Before we get into caring for your skin, we first have to understand the skin’s composition and purpose.
Did you know?
The skin is the largest organ of the human body.
The average person's skin covers an area of 2 square meters.
Skin accounts for about 15% of your body weight.
The average adult’s skin contains nearly 18 km of blood vessels.
The average person has about 35 billion skin cells.
This complex organ has several functions. It is a protective cover that is the first line of defense for all of your internal organs.
While protecting them from germs, it maintains and regulates the body’s temperature so you do not overheat (by causing us to sweat) or get too cold (goosebumps have a purpose!).
Finally, it is one of our main senses of touch, as the skin is a sensory covering that helps to communicate danger.
When we say skin, are we talking about one thing? In concept, yes, but in reality, skin varies over the entire body. In some parts, it is as thin as 0.5 mm (on the eyelids), whereas it can also be as thick as 5 mm (on the heels of your feet).
Look at just one small square on the back of your hand, roughly 1cm by 1cm. In this tiny area, you have roughly:
13 oil glands,
100 sweat glands,
2.75 miles (4.4 km) of nerves,
1 meter of blood vessels,
thousands of sensory cells, and
35 billion skin cells.
Multiply that over the size of the human body, and you have one complicated and intricate system!
Our skin can be used to indicate our level of physical and even mental health!
As a matter of fact, the link between skin and mental health is so intricate that a whole field of scientific study, called psychodermatology, exists.
Despite this, nine in ten dermatologists don't think enough importance is placed on the psychological effects of skin conditions. (https://patient.info/news-and-features/how-do-skin-conditions-impact-mental-health)
Let’s examine the skin on a deeper level (pun intended!). During our discussion of the different elements that make up the skin, you should refer to this visual:
The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin, the part that we usually see and usually think of as “skin.”
This word can be divided up: “epi-“ means above, and “dermis” means skin (hence the word dermatologist). It has no blood supply, which is why it must have a cut or tear in order to bleed.
Did you know that 80% of the “dust” in our house is actually composed of dead skin cells?
Though you can't see it happening, during every minute we lose about 40,000 dead skin cells off the surface of our skin. That's almost 9 pounds (4 kilograms) of cells every year! Who has to follow silly diets?!
There are five layers of the epidermis,
from outside to inside: stratum corneum, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum and stratum basale.
It takes 28 days for the innermost layer to eventually become the outermost layer.
The dermis is the next layer beneath the epidermis.
This is where we find a blood supply and nerves. Remember when I told you that the epidermis does not have a blood supply? It is the dermis that provides it with its nutrition. It is also the foundation that hair follicles are anchored in. The lymphatic system of this skin is found here. This layer is pivotal in allowing the skin to contract and make supple movements.
Within the dermis, we have the subaceous glands. Found all over the body (with the exception of the palms of our hands and soles of our feet), these glands produce our skin’s natural oil (called sebum) which empty into the hair follicle. As we get older, their activity increases, with men secreting more oil than women. These glands are most numerous on the scalp, forehead, back and chest, which is why people might have an oily forehead but rarely an oily forearm. Made up of antibacterial and fungicidal fatty acids and waxes, subaceous glands prevent the multiplication of microorganisms. Since they are oily, they help to reduce the evaporation of our skin’s moisture, which prevents dryness.
Also found within the dermis are sweat glands. Sweat glands are found all over the entire body, including an abundance in the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet. They serve as our body’s thermostat, regulating our temperature through the evaporation of sweat. This perspiration comes out of our skin through a duct called a pore.
The innermost level of the skin is called the subcutaneous layer.
This is a fatty tissue layer that is under the dermis.
It also has a blood supply, but this is through a network of arteries rather than vessels.
The subcutaneous level serves to cushion the muscles and bones from our daily movements. It is also an energy source, housing much of the excess fat in our bodies (making it an insulator as well).
Why does this matter? In aromatherapy, we will need to consider the absorption of certain oils through the skin as well as different oils’ reactions.
Lesson du jour: The skin is the largest organ of the body and its functionality and health are related to many important systems. It's important to understand the simple structure and it's mechanisms in order for you to make good decisions about your skincare