technological ingredients; vitamin A, vitamin C, resveratrol, malic acid, tartaric acid, cardiolipin, l-carnosine, and spinach leaf extract; just to name a few.
Additional key skin care ingredients will have instantaneous effects on the surface of the skin, and can have comparable results. Mechanical exfoliants remove superficial dead skin cells, resulting in a healthy glow and smoother skin. Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, peptides, and polypeptides instantly plump the surface of the skin; resulting in a firm, supple appearance.
Bottom line, “mature” skin is not a disease; it’s simply a by-product of life… nothing to get freaky over, just something to take seriously in considering the plan of attack in treating your mature clients.
Establishing the perfect treatment plan includes proper consultation and analysis. You must be aware of daily activities, medications, home care, and family factors that have contributed to the “mature” state that your client’s skin is in at the moment.
Professional treatments should include promoting rapid cell turnover and feeding the skin with active ingredients that feed and nourish every layer of the skin. This can include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, galvanic current, active serums, and antioxidant infusions. However, please keep something very crucial in mind… excessive exfoliation, peeling, and damage to the surface of the skin will not result in an improvement, but may actually enhance the visible signs of maturity. There is a very fine line. Anytime you inflict damage on the surface of the skin, you certainly promote the cell turnover process, but when the infliction of damage is excessive, the skin is not capable of maintaining its physiological repair mechanisms that are triggered in the inflammatory response and the wound healing process. More is not better. The object is to work hand in hand with the skin’s natural maturing process.
Feed, nourish, hydrate, and protect… and your client’s immature skin will thank you.