Love the skin you’re in
The skin is the largest and one of the most important organs in the body in terms of size, function and sheer versatility. Just look at what it can do!
- It keeps the outside out and the inside in and allows us to feel pleasure, warmth, pain.
- It turns energy from sunlight into crucially important vitamin D.
- It’s the largest detoxification organ in the body, through sweating and shedding skin cells.
- It’s a key part of our immune system acting both as a barrier and triggering immune responses.
So given all that it does, it’s worth looking after!
What affects your skin?
Good skin health comes from the inside out. There are many essentials for a healthy skin, and what one person needs is not the same as the next person. But it’s worth understanding what factors influence our skin so we can take steps to look after it.
This article and questionnaire are for educational and informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis and treatment of those with established skin conditions. Getting expert advice from your GP is and should remain your first port of call. If you notice any changes in moles or freckles in terms of size, shape or colour, please contact your GP.
- Skin type and genetics.
Our genes influence many aspects of our skin, such as our skin type ( whether it’s oily, dry or normal), skin colour, skin elasticity, skin ageing and some skin conditions. We’re still learning about how much our genetics influence outcomes and data from our Evergreen users is helping to shed more light on the matter. What is known though is that your genes are not your destiny, simply your predisposition. You can make improvements by focusing on other more controllable things that influence skin health like a good diet, exercise, good hydration, avoiding sunburn, smoking and alcohol.
Good to know! An Evergreen Life DNA test could help you understand the genetic profile of your skin.
- Skin and Sunlight
Sunlight is a source of vital vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Research has also suggested the sunshine vitamin might also help with our immunity, our metabolism and even help protect us from some cancers. Being in the sun also triggers the release of the mood boosting hormone serotonin and UV rays can also help with some skin conditions like some forms of eczema and psoriasis. Plus, the Evergreen Community of users also support research that shows being outdoors improves sleep. So lots of positives! However, that same sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are the main cause of skin ageing and can cause skin cancer. Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer and it doesn’t just happen on holiday. You can burn in the UK, even when it's cloudy.
So, with risks associated with both sun exposure and sun avoidance, how do you know how what’s safe? With no clear rule, you should aim to strike a balance depending on risk factors, like the tone of your skin, UV radiation on the day and how often and how long you go in the sun. We are all different. For example those with very fair skin are more likely to burn, so will need to limit the time they go out in the sun without either using sunscreen or covering up. The table below is a guide to how much time its safe to spend in the sun without any protection depending on your skin type.
There are online calculators that can help provide more specific guidance depending on weather conditions and skin type. There’s one linked in the references section. This guide should be balanced with the need for exposure for vitamin D absorption. More research is needed to know exactly how much sun we need for our body to make sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. But for lighter skin types, 10-15 minutes between April and September is considered enough to get the vitamin D we need, while 25-40 minutes is recommended for darker skin. However, current government advice is that we should all be supplementing with 400 IU (10μg) daily to prevent deficiency, especially between October and February.
To protect your skin if you’re in the sun for longer, you should either seek shade, cover up or use sunscreen. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and one with at least 4 star UVA protection. Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen. It needs to be applied and reapplied generously and regularly, and according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you can’t get regular sun to top up your vitamin D it would be safer to supplement all year round, than risk burning in an attempt to top up after missed time outdoors.
Remember, sun beds are not a replacement for sunlight and should be avoided. When you lie in an indoor tanning bed, you are exposed primarily to dangerous UVA rays, rather than UVB rays which help the skin make vitamin D.
- Skin microbiome
The outer layers of the skin are home to billions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms which live in happy co-existence most of the time, helping to maintain a healthy barrier.
These organisms communicate with our skin cells and our immune system to signal how to protect us from pathogens as well as how to heal from injury. Microbes are able to alter the amount of oil the skin secretes which in turn protects and lubricates and provides an antibacterial shield. Research from the Human Microbiome project has shown for example, that Staphylococcus epidermidis produces a secretion that reduces inflammation and speeds wound healing.
