Skin is the human body’s largest organ, and it serves some very important functions. As the first line of defense against outside invaders, it’s full of immune system cells. Skin also produces oils to keep moisture in. Unless you have albinism, most people’s skin also produces melanin, a pigment that protects your cells from damaging UV rays. And finally, your skin is home to trillions of bacteria that live in unison with you.
All of this is to say, it’s incredibly important to take care of your skin. Let’s take a look at some common causes of skin damage and the best ways to maintain your skin health.
What causes skin problems?
Skin problems like acne usually involve an imbalance in oil production, which results in an imbalance in the bacteria population. Changes in hormones are usually the cause of this imbalance, but pinpointing why your hormones are fluctuating is a more difficult task.
Stress and puberty both cause immense hormone fluctuations. Women can also experience this hormone imbalance as the result of their menstrual cycle. Furthermore, the types of food you eat, the amount of exercise you get, and the supplements or medications you take all affect your hormones, and thus your skin health.
Other times, skin problems come from overactive immune cells that attack the skin for no reason. Conditions like psoriasis and vitiligo are caused by an overactive immune system and require a medical diagnosis. The scientific community continues to debate why exactly these autoimmune diseases occur. It could be genetic or it could be caused by other factors that are yet unknown.
Healthy lifestyle = healthy skin
If you’re a relatively healthy adult, maintaining healthy skin is simply a matter of lifestyle choices. Remember: the oils on your skin keep the organ hydrated. But certain activities like drinking alcohol or caffeine, living in dry places and being out in the sun, dry up those oils and dehydrate your skin. Dry skin will result in wrinkles that can add years to your complexion.
You can remedy this by drinking lots of water during the day while decreasing your alcohol and caffeine intake. Moisturizers can help after a shower, but instead of loading up on these petroleum-based products, you can keep skin healthy by not using soap at all (or using very little). Most soaps and shampoos contain an industrial detergent that strips your skin of its natural oils, resulting in dry skin. Dry skin then forces you to buy more moisturizer. The vicious circle continues. But you can put a stop to the cycle by not scrubbing your body and face with soap! Then again, there’s COVID-19.
Supporting collagen production
Skin is held together by a protein called collagen. This is what gives skin its bouncy, jiggly, youthful characteristic. As you age, collagen production slows down, gravity takes over, and you’re left with saggy skin. While you can’t turn back time, there are a couple of ways to slow down aging.
By eating foods that are high in collagen, you can give your body the building blocks it needs to create more. Foods that are high in vitamin C, for instance, support collagen production. The consequences of neglecting vitamin C were evident back in the seafaring days. Sailors used to stay out at sea for long periods of time without eating any fresh fruit or vegetables. They ended up with scurvy, a disease caused by the breakdown of collagen in the skin due to insufficient vitamin C.
Skin needs antioxidants
Another reason to eat lots of fruits and veggies is simply to combat the stresses we put on our skin. Between makeup and pollution, possibly-harmful chemicals can accumulate in our cells. Fruits and vegetables naturally contain antioxidants that neutralize or oxidize these damaging molecules.
Healthy skin comes from within
As you can see, healthy skin doesn’t come from expensive products. Skin is a reflection of your lifestyle and diet. If you eat well, hydrate, get enough sleep, and keep your stress levels low, your skin will naturally reflect that. While it’s not always possible to do all these things, because life is stressful, it’s a good idea to try to maintain as many healthy habits as possible.