From the moment we are born, the our skin’s maturation process begins, and it does by facing its first challenge of having to adapt to a dry environment compared to the aqueous environment to which it was accustomed in the uterus. This dynamic organ, which fulfills the vital function of behaving as a physical barrier between our organs and the environment, also plays a fundamental role in our image and how the world perceives us. In this blog post, we will analyze the different stages that determine the health of your skin as you age and how it behaves throughout the different stages of life. As a child, my parents never saw my skin care as a concern, that is… until adolescence came, and I had to face severe acne. I guess a few years ago, taking care of the skin from childhood was not a concern and maybe even today it is still the same. However, I am convinced that this is caused by the lack of information and products aimed for these ages, than by the lack of a real need for care. For that reason, my objective in this blog post, is that by understanding the stages of skin behavior as we age, we can establish «Conscious Beauty» to take care of our skin and that of our children.
We call milestones those turning points in which certain characteristics are manifested in your skin, in other words they are like the signs that manifest in your skin as you age. Although they do not happen suddenly, they do correspond to gradual changes that occur during the growth process and complete their cycle at certain ages as described below:
As far as the skin is concerned, the maturation process begins for a premature infant, only two to three weeks after birth, as it is approximately the time in which a full-term birth (gestational age) would have culminated.
During the first 8 months of life, the baby’s skin is particularly sensitive to absorbing substances topically, making it particularly sensitive to damage caused by chemical agents that could provide some type of toxicity. This, together with an incipient thermoregulatory function, could have an impact even on the general health of the baby, especially in premature infants.
When the kid reaches 3 years old , the maturation process of the ecrine sweat glans is finished, thus impacting the thermoregulating function of skin. This is the first important milestone for the skin in childhood, since from here on, it behaves almost like the skin of an adult, although most of the features are in frank development.
Given the growth of children in their early years, which is also reflected in the accelerated growth of the surface of the skin, it possesses a unique ability to restore itself as a barrier and enjoys greater elasticity compared to the skin of an adult.
The first major milestone in your skin after the age of 3, happens when the child is 7 years old, when the development of the apocrine sweat glands begins, whose composition attracts the bacteria responsible for body odors at puberty.
Some authors estimate that by age 10, your skin is already fully mature and fully functioning, although others point out that this only happens in adolescence. The truth is that it is right at this age, in which important aspects of skin health are defined and that will help the child to successfully cope with the changes arising from puberty.
From this age (13 to 14 years), it is considered that your skin has completed its maturation process, because the changes that are experienced, are more related to factors andxogens, the type of skin and its care, than with the maturation process itself.
The process of skin maturation is known as the formation of the «Skin Barrier». The main objective in skin care, is to identify possible agents that can influence the skin barrier both positively and negatively, and based on this, establish personal care routines.
While there is no way to measure the health of the skin barrier, there are different parameters that by keeping them under control, could lead to healthy skin, such as:
Natural Moisturizing Factor is a mechanism used by your skin to preserve hydration, which influences the mechanical properties of the skin barrier and percutaneous absorption (through the skin). It consists of fatty acids, amino acids, ions, organic acids and sugars that combine to provide your skin with hydration, and from there it gets its name.
After birth, the baby’s skin tends to be dry, causing the NMF to increase during the first 30 days of life, as a compensation mechanism to rebalance the pH – initially alkaline- and the post-natal shock when moving from an aqueous environment to a dry one. However, after 12 months of life the NMF normalizes and then manage a lower concentration in children than in adults.
This factor indicates the skin’s ability to absorb substances topically. This ability varies according to your age since it is associated with the maturity of our skin to protect us at a certain stage in life.
In newborns and babies, the greatest absorption capacity is presented since, on the one hand, the development of the stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin) has not yet been completed and on the other hand, the surface of the skin is very wide in relation to body weight, which increases the absorption capacity.
Another factor that is said that can impact the absorption capacity of the skin, is the thickness of the outer layer of the skin or stratum corneum. The epidermis (or outer layer) of a newborn is thinner compared to that of an adult. The process of maturation of the skin barrier, leads to a thickening of this layer so that the skin can be protected in a more efficient way from external threats.
In the first years of life, we must be very careful with any product that we apply to the skin of our children, since its absorption could cause systemic toxic effects causing some damage and even death.
Also known as «acid mantle», it consists of a protective layer formed by lipids and sweat, which aims to protect the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum) from attack by external micro-organisms and loss of hydration. The «acid mantle» is considered a defense mechanism of the skin against infection, influencing the composition of the skin’s bacterial flora.
The pH is the degree of acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 14, in which the values between 1 and 6 are acidic, the value 7, which is the pH of the water, is considered neutral and from this number on it is considered alkaline.
The natural pH of the skin is usually below 6 (depending on age), which prevents the colonization of micro-organisms since these cannot survive in acidic environments. This is why as the skin becomes alkaline, it loses hydration and elasticity, and the risk of opportunistic infections increases.
