The skin is your body’s largest organ, serving as a protective barrier, regulating body temperature and providing contact with the outside world. The skin accomplishes its important tasks with an impressive three-layer construction. It’s also constantly exposed to a variety of toxins, extreme temperatures and microbes that can cause damage over time. To keep the complex functions of the skin working optimally, it’s important to protect it from excessive stress and nourish it from within with superior nutrition.
Your Amazing Skin’s Three Layers
The skin is not a simple “shrink wrap” for your body; it’s composed of three connected layers, each with its own unique composition and function. The outermost layer is called the epidermis. It is primarily composed of keratin-producing cells. These cells harden over time and create a tightly packed surface to your skin that effectively seals off your body from outside factors. Directly below the epidermis is the thickest layer, called the dermis. The dermis is mostly made up of collagen, a strong but stretchy substance that provides your skin’s elasticity. The dermis contains many nerves that enable you to feel things through your skin. It also has a network of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) and sweat glands that assist in cooling your body to maintain a normal temperature. The most internal layer of your skin is the hypodermis or subcutaneous layer. This layer is largely composed of fat cells, which cushion your bones and joints, as well as producing vital hormones, including vitamin D.
What Your Skin Does for You
You probably don’t often stop to be grateful for your skin, but maybe you should. While you go about your business, it’s quietly performing a host of important jobs. Your skin provides protection from microbes, environmental toxins, UV rays from the sun and minor bumps and jabs. It helps keep your body temperature steady in cold temperatures by insulating your body and preventing excessive heat loss and in hot temperatures by cooling you off through perspiration and the expansion of capillaries. It regulates your body’s moisture levels by preventing water loss. Its millions of nerve endings enable you to feel textures. And immune cells in the skin provide a first line of defense by attacking germs on your skin before they can reach your sensitive internal organs.
What’s Your Skin Type?
- Normal skin is not especially dry or especially oily. It has few blemishes and barely visible pores.
- Dry skin may be flaky or itchy, with rough, red patches and visible lines.
- Oily skin has a higher-than-normal amount of oil, causing enlarged pores, pimples and dull or shiny appearance.
- Combination skin is normal with patches of dry or oily skin, often in the “T-zone” (the area across the forehead and down the nose).
- Sensitive skin reacts easily to environmental factors or skin care products with redness, itching or burning.
Once you identify your skin type, you can take steps to protect and nourish it skin for optimal comfort and beauty.
Protecting Your Skin
Your skin puts up with a lot, taking a daily beating from exposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures, toxins and microbes. Another strain on your skin’s health is oxidative stress — an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body — which can be caused by smoking, UV exposure and free radical oxygen in the environment. To help counteract these damaging factors, it’s important to take some basic steps to protect your skin.
- Avoid overexposure to UV radiation by avoiding tanning beds; limiting your time outdoors in direct sunlight; and wearing long sleeves and a hat or using a natural sunscreen product when in the sun.
- Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Use skin care products and makeup with natural, plant-based ingredients rather than harsh chemicals.
- Wash your skin gently and not more than twice a day to avoid removing too much of your skin’s naturally occurring oils.
- Reduce stressors in your life to avoid or heal stress-induced skin problems.
Nourishing Your Skin Through Superior Diet
What you put inside your body also directly affects your skin’s health. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin well-hydrated. Eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as yellow and orange vegetables, dark leafy greens, berries, tomatoes, fatty fish and nuts, can help protect your skin. Collagen is an important component of your skin, so drinking collagen-rich bone broth made from organic beef or chicken bones can boost skin health.
For even more benefits, functional mushrooms offer a great choice, especially chaga mushrooms. Packed with beneficial beta-glucans and antioxidants, research suggests chaga mushrooms can help protect the skin (and other parts of the body) from oxidative stress. A daily serving of Om Beauty+ from Om Mushrooms provides an easy addition of chaga mushrooms to your diet. It’s a naturally flavored powdered drink mix to add to your water bottle while you’re out and about – in addition to containing organic Chaga and other mushrooms chock full of antioxidants, it also contains collagen, biotin and vitamin E.
Your skin takes care of you tirelessly every single day. You can return the favor by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, protecting your skin from excessive stress and eating a diet that includes antioxidants, collagen and chaga mushrooms.
Amy Smith is a writer, educator, and health-conscious mother of five, living on a small homestead in rural Pennsylvania. She produces informative, well-researched online content for a variety of clients in the fields of natural living, health and wellness, family and parenting.