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Zen & The Art of Skincare (part 2)

The skin evolved from the brain. They share many common factors, interest in novelty and susceptibility to addiction being two of these. Meaning, the brain is easily addicted, even to the point of self-destruction.

The skin likewise is easily addicted. Meaning the skin adapts to the environment in order to protect the vital organs (its primary function) and will absorb much abuse in order to do so.

In other words, if a substance is repeatedly applied to the skin, a substance that is not an immediate threat to the internal organs as the skin evaluates the substance, then the skin will simply reservoir the substance and redirect its own metabolic needs toward housekeeping.

There is a lot of misinformation about how the skin deals with topical substances. Many choose to believe that the skin gobbles up the nutrients (metabolites) in a topical substance and the result is skin that is healthy and vibrant. Like feeding an Olympic athlete 9,000 calories a day.

The skin factory, in this viewpoint, digests the topical substance and the nutrients are routed to the cells and a great visible result occurs. So, what happens if the skin is not very hungry, and can’t eat another bite and yet is force fed more and more of the nutrients?

Bad things.

Let’s sort this out. We know from our previous discussions that the skin is only a dozen or so sheets of paper thick. And the eyelids, about three sheets. We also know that its ability to swell up like a sponge to absorb topical substances is very slight. However, someone noticed that the swelling is enough to smooth out the skin for a day – and so a bazillion dollar industry was created.

With a very limited amount of space, the skin has really nowhere to put the load of topical substances applied to it. It does have reservoirs, small warehouses where it can store small amounts temporarily until the maintenance crew comes by and disposes of this excess. A LOT of energy is spent in this chore. Energy that would be much better spent on more beneficial metabolic functions.

This is why frequently applying substances to the skin, results in a drab looking face in the mirror. The maintenance department is overworked. The skin is weaker. The next phase might be unexpected but goes back to its origins in the brain: the skin becomes addicted to the substance, even as it gets weaker and weaker.

Fortunately, most substances do not go beyond the very top layers of the skin. They are spread across the surface and simply dry up and blow away.

Sidebar: Oils are a matter for a separate post by the Skin Dork. For now, let’s leave it that petrolatum (often referred to as Vaseline™) remains the single most effective barrier moisturizer available.

With the vast majority of the topical substances in a moisturizer simply drying up and going away, unable to penetrate the skin further down than two sheets of paper, what’s the fuss?

Cell signaling. The skin is very tuned into chemistry. It analyzes in a few moments any topical substance and makes the call: friend or foe. When it is addicted however, the chemist has passed out, and the cells get wrong information. This can allow bad things to enter and cause problems, but it can also take good things and make them unavailable to the cell and so, cause problems.

Eons ago the skin recognized it was not perfect in its analysis and developed these reservoirs or warehouses to keep substances temporarily. In time, the maintenance and metabolism crews would get around to breaking down the substances in the reservoirs. Enzymes (proteins) act on the substances and send them out as garbage or utilize them in the cells as nutrients.

This gave rise to the idea that you can feed the skin. But the notion is wrong. The skin does not need or want a topical substance applied to be healthy. Aging has special requirements though, and helping cell signaling is, today, accomplished by a topical approach. Baby skin is not a function of skincare products. If you could simply send the proper electrochemical signals to the cells, nothing topical would be necessary except for a temporary barrier like petrolatum in harsh weather.

This is why skincare gadgets are all the rage. Cell signals are the key. But even the best gadgets are very primitive in their capabilities.

Anyway, the cell signals send out a go/no go in further cell production and more importantly the urgency to do so. In the case of injury, the skin will throw up sandbags of proteins as quickly as possible to block any further invasion of the body. Half formed cells and protein fragments result. The skin knits these together willy-nilly to get the wall up. The visible result can be scarring, temporary or more permanent.

With weak skin, this process of protection is done poorly. The immune system gets involved. Sensitivity increases, inflammation (meaning an influx of poorly formed proteins) arises. This can become a chronic condition. Very poorly textured skin is the visible result. Highly sensitive skin is also common.

The moisturizer you were told to apply daily, twice or even three times daily has become like heroin to the skin. The skin has shut down many of its desirable cell signaling activities and turned into an inflammation factory. The moisturizer has filled every reservoir and cannot be processed fast enough, or not at all. Nothing looks good and the skin feels dry and it seems only more moisturizing will do.

When you look in the mirror what does it tell you? It’s telling you to ignore the directions on the box most of the time. Except for precautions the directions are usually wrong.

If you are to have beautiful skin you need to look in the mirror and think. What am I doing? A routine that was working for a short time, or even for a considerable time, and now doesn’t, will not need MORE of anything. Begin to subtract in frequency and change the chemistry. Less is best.

The skin is like a houseplant, the more you feed and water it, the weaker it gets.

So often we hear from clients who ADDED something to a bad routine of skincare and then saw their skin go into a tailspin. They are certain that the new ‘something’ is the cause. Most of the time, that is wrong. The skin was at the threshold of defeat and the new ‘something’ just pushed it over the edge.

We have found that the use of powerful metabolites applied INFREQUENTLY (meaning one or twice per week at most) will do wonders in prompting a great cell signaling response.

Cell signaling is the key.

To be continued…..

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