The skin is the largest organ of the human body and it is visible for everyone to see. Because of its visibility, it is important to take care of the skin, using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and using the right skin care products. Our skin is flawless when we are born, perfect and smooth, but as we age what we do to our bodies shows on our skin. Smoking can cause discoloration, too much sun can make the texture of the skin leathery and as we age we begin to develop wrinkles and age spots, which can be both environmental and genetic. In caring for one’s skin it is important to know what this bodies organ is made up of. Skin has many sweat glans, hairs, capillaries and oil glands, and it three basic layers.
The outermost layer of the skin is the epidermis. This is the part of the human body that gets the most daily abuse. The epidermis is also known as the stratum corneum. The epidermis is comprised of its own layers and protein cells, called keratin, that slough off on a daily basis. These cells begin at the base layer of the epidermis and take almost a month to make their way to the surface to die and get wiped, on our clothes and through exfoliating, away. It is the removal of these dead skin cells that makes freshly cleaned and exfoliated skin glow. And as aging takes over the trip of the baby skin cells to their death on the outer layer can take even longer and does not always run as smoothly. This process can be sped up in older skin by using special exfoliates made for aging skin and by seeking the healthful benefits of professional facials.
The bottom layer of the epidermis, where cells are born, is also where melanin is produced. This is the stuff that gives our skin it’s color. The bottom layer, basal layer, is the home of melanocytes, which are the things that actually produce the pigment known as melanin. Genetics determine how much melanin our skin gets. It is the melanin’s defense mechanism that causes our skin to take on it’s tanned appearance when we get a lot of sun, as it produces a barrier to block out the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Past the epidermis you will find the subepidermal layer of the skin, which is also known as the dermis. The dermis produces the fibers collagen and elastin. These two fibers are what makes our faces look healthy, plump and beautiful. As we age they lose their luster because of sun damage, smoking damage, alcohol, drugs and even time itself. The dermis is also full of sweat glands, blood vessels, hair follicles and nerves. The dermis is also the home of sebum, which is a sebaceous oil that protects the skin by lubricating it. When this oil is washed away too often by using harsh soaps it can cause irritation, chapping and redness of the skin.
The Subcutaneous Fatty Layer
The subcutaneous fatty layer is the layer that is underneath both the dermis and the epidermis. This are stores fat cells, strands of collagen and connective tissue. This fatty layer protects the skin’s inner organs and it stores nutrients and retains heat and warmth.
With all three of these layers it is no wonder our skin can take so much abuse and still thrive, but it also shows why it is important to pick safe alternatives to cleaning and caring for your skin. Never use harsh soaps, or abrasive scrubs for your skin. Always gently exfoliate and make sure to wear sun block anytime you go out doors.
The Beauty Workbook by Cynthia Robins, 2001.