The skin is the largest organ in the body, taking up approximately 6 feet in surface area, and weighing about 16% of your body weight.
The skin has many functions, not only protecting your internal organs, muscles, and blood from intrusion of infection microorganisms, it also turns sunlight into vitamin D, and regulates body temperature.
The skin, unlike most other organs, have sensory nerves throughout its entirety, sending signals to the brain which helps us to “feel.”
Layers of the Skin: EPIDERMIS
The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin. It is your protective covering, or what I like to call, your “waterproof wrapper.” It is thinly coated with an oil that our bodies naturally produce called sebum, and serves as our body’s first barrier of protection. The reason why our skin is waterproof is because of this layer. It is made of tightly packed cells called stratum corneum which produce the sebum. Not only does it keep us from absorbing a big bathtub of water when we are soaking, it also prevents water from escaping our bodies.
I think of the epidermis as a living ecosystem. About 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells fall off our bodies every minute, which means the cells are constantly renewing themselves. This is about nine pounds of skin we lose each year. No wonder they tell you take replace your mattress every 7 years or so. Gross!
Our skin color/pigmentation comes from this layer of the skin because the epidermis contains melanin. Melanin is created to help our skin protect and filter our bodies from dangerous ultraviolet rays coming from the sun. If we absorb too many of these rays, we get wrinkles, faster aging, and possibly skin cancer. That’s why additional protection such as sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing is necessary.
When our epidermis is healthy, it helps the body avoid bacteria, viruses and other unwanted substances (The MERK Manuals).
Layers of the Skin: DERMIS
We’ve all heard of the word collagen. Collagen, in this case, is a protein that makes our skin have a supple and youthful texture and appearance. The dermis layer is the layer below the epidermis and houses collagen, elastin and fibrillin which all make the skin feel elastic yet firm. With age, these characteristics break down and cause wrinkles and loose skin.
This layer is packed with red blood cells which helps our bodies regulate body temperature. This happens because when you are cold, the red blood cells contract, helping your body to retain heat. When you are hot, the red blood vessels expand, releasing heat through your pores. The pores are little escape holes that start in the dermis and go through the outer layer (epidermis). Both toxins and heat are released through the pores. And some chemicals can be absorbed through the pores.
Layers of the Skin: HYPODERMIS
The bottom layer, also mentioned as “subcutaneous layer” which means “under the skin,” is mostly made up of fat and fibrous tissue. This layer also provides a mechanism for body temperature regulation, but providing insulation from cold, and the loss of heat (P&G).
Does Our Skin Absorb Chemicals?
Yes and No. Yes because some chemicals found in personal care products can break the barrier of skin protection, the sebum, and facilitate absorption into the blood stream.
Some scientist argue the that we do NOT absorb the chemicals we put on our bodies; however, the EPA reports that nearly 30 cancer causing chemicals are detected in the fat tissue of every American today. I have a list of organizations that believe chemicals can get absorbed into the blood stream, with data to back it up.
Let’s be realistic people. We’re exposed to over 126 chemicals every day, not including the GMO (genetically modified organisms) and processed foods we eat.
Not all chemicals are absorbed through our skin because some ingredients do not penetrate for long periods of time, or with frequent application/exposure or at high concentrations. Further, some ingredients, mostly natural, may not penetrate past the sebum on the epidermis layer.
It’s YOUR responsibility to take care of you and your family’s health. Read the label and ask questions. Take a stance and boycott products that contain harmful ingredients, harmful not only to you but to the environment.
Stay tuned for more excerpts from my presentation “READ THE LABEL: Understanding Natural and Organic Skin Care.”
Written by Dahlia Kelada, from her presentation READ THE LABEL: Understanding Natural & Organic Skin Care © 2013 All Rights Reserved