The Role Your Skin Plays in Keeping You Healthy
Ever wonder how skin helps keep you healthy? Skin is the largest, and potentially most underappreciated, organ of the human body. The average adult has more that 20 square feet of skin!
Not only does our skin make us look fabulous, it also works hard to insulate us from extreme temperatures, shields us from environmental aggressors like pollution and viruses, and hosts millions of good bacteria that keep our body healthy. When we sweat, our skin even releases antimicrobial compounds that defend us against infection – a physical and chemical barrier!
Your skin is your first line of defense
The outermost layer of our skin, also known as the lipid barrier, is your first line of defense against infection, so it is so important to keep it strong and healthy.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has advised that hand washing for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to protect yourself from infection, including COVID-19 and other viruses. This is especially true after being in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Washing your hands for 20 seconds can be fun. Try singing the chorus to Lady Gaga’s "Bad Romance" twice or Rick Roll yourself with the chorus from "Never Gonna Give You Up." Trust us, it’s better than singing Happy Birthday or It’s a Small World and making yourself go mad.
If soap and water are not readily available, the CDC advises using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering all of the surfaces of your hands.
The effects of hand washing on skin
Unfortunately, alcohol, excessive handwashing, and exposing your skin to hot water can all wreak havoc on your skin barrier. From the outside, you might see redness, irritation, or dryness, but on and below the surface of your skin, so much more is happening.
For starters, your skin is losing precious lipids that keep this critical protective barrier smooth, soft, and plump, and the cracks in your dry skin can let tiny bacteria and viruses through.
Additionally, because the pH of your skin is constantly changing with the soap and water dance, your microbiome could be disrupted and the ratio of good bacteria on your skin becomes unbalanced. This makes your skin more susceptible to environmental aggressors and infection.
Ways to keep your skin barrier (and the rest of you) healthy
But the news isn’t all doom and gloom. There are a few easy steps you can take to keep your hands clean and strengthen your lipid barrier, your first line of defense. Our goal is to help you maintain a healthy moisture and pH balance for your skin to keep you safe and protected.
- Feed your skin well. Incorporate foods known to help increase moisture in skin, such as celery, cucumbers, walnuts, and green juice. Essential fatty acids, found in avocados, salmon and flax seeds, are also beneficial for skin health.
- Keep it hydrated. Hydration—both internal and external—is key to a strong lipid barrier and a thriving and balanced microbiome. Drink plenty of water every day and incorporate products with natural humectants and emollients, such as Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Niacinamide, and Squalane.
- Give it a treat. After humming a tune and washing your hands, pat dry and gently massage your favorite cream into your hands. This habit will make your handwashing routine relaxing and indulgent while keeping your protective skin barrier healthy, strong, and moisturized and making it feel appreciated!
And lastly, don't forget to stop touching your face
Now that we know how skin helps keep you healthy, we need to stay out of its way. As this 2015 study shows, most of us don't realize how often we touch our faces -- 23 times per hour on average!
The risk in touching our eyes, noses, and mouths is that we will expose ourselves to germs our skin has been working so hard to avoid. That’s not to say we can’t indulge in our favorite skincare routines as part of our self-care efforts now that we’re all staying inside.
The easy safeguard is to wash your hands before you start your skincare routine so that you can enjoy your masking "me time" without worry. After all, your skin does a lot to protect you, so it deserves a little pampering, don’t you think?
About the author, Jasmin Figueroa
Jasmin is an accomplished formulation scientist and skin health expert who has spent her career listening to consumers and developing products that rock. A founding member of the Nuria community, she loves traveling with her family, chilling with her friends at the beach, and will totally judge you if you don’t wear SPF.