Skin care

Are you comfortable with how your skin looks now? How about twenty years from now?

How can you preserve or restore youthful looking skin?

Here’s what Keep Health thinks you should know to keep your skin healthy which in turn keeps your body healthy too.

What is your skin?

As the largest organ in your body, your skin does many things. It:

  • Contains nerve receptors that allow you to feel touch, pain, and pressure
  • Helps control your fluid and electrolyte balance
  • Helps control your body temperature
  • Protects you from the environment including harmful bacteria
  • Alerts you to allergies and infections
  • Turns sunlight into Vitamin D for healthy bones

Although skin has many layers, it can generally be divided into three main parts:

  1. The outer part (epidermis) contains skin cells, pigment, and proteins.
  2. The middle part (dermis) contains
    1. Small blood vessels provide the epidermis with nutrients, and remove waste products. 
    2. Hair follicles with sebaceous oil glands to keep your hair and skin from drying out. The oil from the sebaceous glands also helps to soften hair and kill bacteria that get in the skin’s pores. These oil glands are all over the body, except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
    3. Nerves and sensory receptors which allow the body to receive stimulation from the outside environment and experience pressure, pain, and temperature. 
  3. The inner layer under the dermis (the subcutaneous layer) contains sweat glands, some hair follicles, blood vessels, and fat. 

An average adult has about six pounds of skin! Each layer contains connective tissue with collagen fibers to give support and elastin fibers to provide flexibility and strength.

What happens to your skin as you age? 

As you age, your epidermis thins. Your pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) decrease. The remaining melanocytes increase in size. Aging skin looks thinner, paler, and clear (translucent). Large pigmented spots, including age spots, liver spots, or lentigos, may appear in sun-exposed areas as a result of DNA damage.

In your dermis, starting during your 30’s and 40’s, changes in the connective tissue (elastin and collagen) reduce your skin’s strength, elasticity and youthful appearance. This is known as elastosis. It is more noticeable in sun-exposed areas (solar elastosis). Elastosis produces the leathery, weather-beaten appearance common to farmers, sailors, and others who spend a large amount of time outdoors.

The blood vessels of the dermis become more fragile. This leads to bruising, bleeding under the skin (often called senile purpura), cherry angiomas, and similar conditions.

Sebaceous glands produce less oil as you age. After the age of 80, men experience a minimal decrease, Post menopausal women gradually produce less oil. This can make it harder to keep the skin moist, resulting in dryness and itchiness.

The subcutaneous fat layer thins so it has less insulation and padding. Loss of fat below the skin in the cheeks, temples, chin, nose and eye area results in loosening skin, sunken eyes and a “skeletal” appearance.

The loss of subcutaneous fat also increases your risk of skin injury and reduces your ability to maintain body temperature. Because you have less natural insulation, you can get hypothermia in cold weather. The sweat glands produce less sweat. This makes it harder to keep cool. Your risk for overheating or developing heat stroke increases.

Some medicines are absorbed by the fat layer. Losing this layer changes the way that these medicines work.

Growths such as skin tags, warts, rough patches (keratoses), and other blemishes are more common in older people.

Aging skin repairs itself more slowly than younger skin. Wound healing may be up to 4 times slower.

How can you keep youthful looking healthy skin?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends 11 Ways To Reduce Premature Skin Aging. More ways include:

  • High Intensity Interval Training Exercise
    • Studies show those who jog at least thirty minutes, five days per week retain longer telomeres and thus longer cellular health.
    • High intensity exercise stresses the body into turning up energy production and growing extra oxygen rich capillaries, making your body stronger.
    • Short distance running is fine. Aside from the benefits of better blood flow to your skin, covering even 4-5 miles per week makes a big difference in all-cause mortality.
  • Hormesis — exposure to hot and cold temperatures
  • Dietary supplements — for skin health and cancer protection
  • Protective moisturizers and restorative creams
  • Sun protection — UVA rays cause sunburn. UVB rays damage your DNA. 
  • Sun exposure — Completely avoiding sun is bad for you too.
  • Diet
    • Avoid glucose (sugar and simple carbohydrates) as they damage DNA and accelerate aging
    • Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting engage your sirtuins which minimize epigenetic damage and slow aging. (See Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David Sinclair and Matthew LaPlante)
    • Low protein diets, especially diets low in animal meat and dairy, cause your cells to focus on autophagy which recycles damaged and misfolded proteins. This helps prolong vitality.
    • Although we prefer to remember our youthful skin as unblemished, in reality, we likely had acne. In studies of over 78,000 people, any dairy, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, was associated with an increased odds risk for acne in individuals aged 7–30 years. 
    • Smaller scale studies of chocolate have also shown an odds risk for acne, potentially biased from the dairy in milk chocolate. However studies of pure dark chocolate have also shown an increased odds risk for blackheads and pimples.
    • Avoid alcohol 
      • One study found that the risk of basal cell carcinoma increased by 7% and squamous cell carcinoma by 11% for every standard beer or small glass of wine each day. 
      • Another study showed a 20% increase in melanoma in drinkers, and the risk increased with the number of drinks.
      • Of note, these studies didn’t take into account that alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of getting sunburned.

Emerging Medical Solutions for Skin

Excellent Resources for Researching Specific Skin Care Issues

  • MedLinePlus on 50+ Skin, Hair and Nail Condition Topics
  • National Institute of Health (NIH) on Skin Care and Aging
  • MedicineNet, a collaboration between WebMD and the Cleveland Clinic on Skin Care
  • Harvard Medical on Skin Care and Repair ($18 digital)
    • How to quell and conquer a dozen common skin conditions, including adult acne, contact dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and athlete’s foot.
    • Breakthrough medications for rosacea and psoriasis, and a surprising and quick remedy for warts. (Did you know that if you keep a piece of duct tape on your wart, it will disappear in 2-3 weeks?  If the duct tape falls off, just put a new piece on.)

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This concludes Keep Health’s article on skin care. Hopefully you’ll feel more comfortable in your own skin going forward. If not, check out this video of 33 Clever Tattoos, or for fun, check it out anyway.

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