Your Skin's Most Important Jobs: 6 ways your skin is working for you.

Skin is our largest organ and plays a very important role as our first level of defense against a host of environmental aggressors.  A multitasker like no other, our skin has many important functions, all of which are designed to help keep our bodies working properly.

Here’s a list of your skin’s top 6 jobs, along with some suggestions for things you can do to promote healthy skin –for a lifetime.

1.  Your skin is like a Body Guard…it offers protection.  One of its most important jobs, our skin provides a barrier to harmful environmental aggressors like germs and UV radiation.  Our skin’s acid mantle is very important in preventing bacteria from attacking our skin and causing infection.  Even our skin’s ability to “tan” (increased melanin production) is a system designed to protect us from UV radiation.

What can you do?  Wash away dirt, oil and makeup from facial skin with cleansers made only from ultra-gentle surfactants, or no surfactant at all.  In addition, moisturize daily to prevent dry skin, which can compromise the skin’s acid mantle and natural barrier function.  Lastly, a broad spectrum sunscreen is critical to preventing premature skin aging due to UV radiation.

2.  Your skin is like a Raincoat…it’s a barrier to water.  Our skin cells need water, yet if the surface of our skin (and the walls of our skin cells themselves) did not have a “waterproofing” effect, all the water in our skin would evaporate and the cells would die.  How does it work? The outermost layer of skin (called the stratum corneum) is made up of keratin, which likes oils much more than it likes water.

What you can do?  After bathing, the waterproofing effect of our skin is somewhat compromised, especially when soaps or other cleansers are used.  Because of this, our skin can feel tight when it begins to dry.  Applying body oil while the skin is still damp will help seal the moisture into the skin.

3.  Your skin is like a Sponge…it absorbs things.  While the outermost layer of skin is designed to repel water, it can also selectively absorb oily substances that are small enough to penetrate in between the cells.  Technically speaking, the keratin creates a semi-permeable membrane.  This is why patches of some medications work as a delivery system.

What can you do?  First of all, make sure that you’re using products which have nutritious, safe ingredients you want your skin to absorb, and nothing that you do not want to absorb.  Choose natural and organic products which have plant-based antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients.  Apply treatment products and moisturizers after cleansing, applying a warm towel or using a toner.  This will swell the outermost layer of the skin slightly, therefore increasing the rate of absorption.

4.  Your skin is like a Manufacturing Plant…it synthesizes chemicals.  Complex chemical reactions are constantly going on in our skin to keep cells regenerating, repairing damage and even converting sunlight into Vitamin D.

What can you do?  Choose skin care products with active ingredients that actually stimulate skin cell renewal, like anti-inflammatories and antioxidants.

5.  Your skin is like a Thermostat…it regulates your body temperature.  When we are hot, our skin can cool our entire bodies by sweating and also increasing blood flow, which allows heat to be lost through the skin.  In contrast, when we are cold, the diameter of our blood vessels decreases, which reduces blood flow, retaining heat in the body.

What can you do?  When the temperature is hot, ensure you replace fluids lost through sweating by drinking plenty of water. 

6.  Your skin is like a Switchboard…it transfers information.  Nerves in the skin respond to different stimuli, including touch, pain, pressure and temperature by passing along information to the central nervous system.

What can you do?  Tap into the power of touch with massage, which can increase the "feel good" hormones in our bodies, boost our immunity and reduce stress.

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