Skin can easily be taken for granted. It is constantly growing and changing, working hard to protect our bodies from infections, ultraviolet radiation and other traumas.
Skin helps to keep us the right temperature while allowing us to move freely. Also, skin gives us the pleasurable sense of touch.
And all of this while looking so beautiful.
Q: I've been fortunate to have good, healthy skin -- so what care do you recommend to maintain it?
A: Stick to the basics:
- Use a sunscreen daily
- Follow sun protection measures
- Perform monthly skin self-examinations
- Treat your skin gently
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Try to manage stress
- Avoid smoking
Q: Does stress really play a role in maintaining healthy skin?
A: Absolutely! Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin - and a healthy state of mind - take steps to manage your stress. Set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.
Q: I know that skin has multiple layers. Can you explain more about this?
A: The skin is made up of three layers, each with its own important parts:
Epidermis. This is the top layer, which we see. The epidermis is made primarily of specialized skin cells called "keratinocytes" that serve as our armor. Although the epidermis may look inert, it is constantly being regenerated and responding to the environment.
The keratinocytes are constantly being shed and replaced by new cells that grow at the base of the epidermis. It takes about two to four weeks for the new cells to grow and make their way to the surface.
Melanocytes in the skin create pigment called melanin that gives skin its color. When exposed to the sun, these melanocytes make more melanin to try to protect the body from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.
The production of extra melanin makes skin darken. This how the body tans after being in the sun.
Dermis. This second layer is hidden beneath the epidermis. The dermis contains nerves, blood vessels, and sebaceous glands that produce natural protective oils (sebum), eccrine glands that produce sweat, and hair follicles.
The dermis contains proteins called collagen and elastin that give skin its strength and flexibility. As we age, the amount of collagen and elastin decreases, leading to thinner, less elastic skin.
Fat layer. The deepest layer of skin is made up of subcutaneous fat. "Subcutaneous" means "beneath the skin." This helps keep us warm and acts as a cushion for the tissues beneath.
Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay the natural aging process and prevent various skin problems. If you do experience any problems call a dermatologist for a consultation.
Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.