Your skin is the largest organ of your body, made up of several different components, including water, protein, lipids, and different minerals and chemicals. Its job is crucial: to protect you from infections and other environmental assaults. The skin also contains nerves that sense cold, heat, pain, pressure, and touch.
Throughout your life, your skin will change constantly, for better or worse. In fact, your skin will renew itself approximately once a month. Proper skin care is essential to maintaining the health and vitality of this protective organ.
The skin is made up of layers. It consists of a thin outer layer (epidermis), a thicker middle layer (dermis), and the inner layer (subcutaneous tissue or hypodermis).
Epidermis: The Outer Layer of Skin
The outer layer of skin, the epidermis, is a translucent layer made of cells that function to protect us from the environment. The most superficial portion contains dead skin cells that are continually shed. The deepest portion contains basal cells that are responsible for skin renewal. Keratin, a protein made within the cells of the epidermis, protects the skin from harmful substances, such as chemical products and bacteria. The epidermis also contains cells that produce melanin, which gives skin its color.
The epidermis is responsible for the look and health of the skin and it holds a large amount of water. The younger the body, the more water there is in the skin. The capacity of the skin to retain water decreases with age, making the skin more vulnerable to dehydration.
- Keratin: Keratin is the strongest protein in your skin. It also gives hair and nails their strength.
Dermis: The Middle LayerThe dermis contains two types of fibers that lessen in supply with age: elastin, which gives skin its elasticity, and collagen, which provides strength. The dermis also contains blood and lymph vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, and the sebaceous glands, which produce oil. Nerves in the dermis sense touch and pain.
- Collagen: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin. It makes up 75% of your skin. This is also your "fountain of youth," responsible for warding off wrinkles and fine lines. Over time, environmental factors and aging diminish your body's ability to produce collagen.
- Elastin: This protein is found together with collagen and is responsible for giving structure to your skin and organs. As with collagen, elastin is affected by time and the elements. Diminished levels of this protein cause your skin to wrinkle and sag.