Monday, July 23, 2012

Beautiful and Radiant Skin

Everyone likes to look their best and in todays culture that means looking young. The first sign of getting older tends to show up on our skin as wrinkles and sun spots. So today, I'd like to talk about the integumentary system and natural ways to keep our skin looking healthy and vibrant.

The IntegStructure of the Skin
The integumentary system consists of 3 main layers:

· The epidermis: the outermost portion of epithelial cells. This layer of skin has no blood vessels.
· The dermis: the connective tissue, and the accessory structures of the skin, such as blood vessels, nerve endings and sweat glands, hair and oil glands.
· The hypodermis: the innermost layer of the integumentary system. This subcutaneous layer consists of loose connective tissue and fat.
Because there are no blood vessels in the epidermis, skin epithelial cells reproduce in the layer closest to the dermis where they are well nourished by the blood supply of this deeper layer. As the cells reproduce, older cells are pushed farther away from the dermis and closer to the top layer of what we see as "skin". This journey to the top causes the cells to become malnourished and as they die they undergo a change. The cytoplasm inside the cell is replaced by keratin, causing the cell to become hard and flat. Once the cell reaches the surface of the skin it doesn't stay there for long before it is shed and replaced from below.

Functions of the Skin
There are many functions of the skin.

· The skin acts as a barrier. Keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. The shedding of skin is also a means to mechanically remove pathogens from the surface of the body.
· The skin helps us to regulate body temperature. The skin is a large surface area that can release heat when the body is overheating. Blood vessels dilate bringing more blood to the surface of the body and allowing the heat to disperse. Sweat glands also release perspiration, cooling the surface of the body. When the body becomes cold, subcutaneous tissue acts as insulation and blood vessels in the dermis warm the skin.
· Receive and relay information about the environment via nerve endings in the skin to the brain. This includes information about pain, heat, cold, pressure, etc.  
· Assists in both elimination and respiration (the skin is known as the third lung).
· Form Vitamin D
Healthy Body, Healthy Skin
Now that we know a little bit about the structure and function of integumentary system, let’s talk about a few ways to keep your skin healthy.

First and foremost, it is important to remember that whatever you put on your skin, it is being absorbed into your blood stream. When it comes to skin products, if you don't know what an ingredient is or what it does then you should not smear it on your face and body. I also like to do the pronunciation test: if you can't pronounce the ingredient, it probably isn't good for you. Avoid products with preservatives, coloring agents, synthetic scents and synthetic chemicals.

Make sure you are properly cleaning the skin. Dirt and makeup can clog the pores leading to imbalances in the skin. Exfoliation, the shedding of skin cells, is a process that happens naturally, however for added assistance and pleasure, try dry skin brushing. This is the link to a previous blog post about dry brushing 

Proper nutrition is, perhaps, one of the most important contributions to healthy skin. The outside of the body reflects what is happening on the inside of the body and if the inside is not properly nourished then the outside of the body will show this. A low glycemic diet seems to be the most beneficial at providing a large array of vitamins and minerals while limiting foods that cause inflammation including: refined and processed foods, sugar, coffee, soda and white flour products. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of high quality proteins including fresh fish, shellfish and organic, grass fed meats. A colorful array of organic fruits and veggies should be eaten every day, including lots of leafy green veggies (kale, chard, collard greens...). Healthy fats are a must have in every diet. For too long, fats have been demonized in American diets. Low fat diets show a lack of knowledge about the body and have lead to many problems including gall bladder stones and heart disease. Healthy fats can be obtained from fish, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and flax seeds. Other healthy supplements include probiotics and B vitamins.

Are You Pooping Enough?
Make sure your other elimination pathways (i.e. bowels, urinary tract and respiratory system) are working properly. When there is dysfunction in these systems, the skin, as another way to eliminate toxins, becomes overloaded. This can result in skin rashes, spots, pallor and puffiness. Bitter herbs are my favorite way to keep myself regular. For more information, check out:

Other Tips
Lastly, make sure you are getting adequate sleep and drinking enough water. 8-10 glasses of water are recommended; however, you may need to drink more to depending on your level of activity. Adequate sleep is also necessary for healthy skin, not only because we tend to look like crap when we don't get enough sleep, but also because human growth hormone (HGH) is released during the deepest form of slow wave sleep and is responsible for growth and cell reproduction, an important part of healthy skin.  

Overall, I don't feel that beauty is only skin deep, but I do know that if I am healthy on the inside, my beauty will show through to the outside producing beautiful and radiant skin.
Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane:
International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with
energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts

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