By Kiki Omeili.
The skin is the largest organ in the human body. Yes, I said it. I guess that’s news for people who had no idea that the skin is an organ, but it is; very much so!
The skin has 3 layers- the Epidermis, the Dermis and the Hypodermis. Melanin is a pigment produced in the skin by cells called melanocytes and this helps to protect the skin from potentially harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.
There is a normal flora of bacteria on the skin that helps to maintain the normal condition of the skin, but with overzealous use of medicated soaps, this flora may be disturbed and this leaves room for the bad bacteria to cause numerous skin diseases.
Skin type may be normal or oily depending on the amount of “sebum”, a natural skin lubricant produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin.
The skin has numerous functions. First of all, it’s just pretty. When it comes right down to it, the skin covers what’s on the inside of the body; some of which doesn’t look good, I might add. So it serves an aesthetic purpose. It also acts as a barrier between the inside and the outside of the body and as such, protects the inside of the body from bacteria, viruses and other harmful micro organisms.
The skin also acts as a temperature regulator. When the weather is hot, the blood vessels in the skin will dilate (widen) to promote heat loss from the body and when the weather is cold, the blood vessels constrict (become smaller) to conserve heat in the body and minimise heat loss.
The skin has numerous nerve endings which allow us to feel all sorts of sensations- heat, cold, touch, pressure, you name it!
Another skin function is that it serves to control evaporation. Fluid is lost from the body as sweat, and the skin controls the amount of water lost through this route. This explains why burn victims who lose their skin suffer fluid loss and need to be constantly rehydrated.
Skin is also a site of synthesis. The effect of the early morning sun on some parts of the skin is to produce vitamin D in the body. Ointments and other medications may be applied to the skin and will be absorbed directly into the system.
Dirty skin disturbs all these skin functions so it should be kept clean and taken care of at all times.
I advocate the use of a good moisturiser to care for the skin, preferably with SPF (sun protective factor) because undue exposure to the sun has been known to damage skin. Moisturisers which contain vitamin A (retinoids) are good for the skin because it helps produce collagen which maintains skin elasticity. Also vitamins C and E are good antioxidants which combat free radicals that cause damage and premature aging of skin.
Some of these vitamins are contained in fruits, leafy vegetables and even palm oil!
I recommend eating a balanced diet with all 6 food groups and drinking lots of water for glowing skin. Dehydration is usually evident in the skin and the skin is often used to test the hydration status of a person. When a person is dehydrated, the skin takes a longer time to bounce back when pulled.
With age, skin will usually lose its elasticity and gradually begin to sag. A good moisturiser will help to significantly slow down this process.
Take care of your skin people; it’ll be your companion for a long, long time!