Understanding Your Skin & the Regime You Need to Care for It
Get to Know the Skin You’re In
Your skin. It’s all around you. It surrounds us and binds us together, forming a watertight barrier between the outside world and the inner workings of our bodies. The single largest organ of the body, the skin cocoons and protects us, regulates our body heat, and keeps us from dehydrating.
Knowledge is power, and that goes doubly so for the skin. The better you learn to care for it, the better it will care for you. This article will give you lots of info about what skin is, what it needs, and what you can do to help it out.
It’s Integumentary, My Dear
Skin is part of your body’s integumentary system which also includes things like your hair and nails. In other animals, it might also include things like scales, feathers and hooves. In tones ranging from mahogany to alabaster, your skin is a living wall separating your bones, muscles and internal organs from threats like harsh ultraviolet light or deadly pathogens.
Whether oily or dry, your skin also plays host to roughly 1,000 species of bacteria. But don’t freak out, they’re mostly harmless. And some are downright beneficial.
Except for the places like the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet and your lips, hair covers most of your skin. Even if it’s too fine to see. Every square inch of your skin has roughly 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels, and 60,000 melanocytes which absorb and diffuse harmful UV rays. In that same space, you’ll also find over a thousand nerve endings helping your brain make sense of the surrounding environment.
Peeling Back the Layers, but Only Metaphorically
Your skin is three layers thick. There’s the outer layer (epidermis), the connecting layer (dermis), and the innermost layer (hypodermis).
The epidermis is the part you can see. The part most of us worry about. That all-important barrier forming a protective shield around us, keeping water in and infection out. But the three layers are all connected, and the health of one layer depends on the health of all the layers.
Nothing illustrates this as clearly as the dermis, the connective tissue between the epidermis and the hypodermis. For as well as being home to such things as hair follicles, sweat glands and blood vessels, the dermis is also where you’ll find the sebaceous gland. This wonder gland excretes a waxy substance called sebum. When we say the epidermis is waterproof, the waterproofing is actually due to this thin layer of sebum lying on top of your skin.
Under the dermis is the hypodermis, that subcutaneous layer that firmly bonds the outer skin to the underlying muscles. The hypodermis is also home to adipose tissue which plays host to about 50% of your body fat. But in a good way. It helps your skin maintain that full, healthy glow.
How Face Skin is Different from Hand Skin, and So On
You may have noticed that your skin has different needs depending on where it is around your body. A lot of this is due to environmental factors. Body parts most often covered up by clothes aren’t likely to dehydrate as quickly as your face and hands are. But some of it comes down to the skin itself. It’s actually thinner in places. And usually in the places most often exposed to the elements.
This is especially true with your face. With constant exposure to wind and sunlight, the skin there is remarkably thin. Especially around the eyes. Unfortunately, this makes it that much more susceptible to environmental damage. And hiding behind sunglasses or covering up with concealer can only take you so far.
With the hands, the main concern is with moisture retention. Remember those remarkable sebaceous glands that maintain the waterproof barrier on your skin? Well, they’re usually attached to hair follicles. And guess what’s lacking on your palms and fingertips? You’re remarkably unhairy hands make it almost impossible to keep them hydrated.
Not to mention that any protective layer of sebum you do build up on your hands gets stripped away every time you wash your hands. If you don’t moisturize religiously after washing, dry chapped hands can get to be a chronic nightmare.
With your legs, the biggest problems are mostly shaving-related. Unless you go au natural, the process of keeping your legs hair-free often strips away your protective sebum layer and dries out your skin. And if you wear shorts, skirts or dresses, the added hit from the environment makes the problem that much worse.
Products to Help with Your Trouble Zones
There are some simple home remedies that can help with some of your problem zone issues. For instance, puffy eyes are the result of water retention that can sometimes be remedied with healthier lifestyle choices. But if getting eight hours sleep every night, reducing your salt intake, and avoiding alcohol aren’t in the cards for you, it’s skin care products to the rescue. There are a wide range of solutions on the market, like Olay Eyes Depuffing Eye Roller, that can help.
