We all remember learning in school that our skin, the epidermis, is the largest organ, weighing more than any other organ in the body, accounting for 15% of your total weight. One inch of skin holds 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels, 60,000 melanocytes, and 1,000+ nerve endings.
The epidermis is the outside protective layer, comprised of keratinocytes (epidermal cells that produce keratin), melanocytes (mature melanin-forming cells), and langerhans cells (antigen-presenting immune cells).
The dermis is the connective tissue/cushions from stress/strain, comprised of blood vessels (tubular structure carrying blood through the tissues), lymph vessels (thin walled, valved structures that carry lymph), hair follicles (the sheath of cells and connective tissue that surrounds the root of a hair), sebaceous glands (a small gland in the skin which secretes a lubricating oily matter (sebum) into the hair follicles to lubricate the skin and hair), and sweat glands (a small gland that secretes sweat, situated in the dermis of the skin) - all held together by fibrous protein substance called collagen, giving it strength and resilience.
The hypodermis is the innermost layer, where fat stores, fibroblasts (a cell in connective tissue that produces collagen and other fibers), and macrophanges (a large phagocytic cell found in stationary form in the tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, especially at sites of infection).
One of the widest known skin damagers is the Sun, with long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer - unprotected exposure causes premature skin aging and wrinkling. Sun rays reduce Langerhans cells that protect the skin from infection, decreasing the skins ability to heal. Over time, the Sun causes liver spots, broken blood vessels, dilation of blood vessels, deep wrinkling, and coarseness. The Sun destroys collagen, the infrastructure of skin, leading to the accumulation of abnormal elastin - wrinkles. The most common effect from unprotected exposure to the Sun is skin cancer: "Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors." - www.skincancer.org
Think About it: If you do not apply sunscreen or shield your skin from the sun's harmful and deeply penetrating ultraviolet A rays, your skin's natural defense will begin to breakdown, leaving it vulnerable to long term and serious damage. This effects all skin types, from newborns to elderly, from the fairest to deepest in skin tones.
Toxins are notorious for damaging skin cells and causing wrinkling, such as environmental pollution, smoking, and harmful chemicals in skincare and cosmetic products. Products that list "fragrance" in their ingredients, may actually contain multiple chemicals that can be harmful and toxic for our skin. A good resource for checking how safe or unsafe your products may be is the Skin Deep Cosmetics database at www.ewg.org.
Nutrition provides the substrate needed to make new skin cells, collagen and elastin synthesis requires vitamin C, iron, and protein. Water helps transport nutrients to the cells, and free radical protection comes from antioxidants that neutralize inevitable toxic exposure - external and internal.
What are the nutrients that feed and support skin cells?
- Healthy fats and oil
- Prebiotics and Probiotics
Free radicals (FR) & antioxidants (A) and ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity)
(FR) Unprocessed cocoa powder - 26,000
(FR) Acai Berry - 18,500
(A) Dark Chocolate (processed) - 13,120
(A) Prunes - 5,770
(A) Raisins - 2,830
(FR) Blueberries - 2,400
(A) Blackberries - 2,036
(A) Strawberries - 1,540
(A) Spinach, raw - 1,260
(A) Broccoli florets - 890
(A) Red grapes - 739
Antioxidant Rich Foods
- Green tea
- Legumes and beans (especially red)
- Acai berry
- All berries
- Spices - oregano, cinnamon, turmeric
- Russet potatoes
Phytonutrients (phyto = plant)
- Anthocyanins - purple/blue powerful antioxidants - healthy cell aging/memory/cancer prevention
- Chlorophyll - green (lutein & zeaxanthin, folate, vitamins b & c) - collagen, uv protection, healthy eyes
- Carotenoids - orange/yellow (beta-carotene) - uv protection, immunity, detoxification
- Allyl Sulfides & Anthoxanthins - yellow/brown/tan - immunity, cancer, anti-inflammatory
- Lycopene, Flavonoids, & Anthocyanins - red - cancer prevention, heart health, memory, skin's moisture barrier
Poor and inadequate nutrition leads to inflammation, try to balance good and bad fats. The body performs at its best with a 2:1 ratio. Omega 6 (O6) is pro-inflammatory, while Omega 3 (O3) is anti-inflammatory.
- Monounsaturated (olive oil, avocado, almonds)
- Omega 3 (fish, fish oil, ALA flax)
- Omega 6 (borage ooil, evening primrose oil, GLA antinflammatory)
- Coconut oil (extra virgin, not hydrogenated)
- Grape seed oil
- Lecithin (soybeans, eggs, humectant)
Hydration is known worldwide to have numerous benefits, aside from survival. Staying hydrated helps to flush out toxins in the body and transport nutrients to the skin cells. Dehydrated skin is flaccid and wrinkled, if you are starting to look dull or tired, this might be a sign of dehydration.
Stress has a huge impact on our bodies, signaling the adrenal glands to release cortisol (a steroid hormone that increases blood sugar to suppress the immune system to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates), and increased cortisol can lead to excess oil production (breakouts and acne) as well as breakdown of collagen. High sugar in the diet amplifies this inflammatory process, increasing blood flow to the face which can cause broken blood vessels.
Combat stress with:
- exercise to balance stress hormones
- relaxation - meditation and yoga
- good dietary habits
- plenty of vitamin d & b vitamins
You could say that the old phrase, "you are what you eat", should be updated to "you are what you put in and on your body". Topical cosmetics have just as much an impact on your health as the contents you consume orally.