The many layers of skin health

Strategies for Well-Being

Summer is here, and having fun in the sun is no longer just a daydream. But for humans, exposure to the sun reminds us of how important the skin is, and the many health concerns associated with our skin.

Your skin is an amazing organ. It protects you. It plays a major role in your appearance. It is self-restoring and self-protecting. Understanding a little about how it works, and what keeps it from working right, is an important step to skin health.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it serves to protect you. The skin reflects what is happening in your body, your mind and in your life. You could say the skin is the mirror of your health and well-being – emotionally and physically. Both the internal and external environments influence your skin’s response to how it ages and heals itself and its overall appearance.

Skin plays a very important role in our health. Its job is crucial: to protect you from infections and other environmental assaults. The skin also contains nerves that sense cold, heat, pain, pressure and touch.

Besides keeping us nicely packaged, skin performs a host of important functions that are crucial for overall bodily health. Think of your skin as a protective covering that shields your body from germs. It’s filled with white blood cells that are rigged to attack any invading harmful bacteria. Signals sent from your skin sound the alarm for your body’s immune system to launch into action when germs have made entry.

Skin also helps regulate your body temperature. Blood vessels in the skin contract and dilate depending upon the outside temperature so that our bodies remain near 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s cold outside, blood vessels contract to keep the blood near the surface of your skin from becoming too cool. When it’s hot outside, the same blood vessels expand to encourage heat loss, and you begin to sweat.

For many people, the main concern about skin health is on overexposure to the sun. While this is important, and can lead to serious issues including skin cancer, there are several other issues that should be better understood.


Acne is a skin disease that affects more than 85 percent of teenagers. In many cases, acne diminishes with age, but some people continue to have breakouts in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Allergic rashes

Rashes are changes of the skin, which change the color, appearance and/or texture. Rashes may be localized or affect larger areas of the skin. Not all rashes are the same and it is best to go to a dermatologist to identify the cause to get the best treatment.

Eczema/psoriasis/dry skin

These are all somewhat related in that they are inflammatory, persistent skin issues that are tied to skin dryness and recurring skin rashes. They can be unsightly and annoying. Treatments vary and a visit to the dermatologist is usually necessary.

Suspicious moles/skin cancer

Moles are another frequent skin issue. With the increasing rates of skin cancer, patients should seek medical guidance when a suspicious mole appears. For starters, moles are perfectly natural and can be influenced by genes or sunlight. If a mole starts changing in size, color, shape or if the border becomes ragged or you notice bleeding, it’s important to consult a dermatologist.


Warts are generally small in size and rough to the touch. They appear most commonly on the hands and feet. They are very common and are caused by a virus named HPV. They are contagious when there is contact with the skin of an infected person.

Nail Fungus

Many patients have concerns over nail fungus. Onychomycosis is the medical term for a fungal infection of the nail. This common condition impacts as much as 8 percent of the entire adult population. It can appear on both finger and toe nails and is characterized by thickening and a yellow or cloudy appearance to the nail.


This is a widespread skin condition that usually affects Caucasians. Rosacea patients have flushing and redness on their face and may also have small red bumps or pustules. Rosacea can appear on both sexes but seems to affect people between the 30s and 60s.


Herpes simplex is a viral disease caused by the herpes simplex viruses. Oral herpes, also called cold sores, usually infect the face and mouth. Infection of the genitals is also very common. Herpes viruses have a cycle – with periods where the virus is active and periods where the it is inactive.

Pigmentation disorders

The most common form of skin pigmentation is hyperpigmentation or the darkening of an area of the skin. Hyperpigmentation may be caused by sun damage, inflammation or acne. Individuals with Asian, East Indian and African skin tones seem to be more prone to hyperpigmentation.

Throughout your life, your skin will change constantly, for better or worse. In fact, your skin will renew itself approximately once a month. Proper skin care is essential to maintaining the health and vitality of this protective organ.

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

Disclaimer: This column is for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition or concern, please seek professional care from your doctor or other health professional. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist and is available through


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