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About skin

Skin Conditions | January 5, 2018 | Author: Naturopath


About skin

The Integumentary system is the largest organ system of the body and comprises of an external cutaneous membrane, known as the skin, and includes hair and nails (and scales, feathers and hooves - which of course don’t apply to us).

Its role is to protect the internal body from damage

This includes:

  • Loss of water  
  • Abrasions from outside forces  
  • Temperature fluctuations (temperature regulation)
  • Preventing water damage (waterproofing)
  • Blunt forces (cushioning)
  • Toxin accumulation (waste excretion)

It is the attachment site for sensory receptors to detect pain, sensation, pressure, temperature and provides for vitamin D synthesis.

The skin

The skin is made up of layers - the main ones being the Epidermis and the Dermis


The epidermis is the thin, outermost layer of epithelial tissue found of the skin. In most parts of the body the epidermis is made up of 4 layers, 5 layers where the skin is thicker such as the soles of the feet.

The EpidermisNewly formed cells, Keratinocytes, at the lowest layer, the Stratum basale, are slowly pushed to the surface moving through the layers of the epidermis, and accumulating keratin along the way. This process is known as keratinization. The cells eventually die and are sloughed off the surface of the skin, replaced by the next group of keranized cells. This is an on-going process but each new cell takes about 4 weeks to reach the surface and die.

The epidermis consist of 4 principal types of cells, Keratinocytes (produce the protein Keratin), melanocytes (skin colour), Langerhans cells (Immune response) and Merkel cells (touch sensation).

Keratinocytes make up about 90% of cells in the epidermis and product keratin, a tough, fibrous protein that helps protect the skin above and tissues below, from microbe, heat and chemicals.

Melanocytes - make up about 8% and produce melanin a yellow-red or brown-black pigment that colours skin BUT also absorb damaging ultra violet (UV) light. Melanin granules gather to form a shield of protection for nuclear DNA against UV light damage, but they themselves are can be damaged.

Langerhans cells come from the red bone marrow and migrate to the epidermis to protect the skin from invading microbes. They are also susceptible to damage from UV.

The Dermis

The dermis is the next deeper layer of the skin composed of connective tissue and provides the ground for blood vessels, nerves, glands and hair follicles. Within this layer is the reticular region, a combination of elastic and collagen fibres, which provide the skin with strength, stretch and elasticity.

Below the dermis is the hypodermis consisting of areolar tissue (loose connective tissue) and adipose (fat tissue).

Aging skin

Most people will start to notice changes to their skin by the time they are in their 4th decade and most age-related changes occur in the Dermis.

  • Collagen fibres begin to decrease, become stiff and break
  • Elastic fibres loose some of their elasticity, thicken into clumps and fray - this is especially notable with smokers
  • The fibroblasts that product both collagen and elastic fibres, decrease and result in what we know as wrinkles
  • Immune response decreases due to a reduction of Langerhans cells and macrophages become less efficient phagocytes, leaving the skin more prone to infection
  • Sebaceous glands shrink leading to dry and cracked skin - infection
  • Sweat glands reduce the ability to sweat which may contribute to heat stroke in the elderly
  • Melanocytes reduce their function resulting in greying hair and atypical pigmentation
  • Adipose tissue reduces and blood vessels become thicker and less permeable

Aged skin is a lot thinner than young skin and the cellular process of migration from the basal layer to the surface is a lot slower. Skin healing is poor and skin becomes susceptible to skin sores and skin cancers.

UV exposure may account for up to 80% of visible signs of aging in the skin. This includes the appearance of dry skin, wrinkles, pigmentation and correlates with the risk of skin cancer.

Protecting our Skin

  • Use a good sunscreen and be sun savvy - by avoiding over-exposure to the sun, applying liberal amounts of sunscreen every 2 hours, using protective clothing such as large hats, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts and pants will help preserve the integrity of the skin.
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoid long, hot showers or baths to prevent oil loss from your skin
  • Avoid harsh soaps
  • Be gentle with your skin
  • Moisturise
  • Eat a good diet


Applying sunscreen is considered one of the best ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer, other than avoiding over exposure and using protective clothing.

Aged spots, solar keratosis and aging (wrinkles) can all be contributed to exposure to the sun.

The two types of harmful ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun are UVA and UVB.

SunscreensUVA rays penetrate the skin to the dermis and cause damage to the cells genetics resulting in wrinkling skin, pigmentation, and immune suppression.

UVB affects the outer layer, the epidermis, causing sun burn that can be a risk factor in developing Melanoma or other skin cancers.
Click Here For Article on Melanoma

Sunscreen comes with two types of ingredients:

  • Absorbers - which absorb UV rays, and
  • Reflectors which scatter UV rays away from the skin.

Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays, UVB is the principal cause of sunburn, but both UVA and UVB contribute to increased skin cancer risk.

Applying your sunscreen correctly is very important. According to the Cancer Council of Australia sunscreen should be used liberally and applied 20 minutes before UV exposure and reapplied every 2 hours. If you are going to be exposed to the sun it is suggested to apply a sunscreen over your moisturiser instead of using a moisturiser that contains UV protection.

You can still get sun damage on cool, cloudy and windy days. See Cancer Council of Australia - The SunSmart UV Alert for guidelines

Click Here For Article on Sun Spots


Fruit and Vegetables. Support your health with a diet full of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of health giving ingredients such as dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. These nutrients function as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and anti-inflammatory agents offering protective mechanisms to provide support for a healthy body and disease prevention.

Essential fatty acids from nuts, fish, olives and avocado help support the cell membrane and cellular signalling, interact directly with DNA as well as reduce inflammation.

Protein is one of the most important nutrient factors affecting wound healing. Help skin repair with adequate protein from eggs, meat, chicken, fish and combinations of nuts seeds, legumes and grains.

Fermented foods have unique properties due to presence of functional microorganisms (probiotics). These microorganisms possess a variety of properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidants and participate in peptide production, for example. They support the synthesis of nutrients, prevention of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular health issues, and help with gastrointestinal disorders, allergic reactions, and diabetes, amongst others. 

Fibre. Add in fibre in the diet to help remove toxins and feed beneficial microorganisms. 

Remember the main action of the skin is to protect the body  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Tortora Gerald J., Derrickson Bryan, 2006 Principles of Anatomy and Physiology 11th edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Lees, Mark; 2001, Skin Care beyond the basics, Milady, Thomson learning, NY, USA

Ultraviolet radiation, aging and the skin: prevention of damage by topical cAMP manipulation

Health Benefits of Fruits and vegetables

Essential fatty acids as functional components of foods- a review

Factors Affecting Wound Healing

Functional Properties of Microorganisms in Fermented Foods

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