Skin covers every nook and corner of our bodily existence. Our skin contributes significantly to our appearance, helps us experience beautiful tactile sensations and most importantly is our first physical barrier against the world. Think of it as protective cloak, engulfing us and shielding us from the environment. This protective cloak, thus works as an immune barrier, implying that it aids in providing defense against our external environment, be it temperature, pressure, surrounding or living flora.
There are many components of the skin that help it in acting as a protective physical and chemical barrier against germs and antigens. The two major components of the skin that play a major role in its defense mechanism could be categorized as below:
- The Cell or the structural system – The structural formation and components of the skin are made of different types of cells which differ in function and in structure. Their jobs range from forming a covering and fortifying layer like our body’s picket fence – namely the epidermis of the skin, to sentinels which constantly keep watch for invading pathogens and shut them out, to friendly skin cells which help house healthy. Bacteria and organisms known as Commensals play a crucial role in maintaining our health and helping the body fight against more harmful invaders.
- The Microbial or the living system – These friendly in house guests resting on our skin help keep potential invaders from entering our system and taking control and leading to harmful effects on our skin and our overall health. A fun fact to be noted is that, on different places on our body we have different types of organisms ranging from over 1000 bacterial and fungal species – called commensals – that live on our skin. They differ on
various areas of our body depending on oiliness, dampness, and exposure to sunlight. Skin commensals which thrive on your foot differ completely from the commensals on your forearm, which again are different from the ones living on our face.
These two components of the skin form the immune system of the skin, thus protecting against any injury, infection or parasites. They either neutralize the invasion or set up an alarm in the form of “signals” or “warnings” like a rash to help identify and control any impending attack or existing health condition, thus helping us and our diagnosing physician treat us better.
How to take care of this important organ?
- Use mild cleansers so that you don’t strip your skin of its natural moisturizing factor or essential oil content.
- Moisturize daily to ensure perfect skin health.
- Use a sunscreen regularly to help block the UV rays helping the skin protect the ongoing essential cell cycles and their turnover.
- Apply antioxidant based creams
- Apply prescription based retinoids to promote cell turnover.
- Eat food rich in antioxidants and minerals.
- Drink enough water to keep you and your skin hydrated.
- Exfoliate regularly to get rid of dead skin debris and prevent housing harmful bacteria.
- Avoid wearing damp garments as this may promote fungal infections.
- Avoid abusing and over using anti- bacterials or anti- microbials on skin.
- Avoid using extremely hot water while bathing.
- Avoid using harsh soaps
- Sharing toiletries and clothing.