More Than Skin Deep

practical-fitness-10-31-08-logo-copyBy Dan Felix, CFT

I have trained for more years than I care to admit. My clients have included outdoor athletes and my training locations have included the sunny south west. Both of these situations expose human skin to very harsh conditions. Taking care of your skin goes much deeper than most people realize.

The skin is actually the largest single organ in the human body. It has some very unique roles and capabilities. Most of us think that all our oxygen enters the body through the lungs. Not so. As much as 80 percent of our oxygen consumption occurs through the porous nature of the skin. Any skin damage or even ineffective hygiene can impact this absorption. Skin also releases toxins from the body through our sweat. As much as one-sixth of a persons toxins are eliminated through the skin. As you can see, poor skin care effects the entire body.

There are some very basic methods to protecting our skin, from the inside and the outside. First, keep it protected from sunlight. The vast majority of skin damage is caused by exposure to sunlight. No amount of sun-block can eliminate all of the possible damage. Sun-block creams will definitely help but remember, the skin breaths so pick a cream or gel that does not block the pores. Look for the phrase ‘non-comedogenic’ on the label. This means it will not block the pores.

Second, don’t let the skin dry out. Collagen is a tissue that fills in many of the spaces in the body, including space under the skin. As we age, the collagen decreases. The decreased collagen holds less water, resulting in dryer skin. One of the biggest reasons our skin will dry out is due to how we wash it. The body produces oils to keep the skin supple. Using hot water and harsh soaps washes away this protective oil and exposes the skin to excessive drying. With a little trial and error you can find the combination of water temperature, type of soap and frequency of washing that will keep your skin from drying out.

Infection is another threat we need to minimize. Since the skin is a single organ, a serious infection in a deep layer of the skin can travel to other parts of the body. The protective ability of the skin is weakened whenever we receive a cut of any kind. Even small cuts provide an access for some of the most life-threatening bacteria and viruses. No matter the cut, clean it with some form of disinfectant or soap and keep it covered. It will heal faster if you do not let it dry out. Vitamin E oil or aloe vera gel are excellent ways to speed the healing of smaller cuts. Avoid the cream versions of these products. Most creams have other chemicals that are not needed or desired during the healing process. Of particular concern is lanolin. This is a fatty oil from sheep wool. It can readily cause or aggravate an infection. Lanolin is fine on regular skin, but keep it away from any cut.

Exfoliation refers to the skin’s ability to renew itself by shedding older skin and growing new skin. The speed our skin exfoliates changes as we age. In our youth, the skin will renew itself every 30 to 45 days. By the time we are past 40, it takes closer to 90 to 120 days. We can improve our exfoliation if we simply use a good wash cloth to softly scrub our skin at least once every five days. If you find that your skin seems to dry out or you are getting blemishes then you might need to scrub your skin less often.

The skin and its care is far more complex than this one article can cover. For now, just remember these tips: less sun, more moisture, infection protection, and soft scrubbing. These and a complete diet are the basics of skin care. Questions to

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