Human Skin Basic Information
Skin is a tissue covering the whole body — approximately one and a half square meters. It consists of areas called the epidermis, a visible surface layer with no blood-vessels; the dermis, full of collagen fibres, cells that store and release vital moisture, and nourishing blood vessels; glands for lubrication (sebaceous) and for regulating body temperatures (sweat); and an important layer of fat that feeds the sebaceous glands and acts as a cushion between surface skin and muscle below. The epidermis, having no blood vessels, will heal without a trace. The dermis, on the other hand, if damaged, will result in scars: it is this layer, which is full of blood vessels, that is affected by emotions and causes blushing and other changes in color. Some people, for instance, turn white from panic or shock and this is caused by the draining away of these blood-vessels; others turn green if they’re feeling ill and this is a yellow bile from the liver coming to the surface through them. The glands function through the pores which are exit channels, visible to the eye and which, if the skin isn’t cleaned properly, become clogged and form whiteheads or blackheads. It is the sebaceous glands which decide whether your skin is oily (they are over-active), dry (they are sluggish) or normal (they are functioning well). Beneath the scalp, they will determine whether your hair is oily, dry or normal.
The depth and quality of your skin change in different parts of the body. The scalp is densely populated with hair follicles fed by the sebaceous glands and needs to be kept scrupulously clean to avoid problems and encourage healthy hair. The face holds many variations — the eye area is more transparent and delicate than anywhere else; the lips, mouth and inner nose are entirely different, being a moist mucous membrane (likewise the vaginal area); the neck tends to be dry. Areas of the body normally covered by clothing retain their natural softness longer than limbs and extremities like hands and feet. The skin on palms and soles is the thickest and toughest of all. Then, there are armpits, which hold sweat glands and contain more hair follicles; breasts, which have a transparent quality all their own; the genital area, which also has its own sweat glands and hair follicles; and the gluteal fold of the buttocks. Hormones are essential to the satisfactory functioning of the body and play a vital part in the skin’s activity: they stimulate pigment cells and regulate colour; they affect the production of sebum (so necessary to healthy hair); the secretion of the adrenal glands stimulates the sweat glands; hormones control the breasts, which often change during the menstrual cycle and swell before menstruation, giving the skin a stretched translucent appearance and a feeling of discomfort from the extra liquid. Hormonal imbalance can cause enlarged. pores, which sometimes leads to acne.
Nerves, too, are an important area. Contact is made through the skin, giving sensations such as tickling, touch, temperature changes, itching, pain, taste, smell and sexual arousal. Nerves vary in density in different areas of the body and vary from person to person — hence, one person may be ticklish in the ribs or soles of the feet, another not.
A good diet, exercise, sleep, fresh air and plenty of water are necessary if your skin is to look its best. On the other hand, it will react badly to emotional stress and tension and it will suffer from the sun and the wind if not protected. Deodorant-antiperspirants should be used sparingly or glands will cease to function properly; also avoid excessive washing and beware of unqualified ‘beauticians’ in fields like massage and hair removal.