The skin is the largest organ of the body, with a total area of approximately 20 square feet.
Skin provides the following functions:
Skin is composed of 3 primary layers:
Epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. It forms the waterproof, protective wrap over the body’s surface which also serves as a barrier to infection. The epidermis contains no blood vessels and is nourished by diffusion from the dermis. The epidermis helps the skin to regulate body temperature. The outer most layer of the epidermis consists of 25 to 30 layers of dead cells forming the keratinized layer of the skin, which continually turns over, and provides the protective barrier to infection and is responsible for keeping water in the body.
Dermis is the layer of skin beneath the epidermis that consists of epithelial tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. It contains many nerve endings that provide the sense of touch and heat, hair follicles, sweat glands, lymphatic vessels and blood vessels. The dermis is divided into two areas, the papillary region and a deep thicker reticular region.
Hypodermis is not part of the skin, lying below the dermis. Attaches the skin to underlying bone and muscle. It consists of loose connective tissue, fat and elastin.
As skin ages, it becomes thinner and more easily damaged due to a decreased ability to heal itself. Skin aging is noted by a decrease in volume and elasticity.
Rash – a change in skin appearance caused by simple skin irritation or results from medical conditions
Dermatitis – general term for inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema) is the most common form
Eczema – skin inflammation (dermatitis), normally due to an over active immune system causing an itchy rash
Psoriasis – an autoimmune condition that can cause a variety of skin rashes principally scaly plaques
Dandruff – a scaly condition of the scalp, may be caused by dermatitis, psoriasis or eczema
Acne - the most common skin condition. Occurs when hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and oil from the skin
Cellulitis – inflammation of the dermis and subcutaneous tissues, usually due to an infection
Skin abscess (boil) – a localized skin infection creates a collection of pus under the skin
Rosacea – a chronic skin condition causing a red rash on the face
Warts – a virus infects the skin and causes the skin to grow excessively
Melanoma – the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma results from sun damage and other causes
Basel cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer which grows and spreads slower than melanoma
Squamous cell carcinoma – a common form of skin cancer which may begin as an ulcer that will not heal or an abnormal growth. Usually develops in sun exposed areas
Seborrheic keratosis – a benign, often itchy growth that appears like a wart
Actinic keratosis – a crusty or scaly bump that forms on sun exposed skin that sometimes progresses to cancer
Herpes – HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses that can cause periodic blisters and skin irritation around the lips or the genitals
Hives – raised red itchy patches that arise suddenly usually due to an allergic reaction
Tinea versicolor – a benign fungal skin infection creates pale areas of skin pigmentation
Viral exanthem – viral infections can cause red rash affecting large areas of the skin
Shingles (herpes zoster) – caused by the chicken pox virus, is a painful rash on one side of the body (an adult vaccine can prevent shingles in most people)
Scabies – tiny mites that burrow into the skin cause an intensely itchy rash in the webs of fingers, wrists, elbows and buttock
Ringworm – a fungal skin infection forming a characteristic ring (not due to worms)
Impetigo – a highly contagious skin infection that usually attacks exposed areas
Corticosteroids (steroids) – medications that reduce inflammation and reduce immune system activity that may improve dermatitis
Antibiotics – medications used to kill bacteria causing cellulitis and other skin infections
Antiviral drugs – medications that can suppress the activity of the herpes virus, reducing symptoms
Antifungal drugs – topical creams can cure most fungal infections. Occasionally, oral medications may be needed
Antihistamines – oral or topical medication, can block histamine, a substance that causes itching
Immune modulators – medications that can modify the activity of the immune system, improving psoriasis or other forms of dermatitis
Skin moisturizers – moisturizers can reduce symptoms of many skin conditions
Specialty skin cream – products containing elastin, D-panthenol, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid. Can help improve fine lines, UV radiation skin damage, skin elasticity and support the regenerative metabolic processes of the skin
Skin surgery – most skin cancers must be removed by surgery
Cosmetic treatments – to improve skin appearance numerous treatments are available including laser therapy, radiofrequency treatments, chemical peels, tissue fillers and botox
Dry skin is not usually serious. Dry skin can be inherited. However, most dry skin is caused by environmental factors that can be partially controlled. Dry skin is often temporary and signs and symptoms depend on your age, your health, where you live and time spent outdoors. Dry skin is likely to cause one of the following:
- Skin tightness, especially after bathing
- Rough skin
- Slight to severe flaking or scaling
- Fine lines or cracks
Dry skin often has an environmental cause. Potential causes of dry skin include:
Dry skin increases with age as your skin naturally produce less components that contribute to hydrating your skin including oils and hyaluronic acid.
Treatments and Prevention
Treatments are dependent on the cause of dry skin and include:
Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Fine lines and wrinkles are often linked together. However, dermatologists differentiate between the two. Most dermatologists characterize fine lines as less than 2 millimeters in depth, with wrinkles being greater than 2 millimeters. Fine lines are shallow folds caused by lax, sagging skin and are associated with the earliest signs of aging or photo damage. Wrinkles are predominantly caused by muscle contractions under the skin, which is why they show up where you make the most facial expressions, like squinting, frowning and smiling. Repeated facial muscle movements, contracting and releasing in the same way, over the years create folds along those habitual lines.
Fine lines and wrinkles are caused by the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, and by skin dryness. Collagen and elastin provide the support structure for skin, helping to keep it smooth and resilient. As these fibers break down, the skin begins to lose its strength and elasticity.
The major causes of fine lines and wrinkles are:
Collagen fibers strengthen the skin, while elastin helps skin stretch and return to its original shape and hyaluronic acid is the principal component to maintain skin moisture.
Both collagen and elastin break down as you get older. Skin becomes less firm and loses its flexibility, which causes fine lines and wrinkles to appear.
Treatments and Preventions