Why your skincare routine needs to be more than just skin-deep

Protecting your collagen is key, which is why every dermatologist and skincare pro will wax eloquent about Vitamin C, retinol, peptides and daily SPF. But your anti-ageing efforts might have to go deeper than just topical products, and it’s because of everything going on under the surface. Small muscle contractions (like squinting, winking or frowning) can show up on the skin as fine lines, so face massages and other-collagen boosting techniques are usually the first line of defence. But muscle isn’t the only skin tissue at play here—fascia is a tissue network that we should be paying attention to as well. Here’s why.

What is fascia?

Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue beneath the skin that attaches, stabilises, and separates muscles and other internal organs. There are three types of fascia—superficial fascia, which connects the skin to all connective tissue, deep fascia, which is the fibrous connective tissue that surrounds the muscle, nerves and blood vessels, and visceral fascia, which refers to the lining for the internal organs. “Fascia is a thin sheet of connected tissue that holds every organ, bone, muscle and skin as well in place. It is more than a protective inner organ. So, fascia is said to be like a scaffolding that holds our muscles together and prevents them from sagging,” explains Mumbai-based Dr Satish Bhatia, dermatologist and cutaneous surgeon. Different parts of fascia in the body may show up differently—the part that stabilises your foot may be dense, but may soft and pliable around the breasts or thighs. Still, it is all connected in one continuous segment.

What happens to fascia as we age?

In a normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy, so it can stretch and move easily. However, physical trauma, inflammation or scarring can force the fascia to become less pliable, so it becomes tense, restricted and tight. As cells age, and collagen and elastin production reduces, fascia can become rigid. This is what leads to knots and trigger points (particularly in the neck, back and shoulder region). “It is important to keep fascia loose so that the skin and muscles can move properly. With age and with less mobility, fascia may become tight, leading to muscle aches and joint aches,” says New York based Dr Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai. “It also has sensitive nerve fibres so people when they get muscle pain, it could be actually the fascia surrounding the muscle that could be inflamed. That’s why keeping the fascia in shape keeping the skin smooth and relaxed and also helps in keeping us light and rejuvenated,” says Dr Bhatia.

On the face, this shows up as sagging. There are two components of fascia, and when the superficial layer breaks down, skin can look less lifted or toned. As the deeper layer of fascia begins to harden, skin has less bounce and plumpness than it did. It also creates skin laxity and jowls.

4 things you can do to protect your fascia

1. Make exercise (and stretching) a priority

Cardiovascular exercises improve blood circulation, which is the key to a healthy fascia system. Even those exercises that boost the heart rate are a must-do. To maintain healthy fascia make sure not only to exercise regularly, but also to stretch regularly, advises Dr Zeichner. Stretching elongates the muscles that may be tensed up, which can help keep the fascia surrounding it stay pliable too.

2. Focus on your mobility

Mobility is another fitness modality that is based on how the body moves, and cannot be confused with flexibility or endurance. Immobility can lead to to irregular arrangement of collagen, and cross-linking between fascial layers, so adding mobility drills to your workouts can be important. Foam rollers are another way to improve fascia resilience—they are able to improve blood circulation, which helps to feed oxygen and nutrition to the fascia.

3. Keep the body hydrated

Fascia researchers liken the tissue system to a sponge—when it is wet it is springy and resilient, but when it is dry, it becomes brittle and easy breakable.  “You need to moisturise your fascia, internally by drinking adequate amount of water, four-five litres, and externally by using collagen-boosting topicals,” suggests Dr Bhatia.

4. Add massages to your routine

Techniques that stimulate lymphatic drainage, through tools or fingertips, helps to keep fascia relaxed too. “Fascial release is a treatment where tight facia is loosened through massage. Physical manipulation can help stretch tight fascia to allow greater mobility. These massages may also improve the appearance of cellulite. By loosening the fascia, superficial fat will not be trapped as closely to the skin, which means less dimpling,” says Dr Zeichner. The result which is smoother, relaxed skin.

The article was first published in Vogue

Author

  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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