Understanding the Impact of Summer on Your Skin
Our skin is subjected to a real onslaught in summer. First, it is bombarded with UV rays, both UVB and UVA, which can cause damage to both the nuclear DNA and the mitochondrial DNA.
The result? When it stacks up, premature ageing with all its symptoms - hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and broken capillaries. It can also damage your skin barrier:
Everything from mild changes (nothing to see, skin tight after cleansing and products might sting a bit) to the more severe end of the spectrum (dry, flaking, redness and everything burns).
This is exacerbated by the effects of low humidity during long haul flights, swimming in chlorinated water and air conditioning. So there’s a lot of stuff to unpack.
The Need for ‘Transitional’ Skincare: Adapting to Post-Summer Skin Routine
Do we actually need ‘transitional’ skincare? Is post summer a good time to change / introduce new things to our skincare routine? I think it's essential. Many of my patients this month have complained that their skin feels depleted and fatigued, that’s because it’s been on high alert, defending itself all summer.
One of the things we now understand is the role of the cell battery in our skin and a critical energy molecule called NAD+.
This gets depleted by the free radicals generated by UV exposure in our skin - this is a disaster for the skin’s housekeeping processes, as NAD+ helps control vital functions like DNA repair, fighting inflammation and barrier repair. When these things go wrong, over time this shows up as the visible signs of ageing.
So a lot can go wrong, hence replacing NAD+ should be a priority once we’re back into our regular routine. The good news is that many good lifestyle choices help here - getting good quality sleep, eating food rich in B vitamins, wearing daily sunscreen and vigorous exercise.
But excitingly, I see ingredients that replace NAD+ levels as a new frontier in skincare, as we go a level deeper into understanding why they’re at the centre of how our skin changes with age. Think of it as the skin’s master switch.
Reclaiming Your Summer Glow: Addressing Depleted Skin Barriers
If you’ve lost your summer glow or your fine lines and wrinkles look worse, don’t stress. This is fixable!
What’s happening here is that your skin barrier is impaired, meaning your skin is less effective at hanging onto water and staying hydrated, exacerbating the appearance of lines and any texture on the skin. Simple measures come first - cut back on actives and use a simple, non-drying cleanser that does no harm. Next comes hydration - I recommend a three-pronged approach to barrier repair.
Boosting the Skin’s Cell Battery: Firstly, address the depletion of the skin’s cell battery - your skin knows how to repair itself, but it needs enough energy to do so. By the time you’ve reached the age of 40, your battery is running at around 50% so there’s little reserve for the impact of the sun. I’m excited by the breakthrough ingredient Sunflower Shoot Extract which boosts NAD+ levels and recharges your skin’s battery and solves a damaged skin barrier from the inside-out, rather than the traditional outside-in method (like slugging).
Sealing in Surface Moisture: Then we can definitely improve things by sealing water in on the surface - look for ingredients like Ectoin, a new type of ingredient called an osmolyte found in microorganisms that live in extreme climates like the desert. This forms a water “shell” on the skin’s surface to stop water evaporating, allowing hydration levels to dramatically increase. It also helps protect against blue light and UV.
This can be combined with other ingredients that lock water in, like the elegant occlusive squalane and and the barrier building ceramides. Likewise, it can be paired with ingredients that help hold water in the skin, like glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
Support the Microbiome: Finally, bolster your microbiome. This enhances your skin’s defences whilst it's depleted so it can better keep the bad stuff out. Avoid over-cleansing as I said before.
In the long-term, sorting out your damaged skin barrier puts you in a strong position to support the rest of your routine - it’ll be so much easier to use a retinoid, which can start to work its magic and sort out many of the issues of post-summer skin, like breakouts, pigmentation and any more entrenched fine lines. It’s really the basis of helping your skin help itself - the ideal scenario!
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