How the skin works

Skin Analysis
24 Oct 2014

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Understanding the skin?s anatomy can help you better approach how you treat your skin and understand why skin conditions can sometimes occur, so I wanted to give you an insight into how the skin works.

The primary role of the skin is to serve as a physical barrier, protecting our bodies from potential assault by foreign organisms or toxic substances. The skin is also an interface with the outside environment and, as such, is populated by a diverse collection of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, viruses and mites.

Many of these microorganisms are harmless and in some cases provide vital functions that the human genome has not evolved. Interdependent microorganisms protect against invasion by more harmful organisms. These microorganisms may also have a role in educating the billions of T cells that are found in the skin, priming them to respond to potential disease.

Disruptions in the balance between the skin and microorganisms can result in skin disorders or infections. Disturbances can be internal, or external – for example, from hand washing.

Understanding the skin?s environment
In general the skin is cool, acidic and dry, but distinct habitats are determined by skin thickness, folds and the density of hair follicles and glands. Structurally, the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) is a strong physical barrier, resisting penetration by microorganisms and potential toxins while retaining moisture and nutrients inside the body. The skin is a continuously self-renewing organ, and cells are constantly being shed from the skin?s surface.

Sweat glands are found on virtually all skin surfaces and continuously bathe the skin with their secretion, which is composed mainly of water and salt. Their primary role is to regulate skin temperature through the evaporation of water and to excrete toxins from the skin.

Meanwhile, sebaceous glands are connected to the hair follicle and secrete the lipid-rich substance sebum, which protects and lubricates the skin and hair and provides an antibacterial shield.

Individual factors that affect the skin
Factors specific to an individual, such as age, location and sex, contribute to the variability seen in the microbial flora of the skin. Age has a great effect on the microenvironment of the skin; for example during puberty, changes in sebum production parallel the levels of lipophilic bacteria on the skin.

Meanwhile, physiological and anatomical differences between males and females such as sweat, sebum and hormone production partially account for the microbial differences seen between genders.

Environmental factors that affect the skin
Environmental factors specific to the individual person, such as occupation, clothing choice and antibiotic usage, can all affect the skin. Cosmetics, soaps, hygienic products and skincare are also potential factors contributing to the variation of skin microbiota, as these products alter the conditions of the skin barrier.

One study revealed that high temperatures and high humidity are associated with increased quantities of bacteria on the back, armpits and feet, compared to high-temperature, low-humidity conditions. In the same study, high humidity and low temperature conditions were associated with a higher frequency of gram-negative bacteria on the back and feet.

If you have a skin condition and would like to find out more about what is affecting your skin and how you can treat it, you can make an appointment enquiry at the Claudia Louch Natural Skin Clinic.

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