The skin is your body's largest organ and greatest protector, which means skin health influences how well your body and its organs function. The skin makes contact with the many elements of the outside world — some of which are beneficial and some not. Our goal at Well Within is to educate you on the many aspects of holistic wellness in order to promote healthy aging and help you achieve younger-looking, vibrant skin.
The skin serves numerous functions. It absorbs sunlight to produce Vitamin D, an essential vitamin that supports bone health. It seals in moisture to prevent dehydration. It helps regulate body temperature. It defends the body from a variety of potential threats such as harmful germs that cause infection.
The skin is made up of three layers: the outer layer or epidermis, the middle layer or dermis, and the hypodermis, the deepest layer.
Each layer of the skin serves an important function. For instance, the dermis contains collagen and elastin, two proteins necessary for skin health because they supply energy and nutrition to the epidermis. Collagen is a mesh-like component of the dermis that gives the skin strength and flexibility. Elastin, a coil-like protein, contributes to the springy (or elastic) nature of skin, helping it return to its original shape after being stretched. Both collagen and elastin diminish over time due to aging and environmental factors. The decline in these instrumental proteins contributes to skin wrinkles and sagging.
The hypodermis is made up of sweat glands, fat and connective tissues where many of the body's hormones are produced. The deeper section of skin, the hypodermis functions like padding and insulation for the body. It conserves body heat and absorbs shock to protect vital internal organs. As we age, tissue in this layer is reduced causing skin to thin, sag, and hollow out, particularly in the cheek area.
As the skin's outermost protective barrier, the epidermis is most crucial to overall health and functioning because it constantly renews and regenerates itself. Within the epidermis, you will find different types of cells: keratinocytes, melanocytes, Langerhans and Merkel cells. The best way to think about the function of these cells within the epidermis is as a team of gatekeepers, all working together to keep harmful agents away from the internal body.
Keratinocytes (dead skin cells) produce the protein known as keratin, the main component of the epidermis that forms the rigidity of your skin. These dead skin cells are shed and replaced by new cells manufactured in the lower portion of the epidermis. These new skin cells gradually migrate upward to the surface of the skin. As they do, older skin cells harden and die. This cycle of skin cell production and replacement takes about 28 days.
Melanocytes produce your skin pigment, known as melanin, and help guard against damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Langerhans cells fight off germs and bacteria and Merkel cells aid in sensory perception.
If you neglect the health of your epidermis, the many working parts are unable to perform their jobs in healing and supporting your body and its internal organs. By working to maintain a healthy epidermis, you can ensure that all these cells and other body organs function properly.
Most people are able to evaluate your age and overall health by simply looking at the condition of your skin. However, the appearance of your skin is related to many factors.
Although sunlight is important for Vitamin D production, you must carefully control your exposure. Harmful UV rays from the sun are responsible for most of the skin changes commonly associated with aging. Long-term exposure to UV radiation causes both fine and coarse wrinkles, abnormal pigmentation, dark or age spots, and a roughened texture to exposed skin.
In addition to UV damage, aging causes natural changes such as a thinning epidermis and loss of elasticity. Plus, various medical conditions common in older people like diabetes, arteriosclerosis, obesity, and cardiovascular disease affect the skin's appearance.
Recognizing which practices support skin health and following them consistently are necessary for overall well-being. Remember, healthy skin not only improves the way you look on the outside, but it also enhances the way your body functions on the inside. Try these five strategies for healthy skin.
Healthy skin equals clean skin. Following a basic cleansing routine using organic skincare can reverse or prevent the negative effects of aging on skin. Cleansing removes dirt, pollutants, and pore-clogging oil from the epidermis. Cleansing also readies the skin so that the active ingredients in any natural skincare products you apply can properly penetrate its surface.
In addition to basic hygiene, regular exfoliation is equally important. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the epidermis and enables new skin cells to emerge. This process leaves skin looking brighter, smoother, and more capable of absorbing the moisture and other ingredients of your skincare products.
The body is made up primarily of water, which means it needs water to properly function. Good hydration — the recommended amount of water is between 2 and 3 liters per day — helps your joints stay lubricated, removes waste and impurities from the body, and hydrates the cells to keep your skin looking soft, supple, and smooth.
Additionally, the natural lipids found in your skin are lost throughout the course of a day. Replenish moisture inside and out by using moisturizer in addition to hydrating with water.
Protection from sun exposure can minimize the formation of lines and wrinkles and prevent other skin problems from developing. More importantly, properly protecting your skin from the sun's damaging UV rays also decreases your risk of skin cancer. Try your best to avoid hours of peak sunlight. If you must go outside, always protect your face and eyes with a wide brim hat and wear sunglasses. Apply all-natural sunscreen to prevent UV rays from penetrating any exposed skin.
The skin of a person who is sleep-deprived and chronically stressed appears unhealthy and aged. The skin is restored and rejuvenated when you rest, so try sleeping the recommended 7 to 9 hours each night. Relieve stress by incorporating relaxing, self-care activities into your day and scaling back on your to-do list so that you are not overworked or overwhelmed.
Nix sugar and processed foods to restore the youthful look of your skin--these choices speed up the natural decline of beneficial collagen and elastin in the skin. Select plant-based foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables as the foundation of a balanced diet. These foods provide essential vitamins and nutrients like Vitamins A, C, and D as well as riboflavin and niacin, which are influential in healing skin and reducing your risk of skin disorders or cancers.
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Lynne + Renee
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Stay Ever Well,
Lynne + Renee