Knowledge is power. If you understand how your body works, or how vegetables grow, or how your body works, you’re then better able to protect it, care for it, and use it properly. The same can be said for virtually anything- including skin.
Skin is a strange thing. Many of us think of it simply as a covering, but it’s actually an extremely complicated organ, which means it works and produces results just like your heart or your stomach. Here are some weird and not-very-well-known facts about skin and how each can help you care for yours better.
- The average adult has about 22 square feet of skin- or about the size of a king-sized bed. That’s a lot of skin! It’s the body’s largest organ, so we should be spending at least some time and effort to protect and care for it. (BTW- the average adult’s skin, by itself, weighs about eight pounds!)
- Your skin has a natural “film” covering it that protects it from bacteria and viruses, and also helps the skin maintain its proper pH and moisture levels. This film is called the “acid mantle,” and if you wash skin with soap that’s too harsh, or scrub skin with an item that’s too rough, you are stripping that acid mantle off the skin- leaving it vulnerable to contaminants and problems. A good tip: If your skin feels tight, dry, or scaly, and/or it’s rough to the touch or red and patchy after washing, you’ve removed the acid mantle. Try a soap that’s more gentle and if you’re using a loofah or rough scrubber, try switching to a cloth or a pouf.
- Your skin has an amazing ability to heal itself. When you get cut or scraped, or even get some kind of infection, your skin works hard- and quickly- to fix the problem. Keeping your skin healthy not only helps it look better, but also helps it function better. It’s ability to heal itself and protect the body will be at its best.
- Calluses are a good thing. It’s true. While calluses are not attractive, and can- in severe cases- be painful, the skin builds up a callus as a form of self-defense. If an area of the skin (or body) is being exposed to extreme rubbing or friction over a good amount of time, the skin will thicken itself in that area in order to protect itself and the body parts from any physical harm. Many people get calluses on their feet, but almost any area of exposed skin can get a callus- just ask guitar players, who often have callused fingers.
- Along with the ability to heal itself, the skin also works to protect itself. This is why skin gets darker after time in the sun. No matter what your natural skin color, after some time in the sun, skin tries to protect itself- and the body- from the oncoming damage. It does this be releasing tiny pigment cells, which also make the skin look darker or “tan.” And while some people love tanning and love tan skin, it is not a good thing. It means that the skin is being barraged by damaging rays and is trying to block them. The skin does all it can to protect itself, but when it comes to the sun, it really can’t do a whole lot. That’s why it’s so important to stay out of the sun when possible, and always use sunscreen.
- Skin is super-thin around the eyes and on the lips. Take care not to pull on these areas (like when you’re washing or applying makeup), and use gentle but good skin product. These areas are particularly vulnerable to sun damage, and don’t often get protected like other areas of the body.
- The skin has three layers, and while the outer layer is the layer we can see with our eyes, that’s not where most of the visual damage we see as we age happens. As we age, collagen, fatty tissue and muscle in the lower layers breaks down and thins out, creating sagging and wrinkling, pigment may change coloration, and stress, smoking, pollution, disease, sun damage, etc. may add to wrinkling, sagging, discoloration, skin texture, and slow regeneration. This is why many skin treatments and wrinkle creams just don’t work. Once the inner layers of skin have been damaged, it’s extremely difficult to repair it. What this means to you: Take care of your skin, starting as young as possible. Stay out of the sun, don’t smoke, eat and exercise healthily, get good sleep… all the things that help your skin stay healthy from the inside out.