Skin Function: What’s it there for?

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and your skin functions are crucial for survival.What does it do?

The most obvious functions are

  • Sense of touch. You have tons of nerve endings in your skin, which sense pressure and pain.
  • Thermal regulation, helping you maintain a constant body temperature. Capillaries in your skin expand in warm weather to bring heat closer to your skin surface, to be radiated away. In cold weather, they contract, minimizing heat loss. Sweat glands release liquid (mostly water) which cools you as it evaporates.

Ok, so unless you really mess with your skin, it’ll always perform those functions.

Which functions are affected by skin care?

If you destroy your skin’s natural acid mantle, or make tiny cuts in your skin with harsh nut scrubs, you’ll compromise it’s protection function, that protects you from chemicals, bacteria and UV-radiation

Acid Mantle: your skin’s protector against chemicals and bacteria

Your skin is a physical barrier against harmful substances and organisms.

Maintaining your skin’s oily nature (sebum) gives protection against chemicals which are not oil-based.The so-called “acid mantle”, or the acidic mixture of sebum and sweat on your skin (pH 4-5.5), protect you from bacteria.

Skin produces melanin, the dark substance which shows up as a tan, freckles or beauty marks, to protect your organs from UV-radiation.

What does this mean for your skin care?

You don’t want to completely wash away your skins oils (sebum) without replenishing them. If you do, dangerous chemicals can penetrate into your skin. (For oily and acne prone skin, this is still true! If you wash them all away and don’t replenish the moisture, your skin will simply overcompensate by producing more oil.)

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It means that you should use skin care products with a low (acidic) pH, otherwise bacteria can grow. If you use regular soap, soap is generally basic (pH>7), which means you’re priming your skin for a bacterial infestation.

Toners based in witch hazel are acidic and great for replenishing the acidity of your skin after cleansing. You can also add a half-a-cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath water for an all-over acid mantle replenishment.

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As for UV-radiation, your skin protects your organs, but it’s also does a bit of self-sacrificing work, taking the beating. The result? sun burn, wrinkles, age spots or even skin cancer. So help it out a little. Wear sunscreen. 😀

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Applying toxic chemicals to your skin means, in some cases, putting those chemicals into your blood stream. Don’t believe me? How do you think a nicotine patch works? Your skin can and does absorb some of the chemicals you put on it in skin care products. Pay attention to what you put on your body.

And sweat serves more purposes than just cooling your body (or creating a lovely body odor). It also supports your natural detoxification system by getting rid of wastes. Some skin care products hinder this process, taxing your liver and kidneys. Or, if your liver and kidneys aren’t able to keep up with the toxins you ingest or apply to your skin, your skin will have to work harder–and dump those toxins right onto your skin surface!


How to cripple your skin’s detoxification function

  • Some products, like mineral oil or anti-perspirants prevent skin respiration and excretion of wastes.
  • Sweating is good for you, and helps keep your body free of heavy metals.
  • Stinking is not so good for your social life, however. But it’s not your sweat that stinks–it’s the bacteria living on your skin. Try to find a natural deoderant which isn’t an antiperspirant that works for you. (And maybe keep an anti-perspirant on hand for those high-stress presentations at work or special nights out.)

How to support your body’s other detoxification systems

Your skin is not your primary detoxification system. That job is left up to your liver and kidneys, the natural detoxification systems of your body.

Getting your liver and kidneys in optimal health can help prevent toxins from getting onto your skin from the inside-out, which for some folks, might be a cause of acne or other skin problems. And regardless of your skin, it’s just plain good for you to have a working liver and kidneys!



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