The Complexity of Skin
While it easy to dismiss skin as simply a visible covering of the body, it is actually an extremely complex organ. It performs many functions that allow us to survive in different environments and temperatures.
The skin we see is the epidermis. It is just one of the three layers that make up the entire organ of skin. The epidermis itself consists of three layers, even though it is less than a millimeter thick.
Cells called keratinocytes compose each layer of the epidermis. They pass through the epidermis to the surface at different stages of maturity. Dead cell make up the top layer. They contain natural moisturizing factors that absorb moisture from the atmosphere and lock it into the cells.
The second layer of the epidermis contains mature keratinocytes and a fatty substance. This layer serves as a waterproof barrier to keep water and moisture in the body. Sugar molecules in the third layer bind to water, keeping this moisture available for generating new cells.
The Gain and Loss of Moisture
These many layers of skin all need water to work properly. The water washes away toxic materials and keeps the skin elastic. As we age, the skin loses its ability to trap and use the moisture. That loss results in dry skin and other problems. As skin loses its ability to keep moisture in and outside toxins out, we develop wrinkles, spots and other skin problems.
A good moisturizer is more important the older we get. Some companies develop products targeted to counteract this aging process. Simple skin care products are one example. Research provides the intimate knowledge of the chemistry of the skin. Many of these products are surprisingly effective at helping damaged or aging skin.
There are two primary causes of damage to the skin. The first of these are biological factors; the second is environmental.
Biological Causes of Problem Skin
Our genetic heritage determines how our skin reacts to aging. All skin, however, gradually loses its ability to trap and retain moisture. It simply stops making some of the chemicals, such as urea, that are essential to the process.
Other genetic conditions will affect this ability to retain moisture from early in life. People with chronic dry skin fit into this group.
Use of the proper lotions, cleaners and soaps is important to aiding and not hindering the body's natural moisturizing abilities. Some products actually strip out the oils and fats that the skin uses to trap and keep moisture.
Environmental Causes of Problem Skin
This brief overview provides some insight into why smoking is so harmful to skin. The top layer of the epidermis that traps moisture also traps the damaging toxins in smoke. Any environmental toxins damage skin in this way.
Sun, heat and wind are obvious enemies to the moisture levels of skin. As they dry out the upper levels, they do irreparable damage to the basic moisturizing ability of the skin.
Healthy skin requires proper levels of moisture. Good skin care means avoiding activities that lessen that moisture level. Quality products can help in restoring and maintaining moisture in the skin.