This weeks blog post is all about SKIN – what it is, what it does and how to look after it!
Your skin is the largest organ of the body. There are a few facts about your skin that may interest you – did you know you have about 300 million skin cells that renew themselves regularly every 21-28 days? Did you know you shed approximately four percent of your total skin cells daily, or about 50,000 cells per minute! And were you aware that in a lifetime you will shed about 13.5 kgs of skin?
The skin is the body’s first line of defence against harmful bacteria and viruses. There are about 25,000 ‘good’ bacteria cells per square centimetre (yes, you read that right… per centimetre) of skin. Facial skin is about 0.12 mm thick while skin on the body is about 0.6 mm thick. Skin on the lips and eyelids is the thinnest while skin on the palms and soles of the feet is the thickest.
The skin is a waterproof, flexible but tough protective layer for your body. The surface is normally smooth, punctuated only with hair follicles and pores for sweat. It is divided into three layers: The outer layer is the epidermis, in the middle is the dermis, and fat forms the innermost layer. Blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, oil glands and sweat glands are located in the dermis.
The Skin’s Functions
The major function of the skin is to provide you with a protective covering from the outside world. The epidermis (outer layer) is made up of millions of live and dead skin cells that act as a major waterproof barrier.
The middle layer, the dermis, provides a tough, flexible foundation for the epidermis. Sweat glands and blood vessels found in the dermis help to regulate body temperature and nerve endings send sensations of touch, pain, itching and temperature to the brain. Oil glands produce a substance called sebum, which is the skin’s natural inbuilt hydrator to keep skin moisturised. The amount present determines skin types: the less sebum the more dry a skin is. Hair is primarily decorative in humans but does act as a mild insulator.
The layer between the dermis and epidermis is called the basal layer. This is where new cells are constantly reproduced and begin their migration to the surface. The fat under the dermis provides more substantial insulation, is instrumental in the manufacturing of vitamin D and helps store calories. It is also known as subcutaneous tissue.
Your skin colour is determined by the pigment known as melanin also found in the epidermis. Melanin is the skin’s natural protectant from ultraviolet light. The amount present in your skin is determined genetically, but it does increase in the presence of sunlight, to prevent burning. We are educated to guard our skin from UV radiation but let’s not forget it is this precious sunlight that triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, an essential vitamin and nutrient your body needs to stay healthy. The amount of time spent in the sun is crucial. It’s all about balance.
The skin doesn’t only serve to protect us, but also provides us with information about the world around us: The complex network of sensory nerve endings inside your skin sense information like pleasure and pain or hot and cold, and send these messages to the brain. Skin loves touch as this heightens your sensory perception. Psychologists speak of ‘skin hunger’ when we are deprived of touch, as touch not only sustains you physically but also mentally and emotionally.
Your skin is also a large part of your body’s elimination system. Along with the liver, kidneys, lungs, lymphatic system and large intestine it works to help the body to eliminate unwanted substances. If any of the body’s elimination organs are stressed, the skin often takes on the toxic overload and can present you with rashes, sensitivities and blemishes.
Here’s an interesting fact… Did you know that 90 percent of household dust is dead skin cells?
Another interesting role your skin plays is to deliver your own unique aroma. Your skin’s apocrine glands, which are situated around the nipples, genital area and under your arms, secrete substances called pheromones. Even though you may not be aware of their smell they affect those around you. They play a large part in the chemistry of attraction!
The skin is uniquely human since it can portray emotion by blushing (embarrassment), turning red (anger), growing pale (fear), sweating (tension) and forming goosebumps (terror).
As you can see your skin plays a hugely important role in your health. The skin is a functioning organ that is able to absorb and excrete many products and ingredients through its pores. The condition of the skin indicates inner health, reflecting your emotional and physical wellbeing. Taking time out, learning to deal with stress and acknowledging the importance of self-care, alongside good nutrition and physical fitness, will all help keep your skin in top condition. But healthy skin is not just an outside job, it is an inside job, too.
What Goes Into Your Skin
While people are more and more aware about what is in their food – whether it is low in fat or sugar, whether it is GM free or organic – often we don’t spare a second thought to what is in our skin care or personal care products. According to research, women expose themselves to over 200 chemicals a day through skin and health care products and makeup. Scary thought, when you start to investigate what those ingredients are. We put on creams and lotions thinking we are doing our best to keep the skin healthy and hopefully slow down the aging process, yet often we are completely unaware of the product’s ingredients or the effect they have on our health.
