The skin is a complex organ that plays a number of roles. Although many think of it through just a cosmetic lens, the reality is that our skin is playing a number of vital functions for our overall well being. When I counsel my patients on taking care of their skin, it’s not just about how it looks. Understanding the skin and its roles will help you understand why we need to care for it.
Only in the past couple of centuries has the skin really been understood to be a complex organ. Prior to that it was viewed as a tarp or container and often looked at as an affliction when something went wrong. Think of the plagues and how visual the descriptions of the skin were!
Advances in Dermatology have shown this to be far from the truth. We now know the skin serves an essential role to communicate between your body and the environment around you.
The skin serves many functions.
- Protection. The first role our skin plays is protecting our body from the environment. Think allergens, infectious agents such as bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, pollutants…
- Sensory organ. There are sensory receptors located in varying concentrations throughout our skin. These allow you to feel a pin prick, vibration, pressure… Your skin is in communication with your nervous system to convey these sensory messages.
- Climate control. By controlling the local flow of blood to your skin by constricting or dilating your blood vessels, your skin can help your body regulate its heat balance. If it is a little too hot, it even has the ability to produce sweat so this can evaporate and cool the skin further.
- Manufacturing. Your skin is busy producing Vitamin D for your body by its interaction with UV.
- Immune system. I often explain our skin as almost like having its own immune system that interacts with our internal immune system but in many ways has a role of its own. By interacting with pathogens and allergens it can play a role as your first line of defense.
- Excretion. Our skin can help get rid of wastes and toxins in the body.
- Fluid Balance. Through sweating, our skin can play a role in reducing our water load.
The next post will focus on learning about the actual building blocks of the skin.
Did you know just how many functions our skin is designed to perform?