The Organ We Wear

Few people who have not studied biology realize that our skin is actually our largest organ. The average person's skin weighs between 8 to 9 pounds, or 16% of body weight.

Skin care is one of the most vital aspects of personal grooming. It affects our hair because of our scalp. We shave it, wash it, tan it, put cosmetics on it and deodorize it. We buy lotions and potions to care for our skin. Our skin also gives one of the most visible evidences of our age.

When we are young, our skin is very supple and elastic. The old comment about smooth as a baby's but is right on target. As we age, the skin loses that elasticity, and its ability to retain moisture. That is the source of the much resented wrinkling of the skin.

The Business of Skin Care

Science has given us a very detailed insight into the functions, structure and care of skin. Personal care companies continue to spend millions of dollars a year on research and development focused on skin care. New and effective products come to market each year with promises to stop or even reverse aging.

Thanks to all that investment in R & D, many of those claims are not hype. A fundamental goal of all skin care products is to moisturize the skin. The loss of moisture is the number one enemy to natural, supple skin. Simple Skin Care moisturizers are one example of an effective dry skin treatment.

Since you are going to spend a lifetime caring for your skin, here is a little basic biology about that most visible of organs. The next time you put on that special skin lotion, think about what a remarkable creation your skin is and how essential it is to your health.

Our skin is made up of three primary layers:

• Epidermis. The layer we see is actually billions of cells named keratinocytes. These cells are the same versatile protein that is in our nails and hair, keratin. These cells are constantly growing from the inside of the top layer to the very surface of the skin. We actually replace this surface about every five weeks. Just as the hair we see is dead, the top level cells of skin are dead. They are constantly flaking and sloughing off.

The thickness of the epidermis varies over the body. It is thick enough on the soles of the feet to be called the horny layer, while being one tenth as thick around the eyes.

The epidermis is a front line of defense for the body, using cells called Langerhans cells that are like watchmen on a fort's walls. They alert the body to the presence of diseases

• Dermis makes up the second layer. It is the layer that provides the skin's strength. It is also the layer that slowly loses its elasticity. Primary elements of the dermis are collagen and elastin. This level forms many of the functions that we normally associate with the skin. It has the blood vessels, nerve fibers and receptors, hair follicles and sweat glands. The sebaceous glands are the source of sebum, or the oils that we find on the surface that lubricates the scalp and skin.

• Subcutis is the bottom layer of the skin. It is where the body stores fat and is the body's insulation.

Skin deserves the care we like to give it. Take good care of your skin because it takes good care of you.

The Basics of Skin