The Science of Skincare

 This illustration shows a cross section of skin tissue. The outermost layer is called the epidermis, and occupies one fifth of the cross section. Several hairs are emerging from the surface. The epidermis dives around one of the hairs, forming a follicle. The middle layer is called the dermis, which occupies four fifths of the cross section. The dermis contains an erector pilli muscle connected to one of the follicles. The dermis also contains an eccrine sweat gland, composed of a bunch of tubules. One tubule travels up from the bunch, through the epidermis, opening onto the surface a pore. There are two string-like nerves travelling vertically through the dermis. The right nerve is attached to a Pacinian corpuscle, which is a yellow structure consisting of concentric ovals similar to an onion. The lowest level of the skin, the hypodermis, contains fatty tissue, arteries, and veins. Blood vessels travel from the hypodermis and connect to hair follicles and erector pilli muscle in the dermis.

Skin is your largest organ composed of three main layers that work to keep you healthy. Together they regulate temperature, retain moisture and protect against environmental factors, all while absorbing and synthesizing necessary lipids and vitamins. 

The deepest layer of your skin is called the hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue. It is made up of fat cells that help to insulate and regulate body temperature. Blood and lymph vessels throughout this tissue supply freshly oxygenated blood to the dermis while draining lymph fluid. This process is essential for healthy skin and systemic immunity. The middle layer is the dermis, which is composed of two proteins called collagen and elastin that keep your skin plump. These fibers connect the dermis to the subcutaneous layer like an anchor and naturally deplete as we age. The top layer of the skin is the epidermis. This is a five-layer barrier that defends us against external pathogens and maintains a balanced pH.

While each layer of the epidermis has a job to do, the uppermost layer (called the stratum corneum) protects all of the underlying tissue from damaging environmental effects. Comprised of dead skin cells that are constantly sloughed off, the stratum corneum helps to maintain skin pH with the assistance of a thin sebaceous secretion called the acid mantle. For a healthy individual, the acid mantle is balanced between 4 and 6.5 with the most ideal pH at 5.5. Using products that are too alkaline or acidic disrupts this delicate layer, leaving the skin susceptible to damage and infection. Repetitive use of unbalanced products can leave your skin in a state of chronic disruption, which renders it difficult to return to skin’s optimum pH. 

The speed at which we shed old cells varies from person to person but typically decreases with age and sun exposure. This natural biological slowdown makes it essential to include gentle exfoliation in your normal skincare regimen. This will help prevent dull skin and congested pores while encouraging your skin to regenerate and absorb essential nutrients. It’s best to exfoliate weekly or bimonthly. Less is more when it comes to exfoliation as over doing it can lead to the breakdown of skin proteins, collagen and elastin, thus accelerating aging. It can also lead to what we call “dry breakouts.” This is when the skin is working too hard to return to optimum pH since it has been stripped of essential moisture. This can also happen due to consistently using overly alkaline or acidic washes. This problem causes “T” and “I” zones of oiliness with breakouts on parched skin. Changing your cleanser may help temporarily, but the only real solution is to balance the skin’s pH.

While damage can occur at any age, it is important to continue to protect and properly cleanse your skin on a daily basis. By providing the skin with vitamins, minerals, adequate moisture and cleansing with pH balanced products, skin disruption will become a thing of the past. It is never too late to heal your skin and provide the nutrients it needs to regenerate in a healthy manner.

Resources:

http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/skin_conditions/Pages/index.aspx

http://www.pennmedicine.org/health_info/body_guide/reftext/html/skin_sys_fin.html

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/skin.html

http://cnx.org/content/m46060/latest/

http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/for-kids/about-skin/the-layers-of-your-skin

http://courses.washington.edu/bioen327/Labs/Lit_SkinStruct_Bensouillah_Ch01.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin

http://dermatology.about.com/cs/skinanatomy/a/anatomy.htm

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/skin-health/nutrient-index/essential-fatty-acids

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