Skin is an incredibly complex and miraculous creation of nature that carries out a multitude of functions and is simply amazing!
It’s our waterproof barrier. It’s a defense against disease. It’s constantly growing and replacing itself. It stretches yet retains its form. When we’re hurt, it heals itself.
Amazing indeed – all 800 million cells of it – but it’s easy to take skin and its properties for granted. So just for a few moments, let’s consider some of its incredible characteristics, vital functions and why it’s so important to take care of:
- Our skin is our body’s largest organ; it is made up of 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels, and over a thousand nerve endings
- Our skin can renew and regenerate itself naturally every few weeks, replacing older cells with vital fresh new ones
- Our skin has an extraordinary natural elasticity that stretches with us as we move and grow. It is soft and flexible to allow movement but tough enough to prevent breaking and tearing.
- Our skin is our waterproof barrier. Yet it can emit water.
- Skin protects us in many ways. It acts as a waterproof, insulating shield, guarding the body against extreme temperatures, damaging sunlight, and harmful chemicals. It’s our first line of defense, exuding antibacterial substances that prevent infection, and manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones.
- Through our skin, we experience the world and those around us. Skin is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world, allowing us to perceive our surroundings and act and react accordingly.
- At the same time, skin does all this while allowing us free movement, proving itself an amazingly versatile multi-purpose organ.
It’s comprised of three distinct layers of skin that together perform its many functions.
The outermost layer is the epidermis and consists of several cellular layers (made from the tough protein keratin) that constantly grow outwards as the exterior cells die and flake off. It takes roughly five weeks for newly created cells to work their way to the surface. This covering of outer “dead skin” varies considerably in thickness being more than ten times thicker on the soles of the feet than around the eyes. It also harbors defensive cells, which alert the body’s immune system to viruses and other infectious agents.
This epidermis is bonded to a deeper skin layer below known as the dermis, which gives the organ its strength and elasticity thanks to fibers of collagen and elastin. Blood vessels here help regulate body temperature by increasing blood flow to the skin to allow heat to escape, or by restricting the flow when it’s cold. A network of nerve fibers and receptors pick up feelings such as touch, temperature, and pain, relaying them to the brain.
The dermis also houses hair follicles and glands with ducts that pass up through the skin. Sweat glands bring down internal temperature through perspiration while ridding the body of certain waste fluids. Sebaceous glands secrete oil-like sebum for lubricating the hair and skin.
The skin’s base layer is the subcutis, which includes a layer of fat laid down to help insulate the body and organs from heat and cold. It serves as a fuel reserve in case of food shortage and also works as a protective cushion between us and the objects around us.
With all that it does for us, it deserves and needs to be treated well to keep it looking good and functioning at its best – for you.
As with anything, it does need some care and maintenance. Although good skincare products can improve your skin’s look and feel, which is important by itself, they can be critical in helping to clean, strengthen, hydrate, protect and overall maintain its optimal function.
So next time you look at your skin, ask yourself if you are doing all that you can and should for the only skin you have!