Skin talk

skin

As equestrians, we spend a lot of time outdoors exposed to the elements

Did you know that the skin is not only the largest organ of the human body, but also one of the cleverest? Not only is the health and condition of your skin responsible for the way you look and feel, but it has many other ‘hidden’ functions as well.

Your skin matters

Skin represents the primary barrier between the body and the outside world, and it has a very important role in maintaining moisture content. Moisture is being lost and gained to and from the outside environment on a continuous basis, in a phenomenon known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL). If the water content of the skin drops from its normal level of around 25%, to 15% or less, then a dry or dehydrated skin condition occurs, with the commensurate problems that these conditions bring.

Skin is also very important in helping to maintain body temperature, and it achieves this through the expansion and contraction of minute blood vessels that are situated in the lower layers of the skin. Skin protects the body to some degree against UV light, although the more harmful UVA rays can still penetrate deeply into the skin, where they can cause damage that leads to premature ageing and possibly even the formation of skin cancers.

The equestrian environment

As precious as our skin is to us all, it is inevitably subjected to the environment and the rigors of everyday life and, depending on the length and nature of the exposure, varying levels of skin damage can occur. For equestrians, the potential for damaging the skin is exacerbated by the fact that they spend long periods of time attending and participating in equestrian events, which are frequently held outdoors, and the harsh South African climate can cause havoc when it comes to skin health. The damage that can be caused to the skin by environmental factors fundamentally falls into two categories: the occurrence of dry and even dehydrated skin, which is relatively superficial, and the damage caused by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which is permanent and potentially fatal.

skin

It’s important to protect your skin against harm caused by dry air, sun, and dust

Dehydrated skin

Dry and dehydrated skin occurs because more water is lost from the skin to the outside environment than is gained, so the equilibrium of moisture between the skin and its surrounds becomes imbalanced, resulting in the dry, or dehydrated, skin condition. Fundamentally, dry or dehydrated skin can be alleviated, or even prevented, by the use of a good skincare regimen, particularly when it comes to the moisturisation step.

Caring for your skin

skin

Chat to a dermatologist about choosing the best products for your skin

The basis of effective skincare essentially means going back to basics, and the adoption of a good cleansing, toning and moisturising regimen on a twice-daily basis, once in the morning and once in the evening before retiring to bed. It is very important to choose the correct type of product that will suit your particular skin type, so as to improve the condition of your skin, rather than making it worse. If your skin is oily or problematic, the best types of cleanser are those that cleanse with a gentle lather, without leaving the skin too dry. These days, most cleansers of this type made by reputable manufacturers will effectively cleanse your skin, including removing make-up, without leaving it feeling tight and uncomfortable. If possible, choose a product that has moisturising claims on the pack, as these tend to have a more gentle cleansing action on the skin. If your skin is dry or mature, it is much better to choose a cream or lotion cleanser, as these types can actually assist in the re-moisturisation of your skin, in addition to performing the necessary cleansing function. Even if your skin is not normally dry, the harsh South African climate can exacerbate dryness, so the use of a cream or lotion cleanser may represent the best choice anyway.

Text: John Knowlton

John Knowlton (CChem, MRSC, Dip Cos Sci (GB)) is a leading cosmetic scientist, based in South Africa. John is also the founder and owner of Cosmetic Solutions, a company that focuses on formulation development of cosmetic and personal care products.

The full article appears in the July issue (112) of HQ