Your skin is the living, breathing covering for your body, and you couldn’t live without it. Stretching across an area of about 20 square feet (2m) and weighing around seven pounds (3kg), your skin is your body’s largest organ. It is extremely complex in structure and function. The more you understand your skin and how it works, the better you can care for it.
The layers of our skin fall under three main categories. The epidermis is the outer layer that we can see and touch. The epidermis is thinnest on eyelids and thickest on palms and the soles of our feet. Our pores, which allow the skin to breathe, are one of the most important features of the epidermis. The middle area of our skin is called the dermis. It produces the skin oils that control the texture of our complexions. And finally, the subcutaneous tissue is the deepest area of our skin. It contains sweat glands, hair roots, blood vessels and nerves.
Our skin has many functions. It protects our body from injury and infection- helps to excrete body’-s waste- regulates body temperature- and helps us feel pain, pressure and touch. Our skin also can also communicate to others how we are feeling by sweating, flushing or blushing.
In order to care for our skin properly, it helps to know our skin type. The five basic skin types are Normal (smooth and supple with no visible pores or oiliness)- Dry (tightly drawn and sometimes flaky)- Oily (shiny surface, with a tendency for enlarged pores)- Combination (oily on the forehead, nose and chin with dryness around the eyes, cheeks and throat)- and Sensitive (dry and easily irritated, with a tendency to become red and inflamed).
Our genes play an important role in the strength, type and color of our skin. Our original ancestors lived in Africa and had dark skin, which protected them from intense sun exposure. When their descendants moved into Europe and Asia, their skin color became lighter due to less exposure to the sun and their need to wear more clothing to protect themselves from the cold. Throughout the ages, our skin has continued to adapt to protect us from our climate and environment.
Special cells in the epidermis, called Melanocytes produce the pigment that determines the color of our eyes, hair and skin. The level of activity of these cells determines our skin colour. We typically have between 1000 and 2000 melanocytes per square millimeter of skin. Melanocytes cells are found in the basal layer of the epidermis.
Caring For Your Skin
While genetics may decide much about our skin’s condition, it is our responsibility to control our environment and care for our skin. Stress, sunlight and toxins can all be determining factors that trigger certain skin conditions and diseases. Taking good care of our skin involves developing the same habits needed for a healthy body and mind: sufficient sleep and exercise- plenty of water, fruits and vegetables- limited fats, sugar and alcohol- protection from the sun- and emotional wellbeing. These important practices, coupled with a focused skin-care routine, will insure that our skin looks and feels its’ very best throughout life.