Are you aware of the largest organ in your body? It’s not in your brain and it’s certainly not in your large intestine. Don’t give up! You can give up. Your skin is an organ, just like your heart, liver, and lungs. The average adult’s skin would cover 20 square feet. That’s about the same size as a twin-sized sheet of paper. This chapter will explain the inner workings of your skin and show you where your acne is originating. I will explain the functions of your “largest organ” and give you some tips on how to care for it.
Explore Your Largest Organ
The skin may not be considered an organ like the heart or lungs. Many people view skin as a cover that protects their internal organs from being exposed. An organ is an independent body part that performs a specific function. Once you understand this, you will see that the skin is an Organ because it performs specific functions in addition to other functions.
- Protects your body against infection
- It acts as a barrier that keeps the outside world from getting in your face
- Protects your skin from the harmful effects of the sun
- Protects you against injury by providing cushioning, similar to a shock absorber
- Insulates your body, and maintains your temperature at a comfortable 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37° Celsius).
- Serves as an energy reserve
- Your sensations of pain and touch alert you to possible harm
- Repairs themselves (that’s why cuts heal).
- Vitamin D is produced
Your skin performs many functions so you might not be surprised to learn that it has a complex structure with many parts. There are hairs with their own oil glands, and small muscles. I bet you didn’t even know hairs had muscles! The skin contains sensory nerves that can sense temperature, pressure, touch and cold. It is also home to blood vessels and lymph vessels as well as sweat glands. Your skin also contains microscopic pigment-producing cell, which are cells that help you fight infection and protect your skin from harm. You might be surprised to learn that your skin does not have a zip code. The human skin has three layers. The epidermis and dermis are the two top layers. The subcutaneous layer is the third and final fatty layer on which the epidermis, dermis, and bask. The prefix epi is “upon” while derm is “skin”, so they together form epidermis (upon skin). Dermis is “skin” so epidermis (upon the skin) is formed. You will be taken on a guided tour through each layer in the sections below.
Get over it all! Hey, your epidermis shows!
The epidermis is very strong. Keratinocytes make up most of the epidermis cells. Keratin is a fibrous protein that is extremely tough and durable in Keratinocytes.
Latin for cells is “cytes” so keratinocytes are cells made up of keratin. The epidermis has three layers, just as the skin has multiple layers (epidermis and dermis), Cellular motion is constant within these layers.
Outer layer: Also known as the horny or stratum corneum layer, this outer layer is the epidermis’ outermost layer. This layer protects your body from infection and damage. This is actually a layer of skin made of dead cells. Dead cells also make up your hair and nails. When you look at your skin you can see dead cells. These dead skin cells don’t stay around for very long. They will eventually fall off. It happens all the time. We lose between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells every day.
The middle layer: Also known as the stratum Spinosum. Scientists first described these cells as looking kind of spiny.
Inner layer: Also known as the basal layers, the inner layer acts as a production facility for new skin cells (keratinocytes). They eventually move up through the stratum Spinosum to reach the outer stratum Corneum to replace any older cells that have been lost from the surface. The basal layer’s keratinocytes stand tall like soldiers when they see the basement membrane. This barrier separates the epidermis, dermis and acts as an anchor. Because the epidermis is deficient in blood, the underlying dermis keeps the keratinocytes alive. They begin to die as they move higher up the ladder. They have lost almost all their cellular content, except for the tough keratin fibers. They become more durable and resilient as they age and eventually become the flattened cells of the stratum corneum. It takes approximately two weeks to one month to complete this one-way trip. Scarring can occur when an injury or a pimple from acne penetrates the basement membrane. You can now see your dermis!
Your epidermis and your dermis have an intimate relationship. It is equipped with sensory nerves and blood vessels. It provides oxygen and carbon dioxide to the epidermis, which are then absorbed through the basement membrane. Because it lacks nerves and blood supply, the epidermis cannot survive without the dermis. The dermis is home to collagen and elastin fibers. Collagen, a strong protein that gives the dermis rigidity and strength, is resilient. Elastin is composed of a protein structure that can coil and retract like a spring. This protein gives skin its elasticity.
The hair follicle is also located in the dermis. The hair follicle, a hair-containing channel; a tube-shaped sheath surrounding the area of hair below the skin. It is located in the epidermis as well as the dermis. Blockage of hair follicles is often the root cause of acne. It seems that the hair follicle is the main focus of the entire book. All of these things have their roots in the hair follicle.
Digging deeper: Your subcutaneous layer
The subcutaneous layer is home to fat cells, also known as lipocytes. The subcutaneous layer is not where acne is concerned so we will only be visiting it briefly.
If you are interested, the subcutaneous layer is where your outer layers of skin rest. Your body’s natural shock absorber, cushion, and the insulator is the fatty layer. It also keeps the diet industry afloat! Subcutaneous layers contain arteries, veins, and lymph vessels that are larger than the ones in your dermis. You’ll find muscles and perhaps some of your inner organs if you dig deeper. This is a far-reaching view! The anatomical tour will end here in Fat City.
