Did you know that the skin is the body’s largest organ? In fact, the skin makes up 18 percent of an adult’s weight. Your skin provides a vital function, serving as a barrier that keeps moisture in and invasive organisms, like infections, out. The skin also helps regulate body temperature and protect against organ damage.
Keeping your skin healthy involves developing a good skin care regimen and preventing damage before it occurs. Because we all age, our skin changes over time beginning to look drier, thinner and less elastic. Stress, gravity, obesity and repeated movements such as smiling or frowning, can make you look older.
The Sun’s Impact
Photoaging, the premature aging of skin from exposure to ultraviolet rays, occurs when the ultraviolet radiation penetrates deep into the dermis, causing damage to collagen fibers and increasing the production of abnormal elastin. As fundamental skin structures break down, changes such as deep wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration of the skin, leatheriness and sagging skin will develop.
Taking Care of Your Skin
If you establish a healthy skin care routine, you can reduce the affects of aging. Make sure to:
- Apply a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 each day
- Avoid tanning beds
- Choose a gentle cleanser and wash your face twice daily
- Do not smoke
- Pat, do not rub, skin dry
- Drink lots of water
- Eat healthy
- Exfoliate twice a week to remove dead cells
- Get sufficient rest at night
- Inspect your skin and watch for changes
- Reduce stress
- See a dermatologist once a year
- Use a moisturizer right after you bathe
To slow down the affects of aging on the skin, various treatments are available such as:
- Chemical peels
- Laser Resurfacing
Understanding Skin Infections
Any cut, scrape or break in the skin can put you at risk for infection. The three main types of infections are:
Healthy skin is the home to hosts of bacteria which create no real problems. Once you have a break in the skin, these bacteria can invade and cause infection. Common bacterial infections include staph infections and impetigo. Topical or oral antibiotics will clear up a bacterial skin infection.
Viruses, parasitic organisms that can live and grow inside living cells, either create degeneration or a proliferation of cells. Most skin viruses stem from either the human papilloma virus, which causes warts, or the herpes virus, which causes cold sores, chicken pox, shingles, genital herpes and mononucleosis. Because viruses do not respond to antibiotics, doctors will prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms of the infection, such as a rash or itching. Certain vaccines can help prevent the contraction of these viruses.
Called mycoses, fungal infections only affect the outer layers of the skin. Although fungal infections can appear on all areas of the body, they most frequently appear as athlete’s foot, thrush, yeast infections or jock itch.