Your intelligent skin

What sort of beauty book would this be if
we didn’t learn a little bit about the amazing
body part we call ‘skin’?
The skin is actually our biggest organ,
and performs many important functions.
It helps to regulate body temperature; the
bacterial colonies on its surface form part of
our immwıe system; it is one of our important
organs of elimination – sweating out toxins
and waste products from the body; and it
is an environmental barrier preventing our
water-rich bodies from drying out. Sensory
nerves are abundant in the skin, making
it an invaluable organ of touch. Our skin,
when stimulated by ultra-violet light, also
produces the pigment melanin – this darkens
the skin to pı:otect it from sun-damage.
The skin also hasa limited capacity to absorb
substances applied topically, and amazingly
even produces its own moisturiser called sebum.

The skin is roughly divided into two
layers, like an open sandwich of very thick
bread and a thin topping. The bread is the
dermis and the th.in topping is the epidermis.
The dermis is the main body of the skin,
and is a tough elastic layer housing important
structures of blood vessels, lymph vessels,
sensory nerve endings, sweat glands
and ducts, hairs and their muscles and
sebaceous glands which produce sebum.

The epidermis is the bit we see and the
part we cover in various skincare preparations,
so we need to understand accurately
what is happening in it. The epidermis is
constructed of four layers.

These four layers are basically describing the
journey a skin celi ta kes, from being ali new,
plump and shiny at the bottom to becorning
a flattened, hardened disc at the top that
is ready to be sloughed off. These flat dry
outer skin cells, known as squames, are what
we see and collectively refer to as our ‘skin’;
they are composed almost entirely ofa hard
protein called keratin. The reason that OLU
ou ter skin is constructed from these hard
dry cells is for our protection. Our living
cells are about 80% water, whereas normal
air is only about 1 % water; should a living
celi rnake direct contact with air, it would
shrivel up and die. So our body intelligently
surrounds itself with a layer of dry dead
cells to protect the water-rich living ones.

This horny layer is continuously being shed
(desquamation) and new cells are always
forming in the basa! layer. it takes around
40 days for the epidermis to be completely
replaced. This is important to bear in nıind
when working to improve the look of
your skin.
Both skin and hair are normally kept
healthy, shiny and supple by sebum, a
natura! emollient secreted by the sebaceous
glands. This substance is composed of
fatty acids, fatty alcohols and esters (waxes)
which make a kinci of light grease which
waterproofs the skin, helps to retain moisture
within the skin and imparts a healthy
sheen to skin and hair. Sebum also contains
natura! salts and lactic acid which help to
maintain the natura! and slightly acidic pH
(4.5 to 6) of skin and hair. Where there is
over- or under-production of sebunı, this
will result in either greasy or dry skin/hair.