The skin is our biggest organ which has a surface between 1.5 and 2 square meters (which is around 20 square feet). Believe it or not, each square inch contains around 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels and more than 1000 nerve endings.
The skin is a talented all-rounder that accomplishes many tasks:
• It protects us from diseases and attacks of particles
• The skin heals injuries and wounds
• It regulates our temperature, warming us when we’re getting cold and cooling us when things get a bit too hot.
• The skin produces vitamin D with the help of sunlight which is essential for healthy bones and teeth
• It renews and restores itself to preserve its beauty
There’s quite a lot of tasks here and many of them go unnoticed and unappreciated as the skin does this all on its own. However the skin still needs our help.
Every rash, wrinkle or spot is a sign that the skin needs assistance and support. Unfortunately many of us don’t react to these signs or even worse, they injure their skin even further by using the wrong skincare.
Only by understanding the skin’s structure and needs we can create the most effective programme to protect and support our skin’s health and beauty.
We’ll be having a closer look at our skin, which consists of three layers and this blog concentrates on the first, outermost layer – the epidermis.
The epidermis is the top layer of our skin, the part that you can see. This layer has its own five levels and acts like a protection shield. It is a very tough layer and therefore it’s hard to believe that it is only around 1mm thick. The delicate areas like the eyelids are even thinner, only 0.05mm while our feet and the palms of our hands are thicker, around 1.5mm.
New skin cells are produced every day in the bottom level of the epidermis – the basal layer.
These cells migrate upward to the surface and are transformed into protein-producing cells during their journey. These cells are also known as “keratinocytes”.
Once they have reached the surface, also known as the horny layer or stratum corneum, they die and form your defence shield. After a week or two they are being cast off and they make way for another round of cells that form a new horny layer.
This process is called “exfoliation” and usually takes 28 days. The older you get the longer it can take (up to 42 days) which is also the reason why the skin of older people looks less radiant.
You can support your skin with the right skincare. I use and recommend Dr Hauschka Renewing Night Conditioner which was specially designed to support the skin’s natural healing process at night.
It encourages cell renewal and provides powerful strength and elasticity to your skin. It balances the moisture content of the skin and brings colour and vitality to pale skin.
It is recommended to do one 28 day cycle of Renewing Night Conditioner per year for each decade of life. You will see astonishing changes in your skin if you chose to use this product consistently though.
Structure of the epidermis
1. Basal Layer
This is the layer where new skin cells are produced around the clock. The basal layer also contains melanocytes which are the cells that provide all the colour in our skin.
There is another group of cells that originate in the basal layer – the skin’s immune cells. These cells defend the skin from diseases and bugs.
2. Spinous Layer
Cells start to produce keratin, the main protein for healthy skin, nails and hair. This is also the layer where lipids appear.
3. Stratum Layer
Keratin, lipids and ceramides go through extra development through this stage.
4. Stratum Lucidum
This is a layer of dead cells and only exists on the soles of your feet and your palms. Its main function is to give an extra layer of protection for these areas.
5. Horny Layer (Stratum Corneum)
This is the surface layer which is made of dead cells, called corneocytes or squamous cells.
Function of the epidermis
The corneocytes contain many chemicals that regulate our immune system. These cells are responsible for triggering an immune response that fights bacteria trying to enter the open wound if you get cut or injured. You will see red swelling around your injury which is a natural inflammation caused by this immune reaction.
The more poisons that enter through a wound, the more aggressive your immune response will be. The more aggressive the response, the greater the inflammation will be which results in faster aging of your skin.
By the way, the same effect applies to skincare. A lot of synthetic skincare products contain parabens and other harmful substances like benzophenone or PEGs that cause rashes, skin irritations and inflammation. The more synthetics we use, the quicker our skin ages. That’s why we should avoid these products at all costs and only use products with natural ingredients.
The epidermis protects us from the environment and prevents the loss of water. Water is the most important treasure within the skin. A well hydrated-skin makes your skin look smooth, soft and shiny.
One important group of chemicals within the epidermis is the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF) which keeps the moisture inside. If the moisture in your skin would come to the surface, your skin would be dry, rough and wrinkly. That’s why people with dry skin often lack in NMFs. Good moisturisers contain oils that mimic the NMFs and help hydrate the skin, restoring the surface.
So any skincare that supports the epidermis supports the health of the skin. If you use chemical products it may appear that they give you a short-term benefit but the reality is that they will injure the epidermis or even worse, destroy the skin.
Some acids in chemical beauty products strip the upper layers of the epidermis, leaving the soft tissue below unprotected. Your skin might look enhanced for a short while, but in reality it speeds up the aging process of the skin in the long run.
Therefore it’s really important to think about the skincare products you buy. Some will work in harmony with your skin, helping and assisting it to do its job properly. Whereas other products try to replace or override the skin’s function which may provide short-term results, but can cause longer term damage.