Maintaining Health of the Largest Organ in the Body ...It's the Skin!
It is a little known fact that the skin is the largest organ in the body with many essential roles. The skin is made up of 3 layers and covers almost 20 square feet of our bodies. Those 3 layers are:
- The Epidermis is made up of what can be seen by the eye and a few layers more layers. This is the outermost layer responsible for skin tone and protection against pathogens, UV rays and water.
- The Dermis makes up the next few layers, this contains connective tissue, nerve endings, sebaceous (oil) glands, sweat glands and hair follicles.
- The Subcutaneous layer is the final layer, also called the Hypodermis. This is made up of connective tissue and fat.
The skin has a very good blood supply with numerous arteries, veins, and capillaries running through it. Cells within the skin are complicated and varied, each with a specific function. Firstly there are the Keratinocytes, these are responsible for Keratinous production of cells that form the Epidermis. These develop at the base of the epidermis and as skin cells are shed the newly produced cells move through the layers of skin to the top. Once they reach the outer most layer of skin they become Corneocytes. Corneocytes harden and adapt for the harsh conditions (changing weather, temperature and moisture). Lastly, are the Melanocytes, again these may sound familiar, this is because they produce Melanin. Melanin the pigment in skin and protects from UV radiation.
What does skin do?
Despite skin looking as if it does nothing it’s much like the proverbial swan on a lake. It has the appearance of doing nothing on the surface but underneath it’s constantly paddling underneath, this is very much like skin. The skin is responsible for the following roles.
- Protective barrier against wear and tear, heat, UV rays, water, pathogens or other hazards
- Prevents the loss of moisture
- Sensory organ for both pressure and heat. Innate response of protection.
- Temperature regulation.
- Production of the essential nutrient Vitamin D
- Excretion of waste products, e.g sweat
What Diseases/ Disorders can affect the skin?
There are numerous problems that are associated with skin including: acne, rashes, Eczema, Psoriasis, ageing, dandruff, Cellulitis, Skin Cancer/melanoma, ulcers, Hives, Herpes and many more! Some of the previously mentioned are preventable and some are not.
Furthermore, there are hugely beneficial precautions that can be undertaken as a skin-care routine that can produce beneficial results to skin health.
Eat well, Nourish your Skin
Food and Supplements
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin known as either Beta-carotene or Retinol. Retinol is sourced from animal products and Beta-Carotene from plant products. Vitamin A is deemed to be most effective against acne and ageing caused by sunlight. It is thought to be anti-ageing as it directly stimulates collagen production. Collagen is the protein in the skin required for elasticity and a youthful appearance. Retinol is found in dairy, eggs and tuna. Whereas the less nutritionally dense beta-carotene is found in sweet potato, carrot, kale, and mango.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin also known as Ascorbic Acid. It is a potent antioxidant used for the protection of the skin. It is found in the epidermis and dermis and is particularly good at preventing the skin from photo-damage. UV rays can cause oxidation which damages lipids, proteins and DNA. A study found that the skin treated with Vitamin C showed a lower level of photo-ageing to the skin that wasn’t treated with Vitamin C. Ascorbic acid can be found in mangoes, strawberries, bell peppers, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin E is universally used in many respectable facial and beauty creams. Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant that comes in many forms. It acts much like Vitamin C by preventing reactive oxygen species from damaging the skin. It has been found that taking oral Vitamin E is be bio-available and hugely effective in photo-damage prevention. Foods rich in Vitamin E include plant oils, nuts and seeds.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral found in very small amounts in food sources. Zinc is essential for skin, with 6% of it being located in the skin (epidermis and dermis). Zinc is has been scientifically proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal skin, as approved by European food standards agency (EFSA). Zinc is present in few foods such as beef and shellfish.
Omega 3 oils have great standing in the health world due to their wide and varied benefits to health, one of which is skin health. These are found in the epidermis and are thought to be effective against many common skin complaints, including, Psoriasis, Eczema, Dermatitis and Inflammatory skin disease. One study showed a 65% decrease in Pruritus (severe itching) after the intake of omega 3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants were previously mentioned as they act on ‘free radicals’ which are responsible for ageing and skin damage. Free radicals have strong oxidation ability which causes damage to the lipids, proteins and DNA in the skin. Important antioxidants include Vitamins C, E, Selenium, Astaxanthin and Grape Seed extract.
(All of the above can be taken in supplement form as part of a healthy and varied diet.)
Other Important Factors
- Take tailored supplements, why not tried a specifically tailored supplement pack for “Skin, Hair and Nails”, these often take into consideration dietary intakes and attempt to tailor to what your skin needs.
- Stop smoking, smoking produces free radicals that only accelerates the problem of ageing.
- Relax and recuperate. A good nights sleep and stress free living has been shown to improve the quality of skin.
- Use creams and lotions- moisturising creams and sun-creams are essential for providing moisture back into the skin that is so easily lost. Sun-creams are used to protect against harmful UV rays, when purchasing try to always use a cream with SPF protection.
- Take care of your skin today, and stay forever young.
- Hoffman, M. (2014). Picture of the Skin. Available: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-the-skin#1.
- HSE. (2014). Structure and functions of the skin. Available: http://www.hse.gov.uk/skin/professional/causes/structure.htm
- Escott-Stump.S. (2015). 2: Nutrition Practices, Food Safety, Allergies, Skin and Miscellaneous Conditions-Skin Disorders. In: Joyce, J and Malakoff-Klein, E Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 8th ed. Philadelphia: Walters-Kluwer. Pg. 113-116.
- Michels. A. (2011). Skin Health. Available: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/skin-health.
- Ganceviciene.R, et-al. (2012). Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermato-Endocrinology. 4 (3), Pg. 308-319.
- Fitzpatrick.R, Rostan.E. (2002). Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage.. Dermatologic Surgery. 28 (3), Pg. 231-236.
- Ghanei.E, et-al. (2012). Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in treatment of uremic pruritus in hemodialysis patients: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Iran Red Crescent Medical Journal. 14 (9), Pg. 515-522.
- BDA. (2016). Skin Health. Available: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/SkinHealth.pdf.