Over the last few years more and more information and research into the effects cosmetics are having on our health has become available. There is quite a debate taking place, as companies defend their ingredients and the reasons why they are included. The information you get can be quite confusing. We believe the only way you can really get to the bottom of this is to start investigating yourself, taking responsibility for your own health. Learn what the different ingredients are and what they do. Make informed decisions about whether you use them or not, and don’t get fooled by clever advertising campaigns.
We aim to provide you with information we have found helpful regarding these issues. We believe nature has an abundance of incredible ingredients that can rejuvenate and promote good health. The wonders of nature and its ability to heal and restore have been known for centuries, not only for your skin but your body too. You will learn about some of these ingredients, how much better they are for you and how to incorporate them into your beauty routines, including skin, body and hair care.
How you present yourself to the world reflects your own sensuality, beauty, and spirit, make your skin and body care an acknowledgment of this.
“One person’s wrinkle is another person’s laughter line.” Anon
We are all aging. It is an inevitable fact of life that one day you will be elderly, with skin to match. No matter how hard we try to avoid or counteract it, the aging process constantly gnaws away at each and every one of us. But it does not have to be looked upon as a curse.
In some cultures aging is a celebration, an acknowledgment of the years of knowledge and wisdom gained. Age can also bring that wonderful feeling of being happy in your own skin, an acceptance of yourself that allows you to be more open and accepting of life and what it has to offer.
Yet unfortunately this is not always the case. As a society we have become obsessed with looking forever young. It seems as if having wrinkle-free skin is a sign of success in life. So in order to obtain this ideal image we will do whatever it takes – from spending thousands of dollars on skin care products to injecting our wrinkles with substances to smooth and tighten, and even surgery to stretch and eliminate the lines.
Some women are convinced that cosmetic surgery has been the best thing for them. There are women who have had breast reductions and their health has benefited hugely, women who have had a very subtle eye lift and it is true that their eyes have taken on a whole new look.
From a holistic point of view, however, you would be encouraged to investigate the best options for you and your body, the best procedures available and the best doctors who have total regard for your health, not your pocket. As you may be aware, there have been many horror stories regarding ‘beauty enhancement treatments’. The concern is that some may be detrimental to your health, so investigate fully before embarking on any kind of cosmetic surgery.
Wouldn’t it be great if companies selling cosmetic and beauty products eliminated words like ‘anti-aging’? Instead of making us feel bad about the way we look, imagine if they included factual information like ‘optimum skin nutrition’ on products.
Aging is a natural biological process we experience as each year passes. And it is no wonder that the years take their toll, especially with exposure to environmental conditions, pollution, air conditioning, different types of diet, even lack of sleep.
Over the years wrinkles develop as a result of damaged supporting tissue in the dermis. Two protein fibres – collegen and elastin – give the skin its elasticity and resilience and also store water. Skin starts to age when these fibres lose these important qualities. Sebum production slows, the skin is drier and tiny capillaries below the skin close off, which means the skin receives less oxygen and minimal nutrients. The cell renewal rate also slows, therefore the development of new skin cells takes more time and older cells remain on the surface for longer. The result of this simple process is older looking skin, showing visible creases and spots with gravity taking a firmer control.
However, it is not all bad news. If we place a greater emphasis on reducing stress, a healthy diet, plenty of water and fresh air, skin protection, regular exercise along with plenty of sleep and relaxation – then we are giving our body the best chance to grow older more gracefully.
Remember age is just a number. Laughter lines, fine lines, even frown lines characterise who we are. They do not mean it’s time to make an appointment to go under the knife with a surgeon. There are women of all ages (wrinkles and all) who radiate energy, vitality and beauty. They say growing older is growing wiser, it is loving yourself and accepting who you are. Attitude is the key. It plays the most significant role in how you regard yourself as you do age.
Healthy Skin from the Inside Out
Remember, your skin grows from the inside out. Cells renew and replenish from the basal layer in the dermis (the bottom) right up to the epidermis (the outer layer). So it makes sense to not only nourish and protect from the outside with good products and skin care, but nourish from the inside through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Your skin acts as a mirror. It reflects your lifestyle, your eating habits, your drinking habits, how you deal with stress, how much sleep you get, your social habits, it even reflects your bowel habits! What is exciting is when you make positive, healthy decisions in your life, your skin reflects that too!
There are some easy and effective ways to build healthy skin. And it is never too late to start. No matter what your age is, treat your skin as though it was a baby’s. Nourish, protect, touch, and nurture it. Be grateful for it and take great care of it.