The acidic or hydrolipidic mantle is responsible for maintaining the acidity of the skin and strengthening the re-balancing power, which seeks to bring the skin to its acidic nature despite having been in contact with an alkaline substance.
Newborns have skins with alkaline pH, which varies from 6.34 to 7.5. This is acidified to reach in childhood a pH that varies between 4.8 and 5.5. In adulthood, the ideal pH is usually below 5.
Skin acidification takes on an important role in the maturation of the skin barrier and in the activation of enzymes involved in the processing of stratum corneumlipids, which regulates the process of skin renewal. The alkaline pH on the other hand, amplifies the activity of certain bacteria, resulting in a degradation of the skin barrier.
Also known as TEWL for its acronym in English (Trans Epidermal Water Loss),it is perhaps one of the most relevant physiological processes performed by the skin, whose objective is to maintain hydration and body temperature, by allowing the evaporation of water coming from the dermis (middle layer of the skin) to the epidermis (outer layer of the skin).
If the TEWL does not perform well, because the skin barrier is not working properly, which may be related to age or to exogenous factors that increase the rate of water loss, skin hydration can be affected, which in turn, contributes to a deterioration of the skin barrier, thus creating a vicious cycle.
In the case of infants and children, since the skin barrier function is still in development, they have a reduced ability to retain water in the skin, so their TEWL is higher. That is why the skin of children usually has a lower hydration than the skin of adults and even present cases of dermatitis much often than in adult skin.
The skin is considered the body’s first defense system because through a rich network of immune cells or «good» microorganisms, it protects us from pathogenic microorganisms found in the environment. We know this as the skin microbiota, and its balance will contribute to the health of the skin barrier.
The microbiome (including the microbiota and external environmental factors) has a mission in our body: to train our non-logical system through interdependent functions of preserving integrity and combating microorganisms. Newborns have higher antimicrobial proteins than adults, however, their defense system works at a lower level.
Variations in the balance of the tannic microbiota can lead to skin disorders. This variability may depend on endogenous factors such as genetics, or exogenous factors such as demographics or transmission events.
In the previous points we saw, on one hand, the milestones in the skin according to age, and on the other, those that define if a skin is healthy. That’s why from here, I wanted to prepare a table that allows you to see these two aspects combined.
|Hitos de Salud||Hitos de Edad|
|Prematuros y Bebés||Niños||Adolescentes y Adultos|
|Factor de Hidratacion Natural (NMF)||Mezcla de ácidos grasos, aminoácidos y azúcares que se combinan para preservar la hidratación en el estrato córneo||El pH alcalino de la piel y el impacto de pasar de un medio acuoso a un ambiente seco, crean una resequedad inicial, que se compensa incrementando el NMF||La concentración de NMF es menor que en adultos. Su piel tiende a resecarse||NMF debe haber alcanzado su nivel ideal. La edad, genética y factores ambientales pueden crear desbalance|
|Absorción percutánea||La piel funciona como un mecanismo protector para evitar la absorción de sutancias vía tópica. Una mayor absorcion percutánea, la coloca en riesgo de permitir la entrada de agentes tóxicos||Mayor capacidad de absorción debido a: - Desarrollo incompleto del estrato córneo - La superficie de la piel es muy amplia en relación al peso corporal - Menor grosor en la piel||Aunque la barrera de la piel aún no alcanza su madurez, la absorción percutánea funciona similar a la de un adulto. La relación disminuida entre la superficie de la piel y el peso corporal, pueden afectar el funcionamiento de la barrera de la piel||Barrera de la piel en pleno funcionamiento, lo que favorece la protección contra la absorción de tóxicos vía tópica.|
|Manto hidrolípico o Manto ácido||Se forma de sebo (sustancias minerales) y sudor (sustancias orgánicas como úrea, ácido láctico, etc). Mantiene el pH en balance, fortaleciendo el sistema inmune de la piel||Su composición difiere de la del adulto, de modo que está en menor cantidad, es menos resistente y tiene una capacidad protectora disminuída||Capacidad protectora disminuída en relación al adulto dada la baja producción de sebo. Se incrementa a partir de los 7 u 8 años hasta alcanzar su nivel máximo en la adolescencia||Puede desequilibrarse por factores hormonales (adolescencia, embarazo, menopausia), lo que expone la piel a la entrada de microorganismos. Una buena hidratación lleva a un buen funcionamiento de la barrera de la piel y por lo tanto del manto ácido de la misma manera|
|PH Cutáneo||El pH natural de la piel suele estar por debajo de 6 (dependiendo de la edad), lo que previene la colonización de micro-organismos ya que estos no pueden sobrevivir en ambientes ácidos.||pH neutro a alcalino que oscila entre 6.3 a 7.5. Esto causa que la piel de los bebés sea más seca, sensible y sujeta a infecciones oportunistas en relación a la piel de un adulto. Su poder reequilibrante es débil, por cuanto el uso de productos alcalinos pueden contribuir a su resequedad||pH ácido que oscila entre 4,8 a 5,5, siendo 4,8 un pH saludable. Se ha descubierto que los niños con afecciones en la piel como dermatits manejan pH arriba de 5.5. Su poder reequilibrante es moderado, por lo que debe evitarse el uso de productos alcalinos||Debe mantenerse ácido, con un pH menor a 5. Aunque se utilicen productos alcalinos, la piel tiene poder reequilibrante que la llevará a pH ácido en minutos|
