The skin is one of the most incredible organs in the human body. Yes, it's an organ, which means that it works alongside the other organs as part of the whole system. It is actually the largest organ in the body! The great thing about the skin is that it forms a boundary between us and the outside world. The two main layers of skin are the epidermis, which forms the barrier and the dermis underneath. The dermis contains the blood supply, nerve endings, oil and sweat glands, hair follicles, collagen and elastin to keep the skin strong.
The main functions of the skin are:
The skin protects our organs, inner tissues and even bones from being exposed to the outside world. It protects against physical trauma and bacterial invasion and produces melanin which offers some protection against sun damage. Skin is covered with oils and nutrients which protect the outer layers from damage. This also helps the skins natural barrier against losing all the necessary nutrients and minerals which are stored.
When we become hot, our skin excretes sweat from the sweat glands to help us cool down and is one of the ways the body rids us of toxins and waste products. Hair follicles and blood vessels in the skin will react according to the external temperatures keeping us warmer when necessary. The release or retention of heat depends on temperature outside of the body.
Growth and movement
Because of the elasticity of the skin we are able to grow and this allows the body to change shape. These properties in the skin will also help us with movement. If your skin were rigid and hard, you would suffer pain when moving, if you were able to move at all. The elastic properties of the skin mean that it bounces back to its original form.
Our skin is sensitive and contains nerve endings which alert us to hot, cold or pain instantly and the messages sent to the brain allows the appropriate involuntary responses to maintain our body's safety. However, these nerve endings also allow the body to enjoy pleasant sensations such as gentle touch.
Skin actually breathes. The body needs to be able to absorb Vitamin D from sun and also oxygen and nitrogen from the atmosphere. It will absorb much of what is put on the skin, including more harmful products. What we put ON to our body is as important as what we put in our body. Almost 60% of everything that we put onto our skin is absorbed into the body. It’s really important to be aware of ingredients in your skincare products. Many products and brands contain ingredients which can be potentially harmful or have been linked to specific illnesses such as cancers. Pharmaceutical and health and beauty companies have clever marketing techniques which may mislead us in the selection of our products.
What does this mean to us?
So we know that we need to look after our heart, our liver and our lungs, but with all the jobs that the skin has to do, it's crucial that we look after the skin too.
The skin indicates how well we are. It will show signs of stress, dehydration and illness. Often the first changes in our general health can be seen in the skin's colour, texture, appearance, increase in spots and skin conditions.
How we can help our skin:
Drink plenty of water
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Take time to relax and avoid stress
Avoid or minimise toxins such as smoking, drugs or alcohol
Apply natural organic products where possible
Dry body brushing