Many beauty cultures portray skin as merely a surface, an externality on which to apply lotions and potions. This facet supports mass production of glossy magazines and encourages skincare enterprise at beauty stores. But instead of this, perhaps we should think of skin health as a topic more deserving of scrutiny. With some fresh consideration in this direction, we might understand and value our skin in a different way, while still maintaining the eye toward beauty.
The Lowdown On Skin Layers
The skin is the body’s largest organ, accounting for 16% of body weight and covering approximately 2 square meters of surface, encompassing every other organ within. (1)
This smooth, sleek armor we all get to wear is comprised of 3 layers:
- The Epidermis— First line of defense against bacteria, germs, environmental elements, and U.V. radiation. The epidermis houses our pores, allowing dirt and sweat to come out.
- The Dermis—Contains nerve endings that warn us when we touch something too hot or cold, and blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients for skin health. The dermis also produces collagen and elastin for skin firmness and elasticity.
- The Subcutaneous Fat Layer—Produces adipocytes that store fat for energy, provide insulation, and render cushioning in the event of a fall. This is also where injections are administered, as the network of blood vessels here allows for a slower release of drugs into the body, creating a better delivery route. (2-4)
As can be appreciated, the buffering our skin gives as we journey through life is truly amazing.
If you’re serious about achieving a natural and ethereal glow, or skin that’s silky to the touch, incorporating some of the advice below can bring quite positive results.
How Can We Ensure Our Skin Health?
- Cleansing—The first step in a skin care ritual, cleansing isimportant to remove sweat, toxins and external pollutants. The face should be cleansed with a product suitable for your skin type, and rinsed off completely to prevent clogging of the pores.
- Exfoliating—This mild abrasion process helps cell turnover and allows maximum absorption of further products. It also increases circulation and lymphatic drainage, giving skin a healthy appearance. The soles of our feet and the palms of our hands are where the skin is thickest, so special attention is needed here during exfoliation, and moisturizing. (5)
- Moisturizing— When it comes to choosing a moisturizer, do not be seduced by fancy packaging, fads, or even high prices. However, since moisturizer is the product in contact with skin the longest, choose non-toxic products with natural-based ingredients for optimal skin health. It must sit nicely on the skin - plus sit nicely with our life values - and of course monetary budget. It should be applied daily on body skin, and twice daily on the face.
- Drinking water— Higher water intake within a healthy diet can positively impact skin physiology. Studies show hydration has been related to decreasing the friction between fibers of the skin, acting as a “lubricant” in the upper layers. Drink 6-8 glasses a day. You can drink green tea, which studies have also shown to be the ultimate skin health drink, with anti-inflammatory properties. (6,7)
- Diet—When starved of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, skin may end up looking unhealthy. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, limit sugar and saturated fat intake and choose foods in their natural, unprocessed state. Alcoholic drinks dehydrate the skin, causing it to look puffy and bloated, whilst smoking causes oxidative stress, resulting in degradation of collagen (think smoker’s lines around the lips). Avoid both for skin health. (8-10)
- Stress management—Stressaffects the major pathways and effector cells in the skin, negatively impacting their function, and can cause skin disease and premature aging. Keep stress levels down by meditation, hobbies or other healthy stress relief measures. (11)
- Sleep—Deprivation affects skin features relating to the eyes and mouth, giving cues of sleep loss and making you look tired. The skin on the eyelids is the thinnest skin on the body, so treat this area in the evening to an application of targeted eye cream or gel. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. (12,13)
- Massage—Regular facial massage may help to reduce wrinkles and improve the texture of the skin. Massage induces structural changes in the dermis, resulting in less degradation. This is especially beneficial for someone with sun-damaged or aging skin, where the lymphatic function has also deteriorated. Facials can help to drain lymphatic vessels and deliver fresh blood supply to the skin surface, bringing back radiance and glow. (14,15)
- Weather—It’s important to achieve a balance of skin sun safety, and limited sun exposure for vitamin D production. A small amount of skin sun exposure (15 to 20 minutes daily) is recommended for optimal vitamin D production. If you’re spending any longer in the sun, non-toxic sunscreen should be applied. In cold weather, moving from cold to warm when going indoors, means surface veins are subjected from one extreme to another. When the veins tire, they can stay permanently dilated. A barrier cream in cold weather can prevent this, especially on the cheeks where the veins are most surface and therefore more vulnerable. (16-18)
Skin Health To Reflect On
Our skin displays additional marvels, such as the mysterious appearance of a rash, when the body tries to tell us something is incorrect. (19)
Or how about the phenomenon of blushing; truly a fight-or-flight response, ending with blood vessels dilating, profusely, and much embarrassment and teasing for us! (20)
Yet in all seriousness, our skin should be a proud reflection of who we really are; our ethnicity, our age, and how responsible we’ve been in looking after ourselves over the years, and throughout the decades. Instead of just staring into the mirror, scrutinizing every pore, we can incorporate some of the tips listed above. Not only may we look better, we might feel healthier and happier overall.
- Zimmermann KA. Skin: The human body’s largest organ. Live Science. Published October 22, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.livescience.com/27115-skin-facts-diseases-conditions.html
- Anatomy of the skin. Stanfordchildrens.org. Accessed December 3, 2020. http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=anatomy-of-the-skin-85-P01336
- Rebecca. The three layers of skin and their functions. Fldscc.com. Published January 30, 2020. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://fldscc.com/2020/01/30/three-layers-skin/
- Brannon HL. This layer of skin is key for protecting and insulating the body. Verywellhealth.com. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/subcutaneous-tissue-1068882
- Yousef H, Alhajj M, Sharma S. Anatomy, skin (integument), epidermis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2020.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470464/
- Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:413-421. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529263/
- The ABCs of a healthy skin diet. Webmd.com. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/abcs-of-healthy-skin-diethttps://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/abcs-of-healthy-skin-diet
- Katta R, Desai SP. Diet and dermatology: the role of dietary intervention in skin disease. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(7):46-51. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4106357/
- How alcohol affects your appearance. Drinkaware.co.uk. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/appearance/how-alcohol-affects-your-appearance
- Smoking and its effects on the skin. Dermnetnz.org. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/smoking-and-its-effects-on-the-skin/
- Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):177-190. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/
- Sundelin T, Lekander M, Kecklund G, Van Someren EJW, Olsson A, Axelsson J. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. Sleep. 2013;36(9):1355-1360. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/36/9/1355/2453883
- National sleep foundation recommends new sleep times. Sleepfoundation.org. Published November 27, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times/page/0/1
- Neill US. Skin care in the aging female: myths and truths. J Clin Invest. 2012;122(2):473-477.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3266803/
- Caberlotto E, Ruiz L, Miller Z, Poletti M, Tadlock L. Effects of a skin-massaging device on the ex-vivo expression of human dermis proteins and in-vivo facial wrinkles. PLoS One. 2017;12(3):e0172624. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5383004/
- What can I do to reduce my risk of skin cancer? Cdc.gov. Published July 17, 2020. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm
- Plataforma SINC. How much sun is good for our health? Science Daily. Published online March 8, 2017. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170308083938.htm
- News. Winter warning facial thread veins. Veintreatmentcentre.co.uk. Published November 5, 2018. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.veintreatmentcentre.co.uk/winter-weather-warning-for-facial-thread-veins
- Wikipedia contributors. Rash. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published October 20, 2020. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rash&oldid=984422089
- Santa Clara University. Red in the face: The science of blushing. Scu.edu. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.scu.edu/illuminate/thought-leaders/phil-kesten/red-in-the-face-the-science-of-blushing.html