Skin is more than just the covering on a beautiful face or something that covers the skeleton: Skin is the largest organ in the body. It protects the body, keeps body parts contained, helps to maintain body temperature, and gives us the sense of touch. It is crucial to keep your skin healthy.
There are three components of skin: The visible layer is the epidermis, below the epidermis is the dermis, and deeper is the subcutaneous fat layer.
The bottom of the epidermis is where new cells form and make their way to the top layer. At the same time, cells closer to the top are dying. These cells are dead and flake off. The skin flakes off about thirty-to-forty thousand cells a day. In yearly amounts, it’s about 9 pounds. If you have dry skin, the dead skin cells stick around a little longer. Sometimes, they need to be manually removed through exfoliation.
The dermis layer contains the sebaceous oil glands, collagen, elastin, sweat glands, blood vessels, and nerve endings. Blood vessels deliver nutrients to the dermis. The quality and amount of nutrients the skin receives determines how much collagen and elastin the skin produces. Older and damaged skin has less collagen and elastin. Blood vessels in the dermis layer also bring oxygen to the skin and remove toxins.
The sebaceous oil glands produce sebum. Sebum is the skin’s natural oil; it rises to the top to keep the skin hydrated. Bacteria along with an overabundance of sebum that block pores produce pimples. Sebum also acts as a protector, preventing the absorption of liquids and consequently dissolving the skin.
Fat in the subcutaneous layer helps regulate temperature and provides shock absorber protection for the body. The subcutaneous layer is where the roots of hair originate. However, this layer has an even more significant role to play: It connects the dermis to the muscles and bones with connecting tissue. In other words, it helps holds the body together.
People come in many shades of color from the very pale to the very dark and many tones in between. Skin color comes from the pigment melanin, and the amount of melanin a person has is dependent on genetics. Although everyone has the same amount of melanin cells, melanin production varies from person to person.
The more melanin the body makes, the darker the skin. Dark-skinned people with a heavy dose of melanin don’t wrinkle as much as they grow older and are less likely to get skin cancer. Melanin is produced to protect the skin from the sun. But, the body can’t produce enough melanin to protect the skin especially for people who have pale skin.
Keeping Skin Healthy
Because the skin is an organ and one that protects the rest of the body, it’s important to take care of it. Cleaning, exfoliating, moisturizing, and protecting it from the sun are the basics of skincare, which most people understand. However, taking care of the skin goes even deeper.
The condition of the skin is often a sign of what’s happening inside the body. The skin is the last organ to receive nutrients. So, if there aren’t enough nutrients or nutrition is poor, it won’t receive its share. Scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency, dramatically demonstrates what the lack of nutrients can do. Among the many symptoms are skin sores, bleeding gums, and poor wound healing. Increasingly, research shows how nutrition affects the skin.
It was once thought diet had no bearing on acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other types of dermatitis. Recent studies, though, show that food does impact skin diseases. For example, eczema and psoriasis improved when plant oils high in linoleic acid (safflower and sunflower oil) and fish oil were added to the diet of patients with these conditions. A review of studies on micronutrients and fatty acids effect on the skin in The American Journal Clinical Nutrition showed that nutrients do have a positive impact on skin conditions.
Diets high in whole and fresh foods are best for the skin along with drinking plenty of water throughout the day. The body – including our skin – needs fresh vegetables and fruits, fish or other foods with omega-3s, whole grains, probiotics, and fermented foods. Unfortunately, these foods are frequently lacking in many Western diets but the body, including our skin, needs them.
It doesn’t look like much is happening when we look at our skin, but a lot is going on. Proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices are vital to keeping skin in good form and healing any skin condition.
Boelsma, Ester. Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids (May 1, 2001). Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/73/5/853/4739553
The layers of your skin. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/kids/skin/the-layers-of-your-skin.