The human skin is the largest organ of the body, not only does it play a crucial role in protecting the underlying tissues from external insults such as heat, cold, and UV radiation, one must remember the organ itself is alive. It even has its own colony of microbes maintaining the skin cell surface.
The epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, is primarily responsible for the protection of the body against environmental factors. Cold weather can have a detrimental effect on the skin by causing damage to the epidermal cells.
One of the primary mechanisms of cold weather-induced damage to the skin is through the loss of moisture. 😩 Which we know is the key to healthy skin.
Cold temperatures cause a decrease in the blood flow to the skin, leading to reduced sebum production and dehydration of the skin. The lack of moisture in the skin leads to a disruption of the skin barrier function, resulting in increased permeability to water, irritants, and microorganisms. This increased permeability leads to skin dryness, flaking, and itching.
Additionally, cold weather can induce the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the skin. In short these ROS's cause skin cells to commit suicide 😫
Here is how that do that: ROS are highly reactive molecules that can cause oxidative stress in the skin cells, leading to DNA damage, lipid peroxidation, and protein degradation. The production of ROS in the skin is mediated by the activation of the NADPH oxidase enzyme and the inhibition of the antioxidant defense system.
Cold weather can also cause vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the skin, leading to a decrease in oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin cells. The lack of oxygen and nutrients can impair the skin's ability to repair itself, leading to delayed wound healing and increased susceptibility to infections.
In conclusion, cold weather can damage skin cells through various mechanisms, including loss of moisture, production of ROS, and vasoconstriction of blood vessels. To prevent cold weather-induced skin damage, it is essential to maintain adequate skin hydration, use protective clothing, and avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.