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The skin and its surroundings

How external factors affect the skin

Published

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

It is impossible that nature can do us harm. To us, we believe that anything natural is safe and that it would benefit both our skin and our bodies. With the changing environment as well as technological advancements, however, we eventually learn that our surroundings play a crucial role, too, in how we age and how we become susceptible to diseases. So what are the external factors that affect the skin and how can we be more cautious in protecting and keeping our skin healthy?

Skin

THE SUN

Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) has long been studied to have both short and long term effects on the skin, especially UVA and UVB rays. Primarily, UVR immediately causes sun burn (from UVB radiation) and skin darkening, which may appear from six to 24 hours after exposure (from UVA radiation) or with a delayed onset three days after (UVB-induced tanning). But more important, the long-term effects of UVR are what to take caution for, one of which is the likelihood of skin cancer that happens after years or decades of constant or excessive sun exposure. Another is photo-aging or the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, changing skin texture (dry, leathery), and pigmentation, which varies in appearance depending on one’s frequency of UVR exposure. This is why time and time again, aside from limiting one’s sun exposure, daily sunscreen is always advised. Sunscreen works by absorbing or reflecting UVR on the skin. And until recently, polyphenols found in food are also being studied as having potential to protect the skin from UVR, whether consumed or applied.

THE AIR

The skin’s main function is to regulate the body’s temperature, keep harmful elements from entering the body, and keep the body from losing water. When the skin is normal, it easily sheds off dead skin cells and repairs and heals itself efficiently after damage. Water helps the skin function well with its Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) that helps the skin absorb water even in low humidity. The rapidly changing environment, however, may affect the balance of healthy skin. Especially in an environment with low humidity wherein water evaporates quickly, the air somehow affects the skin’s natural balance, making the outer layer of the skin appear flaky, bumpy, or cracked. Because low humidity is expected to be longer in colder seasons, prolonged skin dryness is commonly experienced and skin conditions such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis is worsened. To maintain the skin’s balance, short showers in lukewarm water is advised so as not to strip off the skin’s natural oils. Harsh soaps must be avoided as well, and emollients should be applied immediately after bath, while the skin is still damp, to lock moisture in.

THE CHEMICALS

Emollients (skin softeners) contain humectants (preserve moisture) that moisturize to protect the skin and mimic the skin’s natural components to temporarily keep the skin’s balance. For emollients to work effectively and in harmony with the skin, the dermatologist must be able to identify the ingredients suitable for each individual depending on their varying skin types and conditions.

Emollients used can be parabens and anti-oxidants such as vitamin C. Humectants used usually include Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) that both exfoliate the skin by sloughing off dead skin cells, and Glycerin that is very effective in holding moisture as well.

These are just some of the factors in our surroundings that influence our skin, from its texture and condition to how it will age in the future. To always keep your skin in the pink of health, remember these tips alongside eating healthily, exercising regularly, and including regular checkups to your skin specialist.

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  • Marc Sorenson

    When it comes to sunshine, it is important to understand that as sun exposure has decreased by about 90% since 1935, melanoma has increased by 3,000%. it is also necessary to know that sun deprivation causes about 330,000 deaths in the U.S. yearly, according to a recent scientific study. Frightening people away from the sun is wreaking havoc on the world’s population. Here are some well-documented facts about the benefits of sun exposure. Let’s tell the whole truth:

    •A 20-year Swedish study shows that sun avoidance is as bad for the health as cigarette smoking.

    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip fracture risk as those who avoid sun.

    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.

    •Women who totally avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.

    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.

    •Sun exposure increases nitric oxide production, which leads to a decrease in heart-attack risk.

    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through the production of serotonin and endorphin.

    •Beyond vitamin D, sun exposure also stimulates the production of endorphin, nitric oxide and BDNF, all of which are vital to human health.

    •Regular sun exposure also reduces high blood pressure, heart disease, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis (MS).

    •A recent major research paper estimates that sun deprivation, due to misguided efforts to frighten people out of the sun, is causing about 300,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

    For the scientific references and articles for the above statements, visit http://sunlightinstitute.org/