Skin: The bare facts

Article submission, Monday 10th September 2007


Easily the largest organ of the entire body the skin is structurally composed of 3 primary layers.

  • Epidermis: which is the external section providing the first layer of protection against the external environment such as waterproofing as well as serving as a defense against infection.
  • Dermis: which comprises of sweat pores and glands, hair follicles, capillary matrix and nerve fibres.
  • Hypodermis: lower region containing fat cells, vein and arterial network.
skin section

Its primary functions are:

  • Protection: forming an anatomical barrier between the environment and its internal systems.
  • Sensation: nerve endings within the dermal layer respond to heat, touch, pressure, vibration and tissue injury.
  • Heat regulation: a vast supply of blood is regulated to control temperature via dilation and constriction of blood flow through the capillaries.
  • Evaporation: is controlled through the surface pores and in itself is another form of heat regulation depending on environmental temperature upon the epidermal layer.

As we know sunlight is important, as from this vitamin D is synthesised, however our greatest enemy is too much exposure to ultra-violet light, of which there are two types. Firstly UVA which causes tanning and is responsible for photo aging (premature aging) which is the damage that occurs after many years of excessive sun exposure, and secondly there is UVB which causes sunburn. Both of which are the main contributors of skin cancers.

So what's the best measure of protection?

Being preventative is always the best course of action which should include:

  • Avoid to much prolonged exposure to the sun between the hours of 10am untill 3 - 4pm when the sun is at its strongest.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat and long sleeved shirts and pants.
  • A good application of sunscreen applied to ALL exposed skin 15 - 30 mins prior to going outdoors followed by a reapplication every 2 - 3 hours. Use sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater depending on your skin type (those with fair complexion can be more prone than those with olive complexion) and offer both UVA and UVB broad spectrum protection.
  • Avoid tanning beds as they use mostly utilise the UVA spectrum to achieve the tanning process.
  • Do not overlook the fact that bright light can damage eyes also resulting in problems later in life, particularly with those involved in water and snow sports, so good sunglasses offering 100% UV protection are a must.

Skin hygiene

A babies complexion is what we'd all like!

I would assume that this goes without saying, however skin must be cleaned on a regular basis. Constant peeling of dead cells on the surface mixed with sweat, dirt and or dust if not washed away can become a decomposing breeding ground resulting in bad smells. If this wasn't bad enough it contributes in upsetting the natural ecosystem of micro organic flora which keeps it healthy.

3 basic steps to good skin care

1. Cleansing - firstly avoid bar soaps as they have a tendency to dry out your skin and never use hot or cold water as this can cause broken capillaries. The best way is to use warm water to loosen dirt and unclog pores, then use a small amount of cleanser and apply in a circular motion after which rinse with cool water to close the pores. Keeping in mind that over cleansing is not good either as this can result in `drying your skin' which could create problems.

2. Exfoliate: scrubs work by eliminating unwanted dead cells that dull complexion. This only needs to be initiated once a week but it will really revitalise your skin. Scrubs with `tiny grains' should only be used as opposed to cheaper large grain micro dermabrasions which can tear the epidermal layer.

3. Moisturise: a basic law of good skin care is that everyone, no matter what skin type should moisturise. The only possible exception being those who have acne conditions. Get to know your skin, you'll know best how much to apply. Excessive amounts of moisturiser can become counter-productive and clog pores.

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