We talk a LOT about all the things we need to do to keep our skin healthy and looking its best. But in addition to wanting to look good, our skin requires such TLC because it performs many important functions for us.
Your skin is a barrier
Perhaps the most well-known function of the skin is to protect what’s underneath it. And it’s excellent at its job – not only does it keep the harmful stuff out, but it keeps the important stuff in.
When it comes to harmful UV radiation, or even bacteria, the skin has a process to protect us. It produces extra melanin (tans) in order to protect us from UV radiation. And its acid mantle helps prevent infection from bacteria and viruses.
Our skin also acts as a water barrier – not keeping it out, but keeping it in. The keratin in our skin (the outer layer) retains the moisture in our skin, which is necessary for keeping skin cells healthy and functioning properly.
Because the barrier function of our skin is so important, it’s crucial that we respect the skin’s barrier, and avoid stripping moisture. We can help our skin protect us by protecting it: using sunscreen, avoiding over-exfoliation, and staying both moisturized and hydrated.
Your skin regulates your body temperature
This is also a pretty important function. When we are too hot, we sweat and our blood flow increases – both of which allow heat to be lost through the skin – cooling our bodies. And when we get cold, blood vessels constrict and blood flow decreases, which helps our bodies retain heat.
Your skin absorbs – both substances and stimuli
Skin can absorb the products you use or necessary medications. It also takes in and processes information from external stimuli, such as temperature, pressure, and pain.
Because of skin’s ability to absorb molecules that are small enough to permeate, it’s important to be cautious with your skin care products. Research what you put on your skin, and follow instructions carefully for any medication you apply topically (prescription or over-the-counter).
When it comes to processing information, your skin responds to external stimuli by communicating with the body’s central nervous system, allowing your body to respond appropriately to protect you. For that reason, if you notice numbness in your skin it’s important to see a doctor.
Your skin is simply amazing
In addition to acting as a barrier, regulating your body temperature, absorbing and processing information, your skin is also constantly hard at work creating chemical reactions that repair cells and generate new cells – all so it can continue to perform its crucial functions.
Your skin can be a great indicator of your overall health. If your skin is not healthy, there is a good chance that another aspect – or several other aspects – of your health are poor. Keeping an eye on changes in your skin can help you keep your overall health in check.
If you notice sallow or ashen skin, or your skin suddenly changes in some way (moles, discoloration, blemishes, etc) there may be more going on than meets the eye. Do your research, and talk to your doctor. And be sure to continue taking good care of your skin – so it can continue to take good care of you.