Back in my corporate days, the only time I would bound into work like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh was on the scorching hot 40 degree celcius summer days because I’d have access to the beautiful, chilled air conditioning. It’s truly a gift and we are definitely, very lucky to have access to it.
When most of us get to our office, very few of us stand at our desks with our heads protruded backwards, staring up at the ceiling with glazed over eyes looking at the roof as if we’re able to engage into an afterlife ascension even the ancient Egyptians would envy. And if you do, chances are you would get a speaking to about ‘orderly office conduct’.
But if you do happen to stare up at your office ceiling, you will notice all of the visible and hidden air conditioning vents that keep our body thermostat to normal temperatures. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget the units are even there – mainly because we rarely stare up at the ceiling.
There are just a few things you should know about air con, how it impacts your skin, and what you need to do to manage your skin to optimum health if you’re in air con 8 hours a day.
How air con impacts your skin
We may not realise it, but air con can significantly impact the levels of moisture within our skin, potentially stripping it of the natural moisturiser we need to maintain healthy, balanced, plump skin.
Now it might not just be at the office, but on long haul flights, on trains, buses, your car, shopping malls, stores, your home. Now it’s not to say air con is bad, but now you know how it impacts you and how you can leverage it intelligently so it doesn’t impact hte quality of your beautiful skin, or overall health.
There are 3 layers to our skin:
- Epidermis – the first, most visible outer layer of our skin we see, touch and feel
- Dermis – the second layer that sits underneath the external surface
- Subcutaneous layer – the fat layer that separates our skin from our bones, tissues and muscles
The epidermis is the layer that provides a water barrier for us – that means it helps us to stay waterproof (which is why we don’t melt when we come into contact with water) it is also where our internal water can evaporate out of our skin. Our human bodies comprise about 80% of water, so retaining or losing too much water has a big impact on our overall health.
In the epidermis, this is where our skin cells which are called keratinocytes are birthed, grow and die off. The process takes about 6 weeks, and we shed about 30,000 – 40,000 skin cells every minute of the day. The binding of the dead skin cells is what causes the hard exterior layer of our skin that we can feel, it is the barrier that protects us from external pathogens (diseases). The shedding of the dead cells itself is called desquamation and when the cells die, they shed into the air, your clothes, floor, dust, all around you (even if you can’t see them). In this layer of skin we have oil glands which manufacture lipids (fatty acids) that keep our skin plump, supple and hydrated.
The top layer of the skin is a combination of the dead keratinocytes (skin cells), the lipids, cholesterol (yup it lives in our skin) – it operates a bit like the structure your office building: it has a strong hard exterior and protects you from the weather and other external elements that would make your life difficult if you worked without the four walls around you.
When exposed to external factors (like a low humidity environment caused from air con units) the external structure of your skin may experience a change that it causes the skin to dysfunction. The build up of the dy-functioning cells may result in scaly, rough, flaky dry skin. Subsequent cracks in the skin are known as fissures which provide an open door for pathogens (diseases) and bacteria to walk right on into your body and wreak havoc which is why you may be more susceptible to being ill because of dry skin (I know, it’s a lot to take in).
When your skin is dehydrated you are losing water through your skin which is known as Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL).
Although dry skin does come with a side effect of slight irritation, studies have found that air con units themselves distribute particles and elements that are direct irritants when they come into contact with your skin.
A research study published in the Contact Dermatitis Environmental and Occupational Dermatitis found that air conditioning units can expunge synthetic fibres from its filter, which can stimulate dermatitis and irritable skin conditions when it comes into contact with the skin.
Goes without saying but one of the best ways to hydrate up is through water itself. You need to aim to drink at least 10 litres of water a day. Now of course, you can start to drink tap water (some water is better than no water at this stage) but moving towards higher quality water is what we’re after. Remember: higher quality inputs, result in higher quality outputs (maybe that economics degree came in use after all!).
Glycerol and hyaluronic acid
In research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology both the compounds glycerol and hyaluron were found to stimulate skin back to normal function after experiencing dry skin.
Natural sources of glycerol
Glycerol is known as a humectant which means a moisturiser. Glycerol is a type of sugar called a triglyceride. Anyone with dry skin or eczema may have been given a glycerin soap to wash with to reduce the dryness.
It is added to a lot of cosmetic products including soaps, shampoos and conditioners, used as a sweetener and a thickener due to it’s moisturising compounds which have the ability to stabilise and thicken food – like cheeses, milks and yoghurts.
You do need to be careful on how to consume it. The benefit in having glycerol is that it is a moisturiser for dry skin. You can find glycerol in a lot of the moisturisers you might buy, however the best source you may want to turn to is extra virgin, organic coconut oil. You can cook with it, eat it or make delicious healthy and nutritious desserts with it.
Some people do place coconut oil on the face or places of dryness, but if you do have acne, this is not advisable as the coconut oil may stimulate your acne further.
Natural sources of hyaluronic acid
Hyaluron (better known as hyaluronic acid) known to support the normal functioning process of the skin as it will work to place the skins functions back into homeostatis (balance). For an average 70kg person, they would hold 15 grams of hyaluronic acid which is huge – consider that 49kg out of the 70kg is water (we’re 70% water beings), and out of the 21kg remaining, 3% of that, is hyaluronic acid (15 grams). So what are some natural forms of hyaluronic acid you can add to your daily intake:
- Bone broth 3 or 4 times a week
- Magnesium rich foods including leafy vegetables like kale, sweet potato, avocado. You can also use a good quality magnesium spray (also fantastic for reducing your stress levels).
- Vitamin C rich foods including seabuckthorn oil and kakadu plum
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) I take 4 of these high quality EFA’s each day to stimulate a boost to my acid mantle
Sleep like a goldfish
Attempting to live like a goldfish sounds like hell, but sleeping like one might not be. To automate your skin hydration, place a few large bowls of water around your room when you sleep to hydrate the skin while you sleep. You’ll literally be sleeping beauty with this trick!
Even in winter, I never leave the house without suncream. This is the suncream I use, just a nominal amount each day goes such a long way.
When I’m in the office, I bring this hydrating mist along with me that I spray twice a day to spruce my skin water levels up.
At the very least, this one is for your general physical and mental health. Get some air time throughout the day. Take a brisk walk at lunch or even around the block between meetings, schedule your meetings at coffee shop around the corner to give yourself a chance to leave the office, take lunch outside to a picnic, park, even a foodcourt to eat it or if you have an outdoor office area, take advantage!