Under the eyes, the big worries are dark circles and uneven tone. The circles are the result of your already thin skin getting thinner as you age, allowing the pigments under your skin to show through more. Uneven tone is often the result of sun damage which can also lead to fine lines and crow’s feet. Prevention can go a long way in reducing these problems. But what if you haven’t spent most of your life wearing big floppy hats and slathering on maximum SPF? Don’t worry, there’s also a number of products on the market that are designed to treat these areas as well.
For your hands, preventative measures include making sure your hand soap isn’t too harsh, wearing gloves when you can, and using high-SPF sunscreen when you can’t. Also, see what you can do to avoid manual labour. I know, not an option for most, but it really takes a toll.
Then, get serious about your moisturizer. Try something like La Roche Posay Cicaplast. It not only locks in moisture, but it also absorbs rapidly. You know that sticky feeling when you know you’ve got cream all over your hands? Not a problem here.
For your legs, look first for a gentler way of managing your leg hair. If you’re serious about saying goodbye to leg hair forever, consider a one-and-done solution like electrolysis. Or an effective at-home permanent hair removal system like the Silk’n Flash&Go. Either way, you’ll do your skin a favour by keeping razors or depilatory creams at arm’s length. Then, to lock in moisture, try something all-natural and paraffin-free like Eco Body Erase Oil.
The Rise of the Machines (Don’t Worry, It’s a Good Thing)
In the never-ending battle to keep your skin at its best, there are now multiple devices you can turn to. From light therapy and fancy scrubbers to at-home microdermabrasion, it seems they make a device for almost every concern now.
Many dermatologists suggest the best thing you can use on your skin is a good exfoliating device such as the Clairsonic. It comes with a variety of brush attachments designed for use all over the body and can go a long way in fighting acne and preventing the signs of aging.
Humans have been exfoliating at least since Ancient Egyptian times. But today, a good mechanical exfoliation device will make your skin extra clean. It scrubs away dirt and debris that clog your pores, promoting acne and preventing your skin from taking care of itself. Done often enough, exfoliation can help restore your skin, giving it a healthy, youthful glow. And whereas some devices can do more harm than good if overused, there’s little chance of over-doing it with mechanical exfoliation.
Other dermatologist-recommended exfoliators include the Forea Luna 2 Personalized Facial Cleansing Brush and the Silkn Pure Orbital Facial Brush Cleanser. The Forea Luna 2 uses the power of sound waves to help remove up to 99.5% of dirt and oil. And the Silkn dual-speed facial brush with soft, non-abrasive micro bristles, refreshes and exfoliates your skin, removing dirt, oil and makeup. But as their names suggest, these cleansers are primarily for use on your face, whereas the Clairsonic really gets around.
Another option in anti-aging and fighting acne is microdermabrasion. As the name suggests, this is a smaller scale, less aggressive version of professional dermabrasion. No numbing agent required.
In microdermabrasion, a machine uses tiny crystals to gently remove dead skin and dirt from your epidermis. All at once, your skin is exfoliated and rejuvenated, looking softer and brighter with improved elasticity.
And best of all, microdermabrasion is safe enough to do in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Usually with a device compact and light enough to easily go anywhere with you. Options on the market include the Diamond Dermabrasion Beauty Machine and the Silk’n ReVit.
There are of course other solutions available. Some devices, such as the NuFACE Facial Toning Kit, use a safe electrical microcurrent to tone your facial muscles. The claim is it improves the contour of your skin while fighting fine lines and wrinkles.
And there’s always light therapy. The idea behind light therapy is that certain colours of light promote specific kinds of healing in your skin. Red light stimulates collagen production to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, blue light fights breakouts, and green light helps reduce uneven tone and discolouration.
Products available include the Osmotic 3-in-1 Ageless Facial Enhancer, a handheld device designed for spot treatments, and the Glitz LED Face Mask, which does your whole face simultaneously.
Then there is the Silk’n Titan anti-aging device – which combines three energy sources to deliver outstanding anti-aging results. Treated skin appears lifted and has a noticeably healthier colour and glow.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of your skin, including actionable knowledge that will allow you to care for it better. In turn, it will take care of you, too.If you decide to use a mechanical device in your skin care regime, it’s always a good idea to consult your dermatologist to make sure you find the solution that’s best for you.
- Shannon O'connell