To understand skin care you have to understand the skin. Even though this is a long read, it will hopefully make it easier to understand why choosing nature helps the overall health of our skin for longtime health.
Skin has three layers. The outermost layer, the part you see, is called the epidermis. The middle layer is called the dermis and below the dermis lies the skins foundation, called the subcutaneous layer. These three layers work in concert to form a healthy and beautiful skin.
The epidermis is itself composed of layers, the top of which is your shield. As beautiful and as supple as the skin can be, it is also a form of armor. Let's face it; it's a tough world out there and you need armor to protect you from drying winds, rain and snow, dust and stone, sleet and hail, among many other hazards. The skin can take all that and a lot more. In fact, in some of the places on our bodies, such as our hands feet, the skin develops hard, tough calluses to protect itself against intense wear.
The hard surface of the skin, known as the horny layer or stratum corneum, is made of dead cells that are flat and flexible. They originate at the bottom of the dermis, a region known as the basal layer. Once they are born, these cells migrate upward to the surface. On their way they are transformed into protein-producing cells known as keratinocytes. Whenever the skin is cut or abraded, the job of keratinocytes is to signal the dermis to produce more cells so that the cut can be knitted together and the wound closed as quickly as possible. When they reach the surface and encounter the air, the keratinocytes die, forming your defense shield. After a week or two, they slough off, making way for another round of cells that forms a new horny layer. The journey from the basal layer to the surface of the skin takes about 28 days this rate slows to 35 and 42 days and longer as we head into our senior years.
Before they die, keratinocytes act with surrounding cells to produce chemicals that regulate your immune system. If you get scratched or cut, or develop a boil, for example, these cells trigger an immune response that attacks bacteria and viruses that swoop into the open wound. Your immune system also helps cleanse the tissue of dirt and chemicals that infiltrate the opening. One of the by-products of an immune reaction is inflammation-the red swelling and heat that surrounds a wound.
Your immune system distinguishes your cells and those of invaders, assessing the aliens for possible danger to your health. The more poisons enter your system, the more vigorously your immune system responds and the more your tissues are inflamed, resulting in rapid aging.
Among the poisons we must avoid are synthetic substances placed on the skin. Every synthetic chemical used in skin care and beauty products has side effects for some percentage of the population. The more synthetics you use, the more rapidly your skin ages. Common subsidence of concern include PEGs (polyethylene glycols), which cause rashes, skin irritations, and inflammation in sensitive people: phthalates, derivatives of the petrochemical naphthalene (the substance used in mothballs), which has been linked to birth defects and serious hormonal imbalances; and benzophenon, commonly used in sunblock, which causes irritation, inflammation, and skin rashes. Parabens, the most widely used preservatives in skincare and cosmetics products, have a hormonelike effect on the skin and trigger inflammation, causing shrinking collagen fibers, the strands of protein that make your skin elastic, resulting in wrinkling and more rapid aging.
In general, synthetic substances have three potential effects on the epidermal and dermal layers. First, they can stimulate an allergic reaction, causing swelling of the sensitive tissues, including the eyes and sinuses. Second, they can cause irritation, which can result in an inflammatory reaction. Third, they can the increase the permeability of the skin, in essence, poke holes in the epidermis-thus allowing more disease-causing agents to penetrate. The bottom line is that synthetic ingredients can wreak havoc on your skin and overtax your immune system. This is why you want to use skin care products that contain only natural ingredients.
Think of your epidermis as a living shield. It protects you from assaults from without while it guards the treasures within, among the most important of which is water. Well-hydrated skin maintains its plump, unlined youthfulness. Your epidermis makes sure your skin retains the moisture trapped within it, especially in the dermis. When the dermis is full of moisture, your skin is soft, dense, and pillowy. If not for the epidermis, the moisture in your skin would come to the surface and evaporate, leaving your skin dry, wrinkled, and aged. By keeping the skin hydrated the epidermis maintains your natural moisturizing factor (NFM). People who have good NFM have a healthy epidermis. In fact, the better your epidermis, the greater your NFM
Skin varies in sensitivity. It can be as tough as a fireman and as soft as a rose petal. One of the substances that give skin this beautiful and seemingly contradictory quality is sebum, an oil-like compound that coats the epidermis. Sebum is made of fatty acids, fatty alcohols, waxes, lactic acid, and salts. These constituents combine to give sebum a pH of between 4.3 and 6-meaning that it is slightly acidic, hence the term acid mantle for the coating of the skin. This acid base on your skin is highly effective at neutralizing bacteria and other disease-causing agents. Sebum also helps seal moisture into the skin. It's hard on germs but soft to the touch.
The epidermis also contains the cells that provide pigment, or melanocytes. Only about 2 or 3 percent of the cells in the epidermis are melanocytes, which means this tiny minority of cells provides all the colour in our skin. When the epidermis is treated with harsh chemicals and peels, the melanocytes can become deformed, resulting in irregularities in skin colour.