|Transepidermal water Loss (TEWL)||Consiste en el proceso de tomar agua de la dermis y llevarla a la epidermis para evaporarse. Los lipidos del sebo contribuyen a la reducción del TEWL al crear una capa oclusiva en la piel. Un incremento en el TEWL significa que la piel pierde agua más rápido y por lo tanto puede deshidratarse||TEWL mayor debido a la una superficie de la piel más alta en relación a su peso, a la baja producción de sebo y al incipiente desarrollo de las glándulas sudoríparas. Esto hace que la piel tienda a la deshidratación por lo que se recomienda el uso de hidratantes y protectores oclusivos especialmente en clima frío||Aunque a una tasa menor que la de los bebés, el TEWL de los niños es mayor que los adultos debido a la relación disminuida superficie de la piel-peso, al incremento en la sudoración y a que la síntesis de sebo solo inicia hasta los 7 años, lo que reduce los factores oclusivos que retengan humedad. Al igual que en los bebés, debe cuidarse la hidratación con rigurosidad||El TEWL es normal, y puede acentuarse por factores externos como el clima. Mantener la hidratación de la piel debe ser una constante|
|Sistema Inmune o Microbiota||La microbiota de la piel es un conjunto de microorganismos "buenos" que previene la invasión de microorganismos patógenos y soporta el crecimiento de bacterias comensales||Los recién nacidos cuentan con proteínas antimicrobianas superiores a la de los adultos, sin embargo, su sistema defensor funciona en un nivel menor. Los científicos consideran que el parto natural entrega al bebé mejores defensas a la piel y al cuerpo que un parto por cesárea||El sistema inmune se consolida a partir de los 9 años de edad. Es importante mantener la hidratación, limitar la exposición al sol y evitar el uso continuo de antibióticos. Estos factores pueden afectar el sistema inmune de la piel||El sistema inmune de la piel está diseñado para funcionar correctamente, sin embargo factores ambientales, de alimentación y el uso excesivo de antibióticos y antibacteriales pueden afectarlo.|
In short, each age represents different challenges to maintaining a healthy skin. These can be summarized as follows:
- The skin has a higher percutaneous absorption, so it is vital to learn to analyze each ingredient that we place in your skin because the risk of absorption of toxic ingredients is much greater.
- The skin tends to dry out due to a higher TEWL, caused by an incipient functioning of the sweat glands, a very wide surface of the skin in relation to its weight, and that the MFN and the hydrolipidic mantle that serve as a protective and moisturizing barrier are hardly in development.
- The immune system is barely developing, so special attention must be paid to taking care of exposure to factors that deteriorate it such as the sun, antibiotics and antibacterial in excess
- For this skin there are two objectives: to cleanse (not in excess) and to keep the skin hydrated
- Cleaning can be done once a day with liquid soaps that have moisturizers, neutral in nature (pH 7) and with very low detergent power
- Hydration can be done either with light lotions, or preferably with the use of oils that generate an occluisva layer to avoid losing moisture from the skin
- The skin tends to dry out since both the development of MFN and the hydrolipidic mantle is not yet complete, also they have a higher TEWL. Hydration takes on a particular relevance at this age, so that the skin is prepared for the hormonal changes that are coming
- The development of apocrine glands and the increase in the production of sweat and sebum, make cleaning a fundamental need to avoid the accumulation of dirt and bacteria that can affect the immune system
- Increased sun exposure and increased sebum production could lead to an imbalance in the immune system
- Cleaning should be done at least twice a day (mainly on the face) in order to remove dead cells and possible bacteria present in the environment
- It is recommended to use oil-based cleansers with medium detergency power cleanse, but that do not interfere with the production of fatty acids that are necessary to keep the skin hydrated
- It is recommended to use a light lotion during the day, and especially in cold climates, an occlusive cream during the night
- Topical products should be acidic in nature with pH between 5 and 6
- The functions of the skin have already been developed therefore it has all the tools to defend itself from the environment
- In adolescence, hormonal changes can represent a challenge to maintain the balance of different factors, so preventive care is vital importance
- The cleaning habit should be maintained twice a day and a two-step cleaning is recommended. The first with an oil-based cleaner and the second with a water-based cleaner. In this way, impurities will be gently removed from the skin
- Hydration should be approached with light lotions or gels
- All used products that are water-based must have an acidic pH between 5 and 6
- Occlusive products are not recommended on the face, only in the body, unless you are already in adulthood and oil-based serums that favor elasticity are added
Si quieres revisar todos los cuidados que deberías tener en la piel de niños y adultos, no olvides descargar nuestro e-book “Mi primer granito” que te servirá como una guía completa en el cuidado de su piel.
I hope this article is useful to you, do not forget to share it