Glow, Glass, Gloss. Different words in used in different times, describing the ever coveted light-from-within-the-skin.
Though there are now more products than ever promising extreme radiance, the demand for glow ups is never quite satisfied. Are we not using the right or latest products/ingredients? Are we not using enough? I thought I’d create an ultimate guide to having and maintaining impeccable glow now and possibly for ever.
This scope of topic is kind of big (we are talking about glowing for life!), so I’ve separated this in 2 parts – the science and the beyond. This Skin Journal instalment focuses on the science/ingredients, and the beyond instalment is on BLOOM, as it is best experienced.
What Makes Skin Glow?
Structurally, glowy skin has an even surface layer that hold adequate moisture (water). The evenness of moisture-filled cells reflects light in the way that our eyes ‘see’ as glowy.
This implies that glowy skin has 2 conditions:
- Intact barrier structure
- High water levels
Intact Barrier Structure
The outer layer of our skin, the epidermis, has a structure of a ‘brick and mortar’ (see image below). Our skin cells are akin the ‘bricks’; our natural skin oils and moisture holding factors are akin the ‘mortar’ between the cells, acting like glue that holds the cells together.
Our epidermis consists of different stages of cells – the youngest ones start at the bottom, and as they mature they move upwards towards our skin surface. Together, all the different cell stages of the epidermis forms our skin barrier. This rebuilding/moving up of skin cells is always happening, which is how our skin continually renews itself from bottom up throughout our life.
When the time or condition is right, the outermost layers – what we see as ‘skin’, gets sloughed off (desquamation). This can happen naturally or stimulated by exfoliation.
Exfoliation promotes desquamation, a process which declines with age. However, excessive exfoliation – in the form of acids, scrubs, peels, microdermabrasion or laser, not only disrupts the outermost layers, but also the younger cells deeper down in the epidermis, breaking down the wall-like structure of the epidermis.
The ‘brick and mortar’ structure of the epidermis is always intact in glowy skin. There is no premature removal of skin cells that forms the ‘wall’ of the skin.
High Moisture Levels
We talked about how our epidermal cells change as they move from the bottom up.
As in the diagram above, the cells are fuller in shape at the bottom, then eventually flatten out at the skin surface as they mature. The fuller they are, the more water/moisture the cells hold.
The outermost cells, which are the flattest, hold the least amount of water. When desquamation is slowed down, excessive layers of these flat cells start to pile on the skin surface. Our skin starts feeling rough because our skin surface is full of dried cells. This accumulation of cells gives that dull lacklustre appearance.
Best Glow Boosters
Exfoliants remove the outermost skin layer, which always contain less water compared to the cells beneath it. This is why the effect of exfoliation on luminosity is immediate, making exfoliation addictive. Please do not over-exfoliate, as this breaks down your barrier structure. There is NO GLOW with NO WALL!
Exfoliation can be physical like scrubs of any kind, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, lasers; or chemical like AHAs, BHA, enzymes and retinoids. Newer or stronger does not give better results. New exfoliants/treatments continually emerge, but their mechanism and function remain the same.
Since water is the other part of the radiance equation, humectants are incredible glow boosters as they increase skin’s moisture content by binding directly to water (while oils moisturise indirectly).
There are numerous types of humectants, e.g amino acids, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol. Some have a good story behind them, others do not.
The ‘best’ humectant is the one used at a good concentration in a formula suitable for your skin, not the most fancy or exotic one.
Anything exposed to air can oxidise, like how a cut apple turns brown. This happens to a small extent with our skin, so anti-oxidants (ingredients that prevent this oxidation process) can brighten overall skin tone.
There is a vast variety of antioxidants in cosmetics. Examples are natural oils, vitamins, (niacinamide, C, E, A), ferulic acid, Lipochroman and some peptides. Stronger is not better – the stronger the antioxidant, the more likely it causes irritation, which compromises the barrier structure. No wall, no glow!
Regardless of which glow-enhancing ingredient/treatment, used at home or professionally, neither product nor method is as important as the balance of maintaining an intact barrier (of high water content), keeping excess epidermis minimal.
The Fairy Godmother Factor
I said that there are 2 (structural) factors affecting skin glow. There is actually a third one, the most powerful one, which I call the Fairy Godmother Factor. This requires us to go further.
Glow is about having an intact skin structure without the excess/unwanted layers. From a higher perspective, radiance relates to how much we are willing or able to let go of our excess baggage, what we no longer need but still hold on to.
These baggage ‘accumulate’ in us, much like the excess dried out and flattened epidermal layers in various ways. They include
“My skin must be always clear for me to be happy with it.”
“Resting when I am tired makes me lazy.”
Scrolling online till late night – can’t sleep well – wake up exhausted to have more caffeine through the day that keeps you awake at night – back online at night again.
Never giving yourself enough time before, always rushing to get or be somewhere.
If someone criticises you, you immediately get defensive or place all blame on yourself.
When you feel angry, upset or uncomfortable, instead of fully feeling whatever you are experiencing, you distract yourself with work, getting company, praying or meditating.
Yes, even ‘good’ practices are coping crutches if they distract instead of direct you to face your Truth.
You are your own Fairy Godmother
Every single one of us has baggage. Some are conscious, most are unconscious as they were imprinted in us by our caretakers, family, culture or society.
As long as these unwanted beliefs remain, we continue to suffer. But we can choose to discard and change them, no matter how long we’ve carried them.
The first and most important step, is your willingness to become aware of any unwanted beliefs you hold. Then you pay attention, for this awareness can arise anytime, especially when you are not actively thinking about this matter.
When a belief/habit/pattern makes itself known to you, you work with it one at a time, to transmute and change it to a belief you do want.
These are your baggage, your stuff. You and only you can transmute it to something that makes you – not anyone else, feel good. You are your own Fairy Godmother.
How To Transmute
Now you have the information, understanding and tools! What’s left is the actual doing of the ‘spiritual exfoliation’ or transmutation, to get the Lady Galadriel Glow.
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