January 30, 2017
We’ve All Got Skin In This Game
By Michael D. Shaw
Many years ago, before people even called such matters “trivia,” asking which organ is the largest in the human body would stump nearly everyone. The answer, of course, is that organ we wear on the outside—our skin. It’s big all right: Eight pounds (3.6 kg), covering 22 square feet (2.0 square meters), in adults. Among other things, skin is a waterproof barrier against all sorts of potential environmental assaults, is a first line defense against infection, and synthesizes Vitamin D. Laden with nerves, skin is exquisitely sensitive, while maintaining extreme flexibility—permitting a marvelous range of motion.
Skin has three layers: Outermost is the epidermis, composed largely of keratinocytes, growing outwards, to eventually die and flake off. This shield of dead skin is called “stratum corneum,” with its thickness varying considerably throughout the body. Exposure to friction or pressure can cause hyperplasia, commonly known as “callus.”
Below this is the dermis, rich in strong fibers of collagen and elastin. The dermis is highly vascular, and also contains the nerves, along with a variety of glands. The base level is simply referred to as “subcutaneous tissue,” and is composed primarily of fat, connective tissue, and larger blood vessels and nerves. Also called “subcutis,” it provides insulation and some physical cushioning.
Given its size, sensitivity, and exposed location, skin is susceptible to a myriad of ailments, ranging from excessive dryness and itching, to potentially fatal melanoma. As such, thousands of preparations—some dating back to the dawn of civilization—have been used as therapies, with varying degrees of success. Here are a few very old home remedies…
1.Aloe vera—Aloe’s origins go back 6,000 years to Egypt, and the gel is used topically for burns, frostbite, and cold sores.
2.Saffron oil—Said to have been used by Cleopatra in her milk baths. Saffron threads are now added to melted coconut oil, as a moisturizer.
3.Green tea—A secret of Geishas, who would mix in ground oats and avocado, creating a skin-rejuvenating paste.
4.Rose water—Yet another one from the Middle East. Praised for its anti-aging properties, and used as a toner.
5.Shea butter—From sub-Saharan Africa, derived from the Shea tree. Renowned as an emollient and for its skin healing attributes, the butter is extracted from kernels within the seed, via a boiling process.
A number of research studies have been done on shea butter, indicating anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties; also here. Considerable scientific attention is being given to shea butter, in light of its seemingly cure-all benefits to skin. For those searching for natural skin products, free from additives, those based on shea butter have become extremely popular.
One well-regarded purveyor of such products is Mary Tylor Naturals. Direct link to shea butter products. We recently caught up with founder and CEO Gonen Yohananof, who was driven to found the company while searching for natural skin care remedies for his best friend, suffering from cancer. Yohananof noted that…
“We must further educate consumers about—we need to ensure the public understands the importance of—safe skin care. The stakes are too high, and the consequences are too serious, for us to be passive—for critics to be silent—in the face of the public’s sustained exposure to so many chemicals and their harsh properties. From the skin care products we use to the foods we eat, we must maintain maximum vigilance about our health. Vigilance is the price of safety.”
While we’re at it, the American Academy of Dermatology offers tips and videos that can help you keep your skin, hair, and nails looking their best.
I’ll give the last word to Renaissance man Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564):
“What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”