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Just What is Skin, Anyway? PDF Print E-mail
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Skin is the largest organ of the body, covering up to 20 square feet. With the many layers included, the skin can represent up to 15% of our total body weight.

Skin is a remarkable organ. It excretes chemicals to ward off bacteria and other elements that could harm the body. Skin also helps to keep the body's internal temperature consistent by adjusting to the outside temperature. In addition, skin is able to regenerate and repair itself over time, constantly protecting us from environmental damage.

The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin and consists of four sub-layers. The stratum corneum, the outer portion of the epidermis, is the outermost layer of the skin. It is the top layer that we can see from the outside and serves as our protective barrier.

The dermis is the layer just below the epidermis of the skin. There are many elements that make up the dermis, including oil glands, collagen and nerve endings.

The deepest layer of the skin is the subcutaneous tissue. Mostly comprised of fat and hair follicles, the subcutaneous tissue acts as a cushion to protect everything beneath it.

As we get older, our skin becomes thinner and dryer, so keeping skin moisturized is particularly important. It is also beneficial to avoid any products that contain ingredients that can cause skin irritation and damage, such as harsh cleansers.

The natural process of metabolism results in oxygen molecules known as free radicals. It is now known that free radicals can inhibit the ability for the skin to repair itself over time, therefore contributing to the aging and destruction of the skin. Antioxidants including vitamins A, C, and E are now believed to neutralize the free radicals, resulting in healthier skin healing processes. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains (all high in vitamins A, C, and E) is important for healthy, young-looking skin.

Exposure to the sun triggers a defense mechanism in the skin. In an attempt to protect itself, the skin releases the pigment melanin to darken the skin to ward off the damaging rays. However, this multi-day process often begins with the pain and redness of a sunburn. Heredity dictates just how much melanin is released and how much protection is provided. Since some people produce less melanin than others, they are more likely to burn. Sunburn is caused by over-exposure to the sun's rays.


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