Here are some of the key tips you can adapt to create healthy skin from the inside out –
Drink plenty of water
The body is made up of approximately 70 percent water, 35 percent of which is found in the skin. Water is vital to obtaining clear, healthy skin. Water hydrates and cleanses it from the inside. Remember that skin is the largest organ of elimination, so if your urinary system or bowel are under stress, your skin will take on its share of removing wastes. This may mean more blemishes, skin irritations or rashes. So support your body by aiming to drink around 4-8 glasses of purified water a day. Hydrated skin looks plump and it glows.
During winter it is easy for your skin to become dehydrated with heaters and fires on constantly. To help to hydrate the air and therefore stop your skin drying out, place a bowl of water with a few drops of your favourite essential oils like pine, lemon or palmarosa near the heat source. Remember to keep this up high if you have small children!
Eat fresh food
Nature has provided us with an amazing selection of vegetables, fruits and nuts, fats, proteins and carbohydrates. All are great for your skin, providing essential phytonutrients (nutrients found in fruit and vegetables), vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Aim to make vegetables the biggest part of your diet.
Eat quality fats
You need fat in your diet, your skin would look lifeless and dull without it. Good quality fats like the Omega fats are the building blocks for healthy cells. So make sure you include these good fats in your diet. Good sources of saturated fat include fish, quality meats, nuts, seeds, lard, quality dairy (if you can eat it), coconut oil and cold pressed oils.
Reduce all refined carbohydrates
Excess sugar and refined foods such as cakes, biscuits and confectionery play havoc with your skin and can slow the whole body’s healing system. Limit your intake and make sure you include good sources of protein and quality fat to help balance blood sugar levels that can lead to sweet cravings.
There is nothing like a good workout that makes you sweat to eliminate toxins from the skin. The increased blood flow also brings nourishment out into the skin and encourages your skin to breathe. Your skin will take on that healthy glow!
Eat colourful vegetables
Living in our modern-day society exposes our bodies to a lot of stress. Stresses like pollution, excessive radiation exposure (sun and computers), inadequate diets, overworking, over-exercising, smoking, drinking … the list goes on. To supply your body and skin with optimum nutrition and to increase natural antioxidants in your diet include plenty of organic or pesticide-free, colourful vegetables!
Everyday stress is a part of life. But when stress turns to anxiety and worry, it starts to affect your health and skin. When you are under excess stress this affects your hormonal system, which often triggers skin problems and sensitivities, as well as lowering your immune system. Strain and worry is also worn on your face, so start to relax. Recognise when you need time out, and nurture yourself. Do not underestimate the importance of this in all aspects of your life.
Get your beauty sleep
Sleep is vital to good health. During those hours you spend in bed your body goes about repairing damaged tissues, and there is a surge of your growth hormone, which stimulates cell renewal. There are also some studies, which show that a lack of sleep speeds up the aging process. So flick off the tv, lower bright lighting in the evening and get to bed!
Do a weekly mask
Using the Clay Treatment Clay Mask you can give your face a wee lift and have it feeling brand new in no time. Just a few minutes once a week can do wonders for your skin. A mask helps to draw impurities, eliminate toxins and refreshen the skin. For such little effort the rewards are incredible.
Next time you hop into the shower take a body brush or loofah and a few drops of Lime oil. Stand under the shower to get wet then step away from the running water. Place 2 or 3 drops onto the brush and now briskly brush the whole body stimulating the skin, removing dead skin cells and activating the lymphatic system. This daily ritual may start off feeling a little uncomfortable but very soon it can become quite addictive and a treat indeed.
Sweat the skin
A fantastic way to release toxins from the skin and give it a beautiful glow is to do a steam inhalation. Pull your hair back if needed or use a headband to hold the skin off your face. Simply fill a stainless steel or glass bowl with warm to hot water. Add 2 drops Frankincense and 2 drops Lavender. Place a towel over your head and take deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Then try it the other way round, in through the mouth and out through the nose. All the while your skin will be sweating and the essential oils will be penetrating the skin in a subtle but effective way.
It has been said that we use more muscles to frown than smile, others say that has not been proven. Either way it would be fair to say we feel better when we smile, we certainly look more friendly, we create a nicer energy about us and we engage with fellow human beings much more when we smile. And here’s the biggie… according to German researchers the simple act of smiling takes years off a persons age and the wrinkles caused due to grinning also make it more difficult to judge a persons age. Point is… smile!