Natural Armor

Updated: Mar 31

Your protector, your shield, your glow, your skin. Ever wondered what caused it to flake? Skin is essentially your body's first line of defense. Think of the abuse it goes through. Between UV rays, harsh chemicals, poor diet, and dirty clothes (we're all guilty of running late in the morning, and wearing our sweaty clothes the rest of the day), it’s a wonder it holds itself together so well. But it's made to take on today's daily pressures right? Wrong.

What is skin?

Skin is your first impression. Its literally the largest organ you have, the first thing people see, the first shield of protection your body has. The skin is made of three layers. The first of which is less than a millimeter thick, your epidermis [1]. This is supported by your dermis and subcutaneous layers [2]. In order to figure out where and when you lost your glow, lets start with the foundation. Epidermis- the visible part of skin. A thin sheet of cells called keratinocytes. Don’t be afraid of the big word, you know it already. Keratin-ocyte (cyte means cell) [3]. Keratin is the prized ingredient most products market for. A protein that is responsible for the structure of our skin, but also hair and nails. Theyre so special because they form tight bonds that are impenetrable to water, pathogens, and general stress [4]. Keratin is actually so strong, it can make it through your whole digestive system (acid central) unscathed [5,6].

Keratinocytes are made in the deepest layer of the epidermis. Being produced in the depths of the epidermis, they are pushed upward by newer keratinocytes. Moving up and through to the very top of the epidermis, where they are then the oldest keratinocytes you have on your body [4]. These get damaged from environmental stresses and ultimately fall off [7]. The whole process regenerates your skin after around 4 weeks [8]. Which really makes you wonder why those quick fix miracle cures never worked for the long term right. Huh. Dermis- the next layer after your epidermis. This is the layer that contains your sweat and oil glands, hair follicles, nerve endings, lymphatic vessels (used to get rid of toxins and waste), and connective tissues [3]. With the dermal layer, we have the sense of touch. We can identify if it is too hot or too cold and regulate or response accordingly.

As it is made of a complex of collagen and elastin, among other components, it protects use from physically inflicted stresses [9]. Think of it as a form of rubber that bounces back if something hits it. Hit it too hard however, it ruptures blood vesicles that are also in the dermal layer, leading to bruising [10]. Subcutis- insulation. You may have heard of subcutaneous fat, a layer of fat under our skin [3]. Primarily it acts as a shock absorber, protecting our vital organs from damage [11]. The amount of subcutaneous fat you have is due to genetics, but diet and lifestyle greatly influence its growth over time [12-13].

Relative to visceral fat (dangerous fat around your organs), subcutaneous fat is healthy [3]. Apart from protecting our organs, it keeps our basal temperature warm, and serves as an energy reserve for the body [11]. That being said however, too much of anything can be bad. A healthy diet and active lifestyle will manage subcutis and (most importantly) visceral fat levels.

What can I do for healthier skin?

Firstly lets consider that skin was evolved to protect from natural sources of damage. Skin does not have a special structure, cell, or function to protect against the harsh chemicals that are repeatedly introduced to it. Todays body wash, detergents, and levels of pollution influence a great deal of stress on this organ.

There are many skin issues that can begin in the dermis that eventually show on the epidermis. Wrinkles and cysts are one of them. Supporting your body in its natural collagen production (not oral supplementation, as there is not enough evidence showing this helps [14]) and reducing your sugar intake (bacteria snack food) will reduce the likelihood of these becoming an issue [15].

Come back next month to read about how plant butters and oils help protect skin health!

January 2021


1- Sandby-Moller, J., Poulsen, T., & Wulf, H. C. (2003). Epidermal thickness at different body sites: relationship to age, gender, pigmentation, blood content, skin type and smoking habits. Acta Dermato Venereologica, 83(6), 410-413. 2- Kanitakis, J. (2002). Anatomy, histology and immunohistochemistry of normal human skin. European journal of dermatology, 12(4), 390-401. 3- Kolarsick, P. A., Kolarsick, M. A., & Goodwin, C. (2011). Anatomy and physiology of the skin. Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association, 3(4), 203-213. 4- Chu, D. H. (2008). Overview of biology, development, and structure of skin. K. Wolff, LA Goldsmith, SI Katz, BA Gilchrest, AS Paller, & DJ Leffell. 5- Hopps, H. C. (1977). The biologic bases for using hair and nail for analyses of trace elements. Science of the Total Environment, 7(1), 71-89. 6- Yousef, H., Alhajj, M., & Sharma, S. (2017). Anatomy, skin (integument), epidermis. 7- Study, B. S. C., & National Institutes of Health. (2007). Information about the Musculoskeletal and Skin Systems. In NIH Curriculum Supplement Series [Internet]. National Institutes of Health (US). 8- Gonzales, K. A. U., & Fuchs, E. (2017). Skin and its regenerative powers: an alliance between stem cells and their niche. Developmental cell, 43(4), 387-401. 9-Hafemann, B., Ensslen, S., Erdmann, C., Niedballa, R., Zühlke, A., Ghofrani, K., & Kirkpatrick, C. J. (1999). Use of a collagen/elastin-membrane for the tissue engineering of dermis. Burns, 25(5), 373-384. 10- Nash, K. R., & Sheridan, D. J. (2009). Can one accurately date a bruise? State of the science. Journal of forensic nursing, 5(1), 31-37. 11- [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does skin work? 2009 Sep 28 [Updated 2019 Apr 11]. Available from: 12- Cassisa A. Pathophysiology of subcutaneous fat. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013 Aug;148(4):315-23. PMID: 23900155. 13- Kanehisa, H., Miyatani, M., Azuma, K., Kuno, S., & Fukunaga, T. (2004). Influences of age and sex on abdominal muscle and subcutaneous fat thickness. European journal of applied physiology, 91(5-6), 534-537. 14- Jhawar, N., Wang, J. V., & Saedi, N. (2020). Oral collagen supplementation for skin aging: A fad or the future?. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 19(4), 910-912. 15- Danby, F. W. (2010). Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clinics in dermatology, 28(4), 409-411.

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