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A Breath of Fresh Air
By: Jeffrey Lapin
Posted: January 29, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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It is also known from both empirical and anecdotal evidence that oxygen strengthens collagen and elastin fibers, which are responsible for the tensile strength and resiliency of skin, and encourages the more rapid turnover of skin cells.2 The latter benefit is largely a result of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy release created during the breakdown of oxygen molecules in the body.
In short, large amounts of oxygen are necessary for the health of skin tissue. Without a steady supply of oxygen, all cells will cease to function in very short order. Although oxygen is not the only element necessary for healthy skin and skin cell production, it has been shown to aid in the correction of a vast number and variety of common skin ailments, ranging from skin that is dehydrated, acne- or rosacea-plagued, and even sun damaged. How does this well-known gaseous element that comprises 21% of the air do all of this?
Oxygen and the skin
To answer that, it is important to examine the composition of human skin. It consists of two main layers—the epidermis, which is the outer layer, and the dermis, which is the first inner layer. The outermost layer of the epidermis, known as the stratum corneum, is hard, scaly and lifeless. It forms a protective layer for the softer, living tissue below and performs a number of functions, including protecting the body from foreign substances and retaining its natural moisture.
New skin cells are produced through a process called mitosis, in which a cell divides and produces a whole new cell. These new cells begin in the junction between the dermis and the epidermis and migrate outward to the epidermis, eventually being sloughed off naturally or mechanically.
The epidermis is the only part of the skin that can be seen; therefore, it is where most traditional skin care focuses. But herein lies the main difference between today’s sophisticated skin care and your mother’s greasy moisturizers. The real action of the skin—including the key functions of producing new skin, as well as collagen and elastin cells—is in the epidermal junction, not on the epidermis. What is seen with the naked eye are dead skin cells, and it’s too late to help them.