High Altitude Effects on Skin

high altitude skin

By Rene Sacchitella

There is no denying that Colorado is beautiful, it’s even breath taking. One of the most unique qualities about Colorado is the weather. Dynamic and dramatic, it feels that you can experience all four seasons in day. There have been days that I experienced that start with brisk, cold frosty morning, to a gorgeous 72 degree afternoon, to thunderstorms with whipping winds that end the day with peaceful snow. But can that be good for our skin? The climate conditions that effect your skin are especially exaggerated when you live in Colorado. Your skin’s defenses are constantly being strained by extremes making these harsh weather conditions even worse. So what’s happening to our skin?

The epidermis is the outer most layer of the skin, which is held by molecules called lipids. Lipids maintain moisture in your skin and provide protection against the elements. Lipids create the mortar hold the dried out skin cells (corneocytes), which act like bricks to create this essential barrier. This relationship between lipids and corneocytes is the skin’s defense system that we take for granted. There is also a lipid barrier on the skin called the ‘acid mantle’. The acid mantle is located at the top of the epidermis and it is made up of oil and sweat secretions. The acid mantle dictates the PH level of the skin. Skin is essentially acidic, and this acidic layer protects your skin from bacteria and infections. Moreover removing the acid mantle disturbs the distribution of dead cells on top of epidermis. The structure of the cells in the layer of dead skin cells gets disturbed and the bacteria find an easy passage through to the epidermis.

 Main causes of lipid breeches are extreme weather conditions because of the loss of moisture becoming more permeable to irritants. Not wearing sunscreen during a sunny hot day, exposing your skin to dry cold air,  or experiencing both in the same day thanks to high altitude weather, depletes the performance of this defense system.  A compromise in the lipid can result in dry, dehydrated cells that also put a strain on our immune systems by not functioning properly. This can cause bacteria related acne, eczema, inflammation, congestion of the pores, fine lines and wrinkles. Alkaline soaps and detergents are the primary destroyers of acid mantle. The other factor that affect the acid mantle would be excess perspiration especially in rapid temperate fluctuations because of its disruption to the PH level.  These barriers are not immune to the environment, and when Colorado weather surprises us, our skin becomes even more susceptible.

A balanced skin care regimen is the best way to promote the proper function of your skin’s barriers as well as knowing when it’s appropriate to incorporate exfoliating. While exfoliation is key to a worthy skin regimen, over exfoliation is detrimental because it can affect our acid mantles. While too many dead skin cells on the skin’s surface can create a dull appearance, a small amount of these cells promote a positive role.  The skin needs time to heal in between either professional exfoliation or product exfoliation at home. This healing process allows the regeneration of the lipid barrier, the acid mantle’s PH levels and promotes cellular turnover to reveal glowing healthier skin.

When our skin exposed to these extreme elemental changes living in high altitude weather, usually a bad habit is formed with over exfoliation. We tend to think that using another scrub or mask packed with alpha hydroxy acids more often will help, which isn’t the case. Exfoliation should only take place, once or twice a week, while the other days of the week should be focused on nutrition and moisture.  A multitasking exfoliator is key to help us not over exfoliate because of their ability to address more than one issue. One of our best sellers, Image’s Ageless Total Resurfacing Mask, acts like a scrub because of the manual exfoliation beads but it’s also potent in glycolic acid to combat dry dull skin. Since the Total Resurfacing Mask is acidic, it allows the acid mantle to regenerate and maintain balance. Another one would be Yon-Ka’s Fruitellia, which is an everyday gentle enzyme based exfoliating moisturizer that maintains the lipid barrier or disturb the acid mantle. For more on product multi-taskers, please read Colleen’s blog

On the recovery side of your skin care regimen, which tends to be the most important and underestimated part of creating a high altitude skin care routine; we have a few essential products. Besides the moisturizers, treatments and cleansers that are specific to each skin type, these products are good for everyone living in Colorado. Masque #1 from Yon-Ka is a cream based mask that delivers hydration back to skin, perfect for after exfoliation or the rough weather that we know Colorado can throw at us.  Another Yon-Ka product that balances the PH levels of the skin while maintaining the integrity of the lipid barrier is the Lotion PS, (which is technically a toner spray). To be used morning and night after cleansing before moisturizing, this helps every skin routine by quenching the skin and delivering essential nutrients back into the skin that can get stripped away by the elements. The Final recommendation would have to be Image’s Illuma Lightening Serum. This serum is good for post professional exfoliation treatments, recovery against the serve elemental damage and it also lightens the complexion of the skin. Adding just one of these products into your skin care routine will balance the skin and rejuvenate the lipid barriers that high altitude weather can destroy.

For more precise and customized product recommendations you can always come in for a complimentary consultation with one our lovely Estheticians. 

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