Studies have shown frequent hand washing and products like hand sanitisers can disrupt our skin microbiome when they kill off other bugs. However in the current pandemic, it’s important to keep our hands as virus free as possible. Where possible choose sanitisers that use natural products or alcohol based ones without additional antibacterial ingredients like triclosan.
- Skin hydration
For the skin to function properly as a barrier it needs adequate hydration - we lose water continuously through the skin. Someone with skin in good condition can lose up to 750ml of water every 24 hours!
Drinking plenty of water to maintain hydration makes good sense. It’s recommended we drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day, around 1.2-1.5 litres.
- Skin and moisturisers
Moisturisers help with dry skin in that they supply a little bit of water to the skin and generally contain a greasy substance that holds it in. There are many moisturisers on the market. In general, choose the one that works best for you. Do ask your pharmacist for advice. To make a difference, you should apply often and liberally. If you have a persistent and painful problem, talk to your GP
If you don’t have dry skin, then in theory, your skin’s natural oil, sebum, should keep you naturally moisturised. However this oil is often washed off, so we reach for moisturisers to make our skin feel soft again.
Many claims are made for the benefit of cosmetics. There is evidence that Vitamin A derivatives can reduce wrinkles. Many cosmetics contain these retinols, but the dose in bought cosmetics is probably too low to have any benefit, certainly not within less than many months of regular application. Remember, wrinkles are part of the ageing process and how fast we age is influenced by genetics.
If you smoke, you don’t need us to tell you it's bad for your health but it can really effect the way you look and how quickly you appear to age. First, smoking disrupts collagen production which supports skin strength and elasticity.
Smoking also reduces blood flow to your skin, so your skin gets fewer nutrients, less oxygen and often looks dull and grey as a result. Smokers are also 2-3 times more likely to develop psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition which can be very uncomfortable and disfiguring. Finally it's thought smoking can impair skin wound healing.
Even more reasons to try to give up.
- Chemical and environmental sensitivities
The skin is able to absorb many substances directly. It’s the reason why many drugs can be given as patches since they are able to cross the skin.
What we put on our skin can cause skin reactions and uncovering what those that might be requires a certain amount of detective work and sometimes professional help. Contact skin allergies , for instance to nickel or latex. are common. Patch tests are available on the NHS, whereby different allergens are tested on small areas of skin to check if they cause an allergic reaction. Reactions to chemicals commonly affect people such as hairdressers and cleaners. It’d best to use gloves when cleaning and handling chemicals.
Some food allergies can cause rashes. The top 14 food allergens are:
Celery; Cereals containing gluten; Crustaceans; Eggs; Fish; Lupin; Milk; Molluscs; Mustard; Tree Nuts; Peanuts; Sesame seeds; Soya and Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)
There is no cure for an allergy to a substance, but once you have identified the source it may be easier to avoid in future.
- Skin nutrients
Due to rapid turnover, new skin cells need to be made constantly. This continuous demand requires lots of ingredients such as certain vitamins and minerals, essential fats and importantly, protein. If any are lacking in the diet, or occasionally if present in excess, the skin may develop a variety of responses.
Nutrients known to be required for good skin health are widely varied and large in number. To name a few, they include the Vitamin A family, Zinc, Vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acids, Biotin, Selenium, Silica, Niacin, Vitamin K2, Probiotics, Sulphur, Vitamin E, Pantothenic acid, Collagen, Ceramides, and hyaluronic acid... Phew! Did we say a few?
- Skin and stress
Stress levels, especially chronic stress, affects every area of health and can often visibly affect the skin. Many skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, can be made worse by stress and worry in some people. People under emotional stress are also likely to recover more slowly from skin problems.
Negative stress is one of the hardest things to manage but reducing it can have a positive effect on many areas of your health. Our article on How to feel happier might help.