The External Organ
Considering the billions of dollars that consumers spend on skin care each year, you would expect them to know more about skin's traits. Research by the leading grooming products companies repeatedly establishes the fact that the epidermis (skin) remains a mystery to most people.
Even the fact that the epidermis is the largest human organ is a surprising revelation to many. Surprising, it makes up 15% to 16% of the average person's body weight and that fact alone illustrates the importance of caring for this large body organ. Here are a few facts that can help you understand some of the reasons for establishing and maintaining a good grooming routine and making the effort to choose good products.
The Many Functions of Skin
The epidermis is composed of three distinct layers bonded together. Every layer serves a distinct function. As an entity, skin is a multifunction organ that allows us to survive in our environment. We seldom stop to think about how amazing the skin is in the way it provides so much to our existence. The skin provides the following functions:
• Sensation. There are varieties of nerve endings in the epidermis that serve to transmit information to the central nervous system. These nerves communicate information that allows the brain to interpret cold and heat, vibrations, pressure, touch and injury. The sense of air blowing over the skin comes from millions of nerve endings sequentially communicating those sensations.
• Protection. A specialized types of cells, known as Langerhans cells, plays a vital role as the body's early warning system. While serving as a barrier to bacteria and toxins, the skin also is integral to the body's adaptive immune system.
• Temperature regulation. Both sweat glands and hair follicles play essential roles in regulating body temperature. The moisture secreted as sweat is more effective because of the wicking effect of hair. Additionally, the blood vessels and capillaries of the skin expand or constrict in heat and cold to retain or expel body heat.
• Storage. The body stores most of its fat (lipids) in the epidermis’s third layer, the subcutis layer. Moisture retention and storage is also the function of this layer.
• Moisture control and barrier. As a semi-impermeable barrier protecting the internal organs, skin protects them from evaporation and moisture loss. A second dimension of this water-resistant barrier is protecting the oils and nutrients produced in the second layer, the dermis.
• Absorption. One function that affects skin care is absorption by the top layer of skin, the epidermis. A limited diffusion of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen into this layer occurs constantly. The outermost cells receive almost all their oxygen supply in this way. (This also explains why environmental factors such as smoking can so easily damage the skin.)
Dealing with Dead Cells
The outer layer, the epidermis, protects many important bodily functions. This layer consists of cells of keratin, the same substance as our nails and hair. Over a 4 to 5 week schedule, inner, growing cells push to the surface to replace dead cells.
The desirability of removing dead cells as soon as possible is the reason an exfoliator is so essential to skin care. However, since people have different sensitivity so you may need to use the gentlest product possible, such as exfoliating facial wipes for sensitive skin to remove much of this dead matter from the face, and attain a more vigorous appearance.
The more you know about your amazing skin, the better you can care for it.