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What does ‘healthy’ skin actually look like? We investigate.

If we pulled-together our ultimate skin wish list, words like ‘flawless’, ‘glowing’ and ‘radiant’ would definitely be on it.

In the visual sense, these are the kinds of words we associate with ‘perfect’ skin, but if we were to put our skin under a microscope, what is it actually supposed to look like? And appearance aside, how do we know if our skin is truly healthy? Or unhealthy? What’s the benchmark?

These are all questions we wanted answered and, coincidentally, while on a quick sun-filled trip to Qualia Resort (someone’s gotta do it) we found the best man for the job.

Let us introduce you to Paul Tchinnis – a.k.a. head honcho in product development at La Mer. This guy just happens to have spent the past 10 years coming-up with products to get your skin back to its ‘optimum health’ – so we quizzed him on exactly what that means.

And let’s just say within two minutes into the convo, it was clear that his guy knows skin like nobody’s business. And after exchanging big words and what he classifies as ‘basic biology’ (FYI, not so basic for us), we pretty much considered ourselves dermatologists. Kind of.

In nutshell, Tchinnis says healthy skin is ‘a firm epidermis (which is the outermost layer of your skin) that’s completely intact, and not varying in thicknesses in different spots’.

Right, got it.

But how the hell can you assess this without a microscope?

‘Visually, healthy-looking skin is about evenness. When your skin is ‘even’ all over, you look radiant – you look healthy’.

So, what makes it look unhealthy, we wondered?

‘When the dermis layer becomes thick in some spots and thin in others, the cells turn-over at different times and the skin starts to look very uneven as the cells detach from themselves,’ Tchinnis says.

‘This is due to a combination of factors. Age is number one. Your dermal layers can only produce so many skin cells and then they get tired. Then there’s also things in the environment like sunlight, pollution – these are all things that send our skin outside of its comfort zone. Blemishes, wrinkles and unevenness occur when the skin tries to heal itself.’

Right. So basically we need to stay inside wrapped up in a big blanket with all the curtains closed 24/7?
Errr, no.

Tchinnis says the ‘regular’ signs of ageing like ‘wrinkles, sagging and loss of firmness’ are just a part of life.

‘It’s really hard to reverse ageing. So what La Mer tries to do is slow the whole process down.’

‘The collagen and elastin – those are things that just deteriorate naturally with time and age. You have a certain amount of both in your skin that only has a certain shelf life, so as you get older it gets more flexible, and has less of a chance at recovering itself. Collagen and elastin are being made by the lower levels of your skin all the time, but as you age, they become less efficient.’

So what’s a girl to do?

Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise, Tchinnis advises.

‘The lower parts of the skin like the dermis and the blood vessels are kind of feeding everything on their way up. You want the lower cells to be able to communicate with the upper cells as efficiently as possible,’ he says.

‘As soon as you start moisturising your skin properly, it feels healthy, and you start to build that nice thick, smooth upper dermis layer.’

‘So La Mer Broth, delivered in the right amount and via the right delivery system – doesn’t heal the skin, it helps it heal itself. We want the skin to perform as if it didn’t see the sun, or get that pollution.’

Now we understand why women who Creme de la Mer together, stay together.

But if you take anything away from this at all – make it a) ‘prevention is better than a cure’, and b) ‘moisturiser is your new best friend’.

Here’s to a long life and healthy skin, amigos!

By Carmen Hamilton.