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Your Skin 101: What You Need to Know


Your Skin 101: What You Need to Know

You come into this world wearing it, and you’ll wear it every day for the rest of your life. What is it? Your skin! Are you taking care of yours? If not, you’ll want to read this…

A hard worker

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It makes up roughly 15% of your body weight and is made up of water, protein, lipids, minerals and chemicals. Skin has three layers:

  1. The epidermis is the protective outer layer. It renews itself regularly by shedding old cells to make room for new ones.
  2. The dermis is the middle layer. The most important part of your skin, it delivers nutrients like collagen and proteins to the epidermis to keep your skin looking good. Blood vessels, glands, hair follicles and nerve endings live here.
  3. The subcutaneous layer is the innermost layer. Also known as the skin’s “shock absorber,” it keeps heat and moisture in, protects your bones, supports the blood vessels and nerves, contains sensory and motor nerves and stores the nutrients the dermis and epidermis need to stay healthy.

Your skin works hard 24/7, removing toxins from the body as it sheds old cells, helping the body to eliminate oil and perspiration, drawing in the oxygen that’s vital for cell life, and protecting you from infections and other environmental attacks.

So what can you do to protect your skin?

Natural enemies

You probably already know that the sun—or more specifically, ultraviolet rays from the sun—can change the look of your skin more than any other environmental factor. But climate, seasonal changes and air pollution can also wreak havoc on your skin.

But, so can your lifestyle. Stress, lack of exercise and sleep and poor diet—routine for college students—can all affect the way your skin looks, repairs itself and ultimately ages.

Common skin problems

Whether you’re worried about acne or athlete’s foot, dry skin or razor burn, a mysterious rash or common warts, skin problems can happen at any age. Most skin problems will resolve on their own or can be treated easily with over-the-counter remedies. Others—like frequently recurring cold sores or a sore that does not heal—could be a symptom of something more. When in doubt, check with the school physician or your family doctor. And be sure to seek medical help immediately if you develop a rash while taking a medication. This could be a sign of a dangerous allergic reaction!

Click here for a slideshow of 20 common skin problems.

Click here for more symptoms, diagnoses and treatment recommendations from Family.Doctor.org.

Skin care basics

The bottom line is this. Taking care of your skin doesn’t have to take a lot of time. But if you want your skin to look good for your lifetime, the time to start taking care of it is now. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Wash your face every night. Like mama said, healthy skin begins with a clean face. A mild soap like Dove or gentle cleansing cream will keep your face clean without drying it out. And if you wear makeup, be sure to take it off before you go to bed. Click here to see which cleansers are best for your skin type.
  2. Moisturize every day. The best time to moisturize is after your shower or when your skin is damp. A good moisturizer doesn’t have to be expensive. Click here for six great moisturizers under $20.
  3. Exfoliate once or twice a week. A gentle scrub with tiny grains will help slough off dead skin cells and give your skin a nice fresh glow. Don’t overdo it, or you could be doing more harm than good.
  4. Use sunscreen. Skincare experts say sunscreen is the most important part of your skincare regimen. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and wear it every day!