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Skin Care and Treatments

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Your skin is the most visible organ of your body. When you think of someone's face, you may think of their nose or cheeks or chin, but the surface you are actually seeing is their skin. And it is the quality of that skin that can form a first impression of someone else or someone's first impression of you.

Skin is not just a demarcation between you and the rest of the world. It is an important organ of the body. Your skin helps protect you from infection, serves as a sensory organ, regulates your temperature and water content, excretes certain waste chemicals, and synthesizes needed chemicals, such as vitamin D. Your skin plays a large part in protecting you from bacteria, viruses, and funguses that cause disease and is a major part of your immune system.

The Structure of the Skin

Your skin is arranged in basically three layers: the hypodermis, the dermis, and the epidermis. The hypodermis, also called the subcutaneous tissue, is a layer of fat and connective tissue under the main layers of the skin. Its primary purpose is the storage of fat.

The dermis contains the nerve endings, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and blood vessels. Each hair follicle has a sebaceous gland attached to it, which secretes a substance called sebum. Sweat glands connect directly to the skin's surface through pores.

The epidermis is the top layer of skin. The predominant cells in the epidermis are keratinocytes. Skin color, caused by special cells called melanocytes, is also a function of the epidermis. Keratinocyte skin cells are formed in the lowest layer and are slowly pushed upwards as layers and die. The dead keratinocytes eventually reach the top of the skin and are shed. It takes a little under a month for a keratinocyte to be created, rise upward, and be shed.

Skin Conditions

Many skin problems (although of course, not all) are caused by aging, hormonal changes, and excessive exposure to the sun. Heredity also plays a factor, since many skin problems can run in the family.

Acne, which can affect adults as well as teenagers, is caused by changes in the hair follicles and their sebaceous glands and is primarily due to changes in hormonal levels that in turn can be due to stress. Most acne begins as blackheads or whiteheads, which can become pimples that, if infected, are subject to break and scar the skin. There are many over-the-counter products for acne that can help prevent or minimize breakouts. Prescription products can combat severe cases.

Wrinkles and fine lines can be due to aging, but also are caused by damage to the skin by excessive sunlight. Moisture and oil content are what determine the softness and flexibility of the skin. As we age, oil and perspiration production decreases and leads to drier skin, and drier skin is more likely to form fine lines and wrinkles. The skin renewal process also slows with age and causes the skin structure to weaken, wrinkle and sag. There are many antiaging products that help diminish lines and wrinkles.

Dry and sensitive skin can be due to cold weather and harsh skin treatments. If you live in a dry climate or in a geographical area with extreme hot and cold temperatures, you'll be more susceptible to dry skin conditions. Exposure to cosmetics, moisturizers, perfumes and even laundry detergents can cause allergic reactions in some people who have chemical sensitivities.

Rosacea, which is often confused with or misdiagnosed as acne, may be caused by hypersensitization of the skin that causes frequent blushing and flushing. There are several subtypes of rosacea, and treatment depends on what type is present, but can include laser therapies and exfoliants products.

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