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How Old Is Your Skin?

The skin is our body's contact with the environment; it protects us from the extremes of temperature and pollutants. It is our contact with other people, what they see and often judge us by. The skin is a vital organ; it breathes and gets rid of impurities, regulates our body temperature, keeps water in and keeps infection, chemicals and other harmful materials out.

The skin is composed of two layers, the outer epidermis, overlying the dermis, each having several sub-layers. The epidermis has an uppermost layer of so-called dead cells that protect against infection and chemicals; it also contains pigment cells for sunlight protection, a material keratin that aids with the absorption of water. The dermis contains sweat glands and hair follicles.

The appearance of the skin is affected by two important factors, aging and sunlight. To protect against both a healthy epidermis or outer layer and sufficient moisture (hydration) in the skin is necessary. Remember that aging begins at birth and sunlight protection should begin soon after.

The effects of aging are:

* Decrease in number and function of cells and slowing of the glands function, causing less control of body temperature and intolerance to cold weather. There is less protection against infection and, because of the decreased pigment cells, less protection from sunlight.

* Decreased growth and thinning of hair.

* Decreased blood supply resulting in longer healing times and also causes less tolerance for cold weather.

* Loss of elasticity, especially with dry skin.

* Easier bruising and thinning of the skin.

In summary there is thin skin which is dry, parchment-like, transparent and frequently itchy. There is poor healing, damage with minimal injury causing black and blue marks, ulcers odd scarring, irregular pigmentation (brown spots), loss of elasticity, plugged follicles causing cysts, whiteheads and blackheads. Nails grow more slowly, dull in color and become more brittle. These changes do not appear in all people and at the same rate. They are aggravated by exposure to sunlight, some illness and by lack of moisture in the skin (dehydration).

The effects of sunlight are generally the same as aging with addition of a greater risk of skin cancer. Sunburn and Suntan skin damage may lead to skin problems later in life. This damage, results from excessive exposure through outdoor occupations, recreational activities, tanning booths and sunlamps.

What Can You Do?

Protective Measures include:

* Sun protection and avoidance, it's never too late to start. Avoid tanning booths and when in the sun use a good, high SPF sunscreen agent.

* Avoid activity in the strong sun.

* Bathe in tepid water, not hot, use a creamy soap or bath gel, afterwards use an after bath non greasy lubricant while the skin is still damp. Avoid greases, waxes, and heavy oils because skin can soak them up causing harm.

* Wear loose fitting clothing.

* Avoid pollution, chemicals and non-prescription cortisone creams.

* Definitely use a good moisturizer daily. Make certain it is one that will add nothing but water to the skin, avoid those that use items not natural to the skin. Do not use moisturizers containing collagen, placental protein, royal bee jelly or other unusual materials, they do not benefit the skin.

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