Natural Solutions - - Health - BY MICHAEL A. SMITH, MD

As Old Man Win­ter vis­its us once again, so does the prob­lem of “win­ter skin”— that dreaded dry­ness on the face, hands, and feet. For many of us, win­ter skin means more than just an un­com­fort­able, tight, dry feel­ing: our skin be­comes so mois­ture-de­fi­cient it be­gins to chap, flake, and even crack.

The low out­door hu­mid­ity and the dry, heated in­door air com­bine to rob the mois­ture con­tent from our skin. This mois­ture loss not only re­sults in dry­ness and crack­ing, but it also can con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of fine lines and wrin­kles on the com­plex­ion.

The process for suc­cess­fully in­creas­ing skin mois­ture lev­els, es­pe­cially in the dry win­ter months, is not as sim­ple as ap­ply­ing a cream or lo­tion to re­store lost mois­ture. To un­der­stand how we can best re­pair and even pre­vent parched skin, we need to first un­der­stand what skin ce­ramides are and how they af­fect skin com­po­si­tion and mois­ture lev­els.

Skin ce­ramides are a type of skin fat, a ma­jor com­po­nent of the skin’s sur­face, and they re­side in the top skin layer called the epi­der­mis. If you think of your skin as a brick-and-mor­tar wall, the bricks would be the skin cells and the mor­tar would be the ma­trix that holds the skin cells to­gether–ce­ramides are part of this struc­tural glue.

If that mor­tar or that ma­trix be­gins to break down be­cause you start los­ing some of the com­po­nents, such as the ce­ramides, the skin cells will be­gin to sep­a­rate, rup­tur­ing the skin’s mois­ture bar­rier and al­low­ing rapid mois­ture loss. This is when we start to see and feel the ef­fects of dry­ness and ag­ing on the skin, which can be es­pe­cially no­tice­able in the win­ter months when hu­mid­ity is low.

There are sev­eral fac­tors that re­duce the skin’s ce­ramide lev­els and de­stroy the skin’s abil­ity to re­tain mois­ture. The first fac­tor is the ag­ing process. As we get older, we don’t pro­duce enough of many sub­stances in the body, in­clud­ing th­ese spe­cial types of skin fats. Other rea­sons for low skin-ce­ramide lev­els in­clude life­style is­sues like poor diet, al­co­hol con­sump­tion, smok­ing, chronic stress, and ex­po­sure to en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins.

Clin­i­cal stud­ies show that a new ce­ramide food sup­ple­ment de­vel­oped in Europe and made from wheat germ oil, called Ad­vanced Skin Re­pair with Ce­ramides, can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease skin ce­ramide lev­els and boost skin mois­ture. One 2011 study pub­lished in The In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Cos­metic Sci­ence found, for women with dry and very dry skin, that the sup­ple­ment was ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing skin rough­ness and itch­i­ness while im­prov­ing uni­for­mity of com­plex­ion, fa­cial skin hy­dra­tion, sup­ple­ness, and the over­all state of the skin.

Ce­ramides can be found in many plants and an­i­mals, but the ce­ramides most re­sem­bling those found in hu­man skin are found in wheat germ oil. Stud­ies show the most ef­fec­tive method of ap­pli­ca­tion is to orally in­gest th­ese ce­ramides daily in a sup­ple­ment form, build­ing the skin’s mois­ture bar­rier from the in­side out.

Skin’s mois­ture lev­els will re­main el­e­vated as long as the body’s ce­ramide pro­duc­tion is com­ple­mented daily with the ce­ramide sup­ple­ment. While th­ese sup­ple­ments can be taken at any time to im­prove skin hy­dra­tion and ap­pear­ance, right now would be a good time to start build­ing your ce­ramide lev­els to keep your skin’s mois­ture con­tent high not only dur­ing the dry win­ter months but all year-round. MORE ON­LINE! Learn more about Ad­vanced Skin Re­pair with Ce­ramides at LESk­inRe­ Michael A. Smith, MD, is se­nior health sci­en­tist and me­dia li­ai­son for Life Ex­ten­sion, the world’s lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to ex­tend­ing the healthy hu­man life span. A grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Texas, South­west­ern Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Dal­las, Texas, Dr. Smith com­pleted an in­tern­ship in in­ter­nal medicine at the Univer­sity of Utah and a res­i­dency in ra­di­ol­ogy at UT South­west­ern Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

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