Basic Operating Instructions: How to Take Care of Your Skin
Different skin types and people need different ways to care for their skin. An old saying in dermatology still holds true: “If your skin is dry, wet it.” “If your skin is fair, shield it. If it’s dark, you are probably very lucky.” Your melanin protects you against skin cancers and wrinkles. You should use sunscreens and wear hats if your skin is fair. You may also have other reasons to protect your skin from the sun if you have dark skin. Some people with darker skin, such as those from Asia or complex skin, may be more sensitive to the sun and more prone to irritation. The ultimate operating instructions: No matter if you have oily, dry, or regular skin or a large breakout, there is something that will keep you looking your best. It’s guaranteed to make you more attractive and help you influence others. You can simply smile and exercise your facial expression muscles.
Wash your face
Is this rocket science? Perhaps not. As a dermatologist, there are a few reasons I offer a tutorial on how to wash your face. First, I begin my instructions on applying medication in later chapters with phrases such as “Wash your face. . Apply. . “So, I thought it would make sense to fill in the details. This is the second reason why Face Washing 101 101 is so important. Many people make mistakes. Don’t worry, I’m here for you. If you’re like most people, my face-washing routine will simplify your mornings, evenings, and even save you money. Society is all about soap these days. The cleaner, the better! We are taught to scrub our skin with lots of soap and water as children. Teenagers use more soap to combat oily skin and acne. Even though our skin is different, adults tend to use the same soaps and routines as teens. There are so many soap options available: super-fatted, deodorant and rejuvenating, oatmeal, avocado, sandalwood, wintergreens, peppermint, patchouli, vitamin E, and more. There are many cleansers available. Some clean as they exfoliate, while medicated ones contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in different concentrations. These products can cause irritation if you use them too often. These products will dry out your skin and cause irritation, especially if you are already using a topical antibacterial medication. Your acne can be improved by not washing your skin with soaps too often, such as regular soaps, antibacterial soaps, and soaps with abrasives. If you have acne, your skin might be reddened and inflamed. Frequent washing will only make it worse. No matter what skin type you have, washing your face twice daily with mild soap is the best way to go. I recommend these soaps and cleansers depending on the skin type. These tried-and-true suggestions may not be as appealing as Provencal honey-lavender and grape seed soaps, but they work. Oily skin: Dove soap. Skin that is sensitive or reacts to soaps: Use a non-soap cleanser like Aquanil, Cetaphil or Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser. Use lukewarm water to get the soap wet. 2. Use your fingertips or a soft cloth to apply the soap to your skin. Rub it in a circular motion. Please do not use loofah sponges or brushes. 3. Use lukewarm water to wash your face until all the soap has been removed. You should only rinse your face with lukewarm water for a few seconds, perhaps as long to sing “Happy Birthday”. Pat — don’t rub — your skin until it’s dry. Use a soft cotton towel.
You may experience xerosis, which is a dry skin condition that is more severe when it is cold or the humidity is low. This is most common in northern climates during the winter months. Our modern Western lifestyles emphasize overbathing which only makes the dryness worse. We also often live in and work in extremely hot environments. Use mild soaps and soap substitutes to keep your skin moist. Consider moving to a warmer climate, such as the rain forest. If you are already using mild soap and assuming that a move to Amazon is not possible for you, moisturize your skin regularly. (Check out the “Giving Your Skin a Drink!” sidebar at the end of this chapter to learn why). It may take some trial and error to find the right moisturizer. You should look for moisturizers that are non-comedogenic. Oil of Olay is my favorite, but there are many great products out there. If you feel you are in need of sunscreen, you can use a moisturizer with sunscreen. To hydrate your skin, you can also use room humidifiers. You may have dry skin or acne. These symptoms can be made more bearable by using moisturizers instead of your topical acne medication. You can use makeup over moisturizers. You shouldn’t rely on these “remedies” to treat dry skin. Treat your dry and acne-prone skin with gentler methods and TLC. Your skin doesn’t need to become flaky or scaly to avoid wrinkles. Although some of the topical remedies I discuss in Chapter 9 can make your skin dry and scaly, others can prevent wrinkles.
How to deal with an oil glut
Your skin may be producing too much sebum, which can lead to excessive oiliness. If you have acne, this is often the case. Here are some tips to care for oily skin.
- You’ll be happy to save some money on moisturizers.
- You will feel happier as your skin will look younger and more youthful.
- You will be happier as your skin will become less sensitive.
You may want to know more, so here are some tips:
- Don’t over-irritate your skin, even if it’s oily. It should only be necessary to wash your face two times per day. Although you may have been advised to wash your face 77 times per day with strong soaps, this will only irritate and make your skin redder. If you have acne, all that scrubbing can only make it worse. Check out “How to clean your face” for more information.
- You can wipe off oily areas of your face with mild alcohol-and water astringents such as Neutrogena Clear pore oil-controlling Astringent, Noxzema Triple Clean Astringent or Clean & Clear Advanced Acne pads.