How does my skin work?

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Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Your skin works to protect you in many ways. First, skin covers your entire body and provides waterproof protection. But skin does so much more than that!

Skin, a complex organ, is the largest organ in your body. It produces melanin, the brown pigment that protects against the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. It also contains special immune cells, called Langerhans cells, that protect your body from potentially dangerous microbes. Skin contains lymph cells (lymphocytes) that protect you from infection. It contains sweat glands that help your body get rid of waste and maintain the correct body temperature. And, last but not least, your skin is rich in nerve cells that allow you to experience touch, which plays a key role in human emotions, including sexual attraction.
Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
Your body is constantly under attack from outside forces, and the skin is its greatest defender. It functions like Gore-tex, a high-tech outer sheath that protects us from temperature extremes, wind, and ultraviolet rays from the sun. It's a two-way barrier that not only retains water in the body but also acts as a water-resistant raincoat against too much water coming in. It's also our best shield against injury (bruises, cuts, and scrapes) and infection.
This incredible packaging contains us and keeps the body in balance by regulating temperature and providing insulation from heat and cold. For example, all the hair follicles are attached to tiny muscles that contract as a response to cold air, elevating hair on the body and trapping air around us, keeping the body warm like fur. When it's hot outside, cooling mechanisms kick into gear as the nervous system triggers the blood vessels and sweat glands to release heat as fast as possible. Overheated blood is pumped away from the heart and out to the skin, where the heat dissipates (which is why your skin becomes flushed). Sweating cools the skin by bringing moisture to the surface, where it evaporates in the air - instant air-conditioning.
As if all this weren't enough, the skin has the added role of synthesizing vitamin D, which is necessary for the absorption of bone building calcium. The nutrient can also be obtained from milk and vitamin D-fortified juice and foods, as well as salmon, sardines, and fish oil. (Vitamin D supplements aren't easily absorbed into the system, so they don't work as effectively.) Luckily, a more palatable primary source of the vitamin is the sun. Vitamin D is known as "the sunshine vitamin" not because the sun has the nutrient in it but because UV rays actually convert a chemical found in the epidermis into vitamin D.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Healthy Skin

Healthy Skin

Staying out of the sun and away from tanning beds is the easiest way to get great-looking skin. The suns UVB and UVA rays cause skin damage, which is prematurely aging, and skin cancer. Every day you should wear a broad-spectrum s...

unscreen, which blocks UVB and UVA rays, with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply at least every two hours while outdoors. For a dewy glow, use skin-care products with 10 ingredients or less to reduce irritation, use moisturizer and feed your skin from within. Dark chocolate and antioxidant-rich foods such as cantaloupe, citrus fruits, blueberries and leafy greens improve the skin’s appearance.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.