Any program that supports the epidermis, therefore, supports the health, youthfulness, and beauty of the skin. On the other hand, substances that injure the epidermis, or strip it from the skin, are actually helping to destroy the skin, even though it may appear to give a short-term benefit. Alpha hydroxy acids, for example, strip the upper layers of the epidermis and expose the soft tissue below. That may appear to enhance the skins appearance for a short while, but in fact it accelerates the aging of the skin in the long run. Thus, we see the great divide in skin care approaches today. We either work with the skin to assist or in doing what it does best, or we end up injuring the skin, or replacing it’s normal function, for short-term benefits.
The watery world contains blood and lymph vessels, small muscles,and nerves that convey our sense of touch. Also sweat glands, hair follicles and sebaceous glands which produce sebum. The body is constantly resupplying the dermis with water to keep it moist, healthy and beautiful.
Traversing the dermis are fibrous strands, about 80 percent of which are made of a protein called collagen. Collagen forms a dense matrix that protects the skin from splitting when it is pulled or twisted. The remainder of the strands are elastin, another protein-based fiber. Elastin acts like rubber bands; whenever the skin is pulled or stretched, elastin snaps it back into its original shape. As we age, however, the elastin weakens.
In youth, collagen and elastin are moist and plump, which makes the skin appear full, soft, and unlined. They give the skin its fullness and shape. As we age, the fibers are attacked by oxygen-free radicals, which causes them to dry, shrink, and cross-link with other collagen strands, forming structures that look like fishnetting. As the collagen base shrinks, the skin at the surface folds over on itself, forming wrinkles. Sometimes the collagen becomes so cross-linked that the skin looks like fish netting. As discussed in chapter 2, the antidote to the problem of free radicals is the antioxidants found in plants. By eating antioxidant-rich plants and applying plant-based substances directly on your skin, you infuse the skin with antioxidants.These substances neutralize free radicals and slow the skin's aging process. Medicinal plants can heal the skin and restore much of its beauty and radiance.
The dermis is infused with blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrition to nerves, glands, hair follicles, and cells, including those at the surface. When the body is cold, blood starts to move rapidly to bring in more warmth. When the body is hot, sweat glands start pumping moisture to the surface, where it evaporates and takes away some of the excess heat.
Also within the watery dermis lie wast products that are constantly being expelled from your cells and tissues. Those toxins are eliminated from your body by your lymph system. This s a complex network of vessels and nodes that absorbs intracellular waste particles from the gel-like fluid and takes it away to be neutralized by the liver and expelled by the kidneys. Within the lymph vessels and nodes are antibodies and immune cells, called lymphocytes which destroy disease-causing agents.
Like any waste removal system, the lymph works best when it is moving. When it is congested or blocked, waste builds up in the tissues and can cause blemishes rashes, and irritations on the skin. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymph has no heart to help keep it moving. That job is left to you. You help keep your lymph circulating by moving your body, especially with exercise-walking, dancing stretching , and yoga, for example. Needless to say, the better your lymph system is at removing toxic substances the clearer and more beautiful your skin is.
One way to reduce the burden on both your lymph your skin is reduce the toxic substances you ingest, especially through your diet. Try to avoid excess consumption of artificial substances, alcohol, animal fats, and cholesterol. Another way to keep your skin clear and the lymph unburdened is to stop smoking.
Deep within the dermis and down into the subcutaneous layer are hair follicles. The hairs that grow out of these follicles act like reeds in a pond. In the same neighborhood as the follicles are the sebaceous glands, which produce sebum. Along with the skin's water content, sebum moisturizes the skin. Once secreted, the sebum attaches itself to hairs and climbs upward to the surface along them to create the skin's soft yet protective acid mantle.
When the sebaceous glands are overactive, sebum can collect in the openings, or pores, of the skin, and in the places where the hairs appear at the surface. When this happens, pores and follicles can become blocked, infected, and inflamed, causing blemishes, boils, swelling, and scarring.
Also buried within the dermis are the sweat glands, which release moisture to cool the body. Sweat glands also eliminate waste, thus functioning as an adjunct to the kidneys and urinary tract.
The Subcutaneous Layer
Below the dermis is the subcutaneous layer, which contains fat, muscle, and some blood circulation. The fat and muscle act as a shock absorber for the skin much as collagen does. At this layer, we find those annoying bands of cellulite, which is essentially fat, held in place by connective ned with fat. Metabolic activities also take place here.
Ideally, diet and exercise habits promote both general health and the health and beauty of your skin. This thinking is the basis for a new approach to health care known as salutogenesis or the act of promoting continual good as opposed to preventing or treating disease. A salutogenetic approach to skin care means using a health promoting diet, lifestyle, and healing plants to help the skin preform its most basic and essential tasks.
Modern life has fostered a fragmented way of thinking that encourages us to see the parts of the body as separate from the organism as a whole. For example, there's no end to the number of beauty experts who will tell you how to have a beautiful face and clear skin but never mention the importance of overall health of your body. Your commitment to being beautiful is really a commitment to your overall good health and vitality. Clear, radiant skin reflects good health. What most beauty experts won't tell you is that a beautiful face and radiant skin depend especially on the of your kidneys and large and small intestines.
Exert from Awakening Beauty the Dr. Hauschka Way