Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Background to Skin

So what is skin? Skin is a marvelous garment. It's waterproof, strong, soft, pliable, and most important, self-repairing. Without “skin”, everything – our bones, muscles and organs would be hanging out all over the place! Skin protects and holds everything together. Skin acts like a very large container. It's the largest organ of our body.

Skin also functions as protective covering. Along with a layer of fat underneath, it insulates us against all kinds of bumps, wear and tear. It keeps germs and water out, and keeps your body's fluids and salts in. It also protects our bodies, helps keep our bodies at just the right temperature and, through nerve endings close to the surface of the skin, allows us to have the sense of touch.

Oils act as your body's natural water proofing agent as well as a protector against germs. On the one hand, they make your skin softer; but they can also give you acne. Your skin also contains glands which manufacture sweat.

Skin is much more “alive” than we could ever imagine. It's made of many thin sheets of layers of flat, stacked cells in which we find nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles, glands, and sensory receptors. As the cells in the skin age, older cells are constantly being pushed to the surface by new cells, which grow from below. As these older cells migrate to the top, they become wider and flatter. And, eventually, they end up sloughing off. In fact, every day hundreds of millions of dead skin cells fall from our bodies! In approximately a month's time, our body has made a whole new layer of skin cells!

As we progress through this series of articles, we will focus again on pigment in the skin, called melanin. This is what makes different skin colors. Less melanin in your skin cells makes your skin lighter, more makes it darker. Sitting in the sun can also cause the skin to manufacture more melanin. And the result is what we call a suntan! Although our skin protects us from the sun and the elements, it can suffer as a result.

As we age, our skin loses some of its collagen and elasticity. It is all these changes in our skin and its structure, combined with the damage from the environment, that over time causes age spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and more.

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