Did you know that your skin is your largest organ? Although most of the time we take it for granted, it’s a masterpiece of evolutionary biotech. And it does much more than shrink-wrap our bodies. It’s the point where we meet the world. It holds our sense of touch. It protects vital organs and vulnerable flesh. It regulates our temperature. It helps fluid balance. It is a wonderful barrier against infection, toxins and radiation. And when it glows, we glow.
So what is skin?
Our skin is made of three layers. The bit we can see is the epidermis. It’s built mostly from scale like cells that grow, migrate to the surface and flake off. They’re great protectors, but they don’t hang around – they’re constantly being replaced by new ones. It also contains melanin – the darker your skin, the more melanin you have. And, you guessed it, the skin produces more on contact with the sun. Which is why we tan.
Underneath that is the dermis. It’s strong and elastic and is where a lot the work happens. Full of nerve endings, blood vessels, oil and sweat glands, it provides our sense of touch, helps regulate our temperature and produces natural oils to maintain skin and hair health.
And underneath that is subcutaneous fat. It helps keep us warm and shields us from knocks and bumps.
How do I know if my skin is healthy?
We have to be careful here, because, like it or not, our skin changes with age. It loses elasticity, is liable to sun damage, and can develop age spots and other blemishes. Healthy skin for an 18-year old is different to healthy skin when we’re 80.
Having said that, whatever our age, there are signs we should look out for. One handy rule of thumb is that healthy skin is ‘invisible’ – we shouldn’t be able to feel it. Hot spots, itches, rashes, excessive and irritable dryness – all signs that we should be paying attention. Healthy skin is warm – not hot or red. It shouldn’t be dry or uneven – and keep an eye on any growths. Your doctor will always be happy to give them a once over.
How do I keep my skin healthy?
A healthy skin is usually a sign of a healthy body – and what’s good for our body is good for our skin. First up think about what you eat. Great food for healthy skin includes:
- Oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines – crammed with essential Omega 3 fatty acids, high quality protein, zinc and vitamin E
- Avocados – loads of healthy fats, plus vitamins E and D
- Nuts and seeds – think good protein, essential oils and loads of vits
- Red and yellow peppers – great source of vitamins A and C
- Broccoli – jam packed with vitamins and minerals including zinc and vitamins A and C
- Tomatoes – great source of vitamin C and all the major carotenoids
What about exercise?
There’s nothing quite like exercise to bring a healthy flush to your skin. Work up a sweat and you’ll be opening pores and purging toxins. The better your muscle tone the healthier your skin will look and feel. And regular exercise might also aid skin repair.
Lifestyle your skin
Our skin faces a daily battering. Modern environments are full of toxins. We don’t want our lifestyles to add to the onslaught, so here are a few lifestyle tips for keeping it healthy.
- Cigarettes are out – among a host of other evils, smoking speeds up skin ageing
- Drinking too much alcohol dehydrates the skin, may deprive it of essential vitamins and can lead to discolouration and bloat
- Watch out for the sun – it can devastate elasticity and trigger growths and discolouration – always slop on the sunscreen
- Stay hydrated – drink water for healthy, elastic skin
- Keep it clean – wash your skin regularly in gentle, non-scented soaps
- Moisturise – it can add a layer of protection and lock in essential moisture
And remember – if it’s good for your body, chances are it’s good for your skin.