Does your lifestyle involve being outdoors? If so, have you thought about skin damage from the outdoors? I spend a large portion of my time outside in the summers farming, but I also like to hike, bike ride, snowshoe and cross country ski. Being outside has many health benefits. UV light on the skin boosts vitamin D levels which supports strong bones and even reduces your risk of cancer. UV light also stimulates endorphins which improve mode and help stress relief. However, if you spend much time outside you may have noticed the damaging effects the outdoors has on your skin. Your skin needs vitamin C to help maintain collagen and antioxidants to decrease damage caused by free radical formation and other cellular damage.
There are 5 main weather elements that damage skin; UV light from the sun, lack of humidity, wind, temperature and altitude.
Ultra Violet Light (UV)
Most ultraviolet light that reaches the ground is UVA, the other 5% is UVB. UVB is mostly associated with sunburn, inflammation and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper, causing more damage in the dermis of the skin; the layer under the epidermis which provides support. UVA light creates free radicals that cause oxidative damage to macromolecules including DNA, proteins and lipids in the skin. This is associated with photoaging of the skin or premature wrinkling. Even if you wear sunscreen, UV light still damages the skin without causing a burn. Many sunscreens do not block the damaging effects of UVA but focus more on UVB.
Free radical formation in the skin caused by solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation can result in:
- Breakdown of collagen and elastic fibers found in the dermis of the skin. Because the dermis gives support to the skin this results in deep wrinkle formation and loss of tissue elasticity.
- Inflammation and reddening of the skin causing cellular damage.
- Hyperpigmentation or spotty, discoloration of the skin that occurs in patches.
- Disarray of elastin fibers in the skin matrix that result in a yellowed, bumpy, thickened and dry appearance to skin.
- Formation of small, visible dilated blood vessels around the nose and cheeks (called telangiectasiae).
Blowing wind can actually remove the protective cell layer (stratum corneum) from the outer surface of the skin. If you are wearing sunscreen, this is also removed with that layer. Without this layer, the skin loses moisture much quicker leading to dehydration of the skin and the body. Natural lipids are lost from the cell surface that are part of the skin barrier function. Compromising the skin barrier function can cause very dry skin also known as xerosis. This will eventually cause cracks and fissures in the skin and increase the risk of infection.
Temperature of the skin affects blood flow. Increased temperatures increase blood flow to the skin to help disperse body temperature, while cold temperatures decrease blood flow to the skin helping the body maintain heat. Heat also increases cellular metabolism which can increase oxidative damage to the cells and speed up skin aging. Changing temperatures rapidly by going inside and outside can cause capillaries on the face to break. Although extreme and prolonged cold can lead to frostbite or chilbains (painful itching and swelling), otherwise, cold temperatures are probably better for the skin than hot temperatures. Snow, in cold weather can amplify the effects of UV light by causing reflection.
Altitude is a real factor in Colorado. It has the effect of amplifying other elements. High altitude puts us closer to the sun so intensifies the effects of UV light. Lower oxygen pressures in the air at altitude may deliver less oxygen to the skin leading to hypoxia (decreased oxygen) which may cause cell damage.
Being outdoors helps us regenerate and relax. Don’t let your skin care concerns keep you from enjoying the outdoors. Skin damage from the outdoors can be prevented and reversed. Good skin care is not a luxury but something to consider on a daily basis to keep your skin healthy. As the interface between you and the environment, this health is important to the overall health of the body as well. So how do we go about preventing and reversing these effects of the outdoor environment? Read here to learn how to revive your skin after being outdoors. Read here about some ingredients that help skin retain collagen. And read here about why skin needs antioxidants. Colorado Aromatics Cultivated Skin Care products are formulated by a biochemist and herbalist who understands skin physiology.
You can see us at the Outdoor Retailer Show to learn more about Colorado Aromatics.