When it comes to our skin, most of us have only scratched the surface. This huge organ is pretty incredible.
Along with the many amazing roles it fulfils to support skin health and improve our wider wellbeing, it has several unexpected features. Below we cover seven skin science facts you probably didn’t know.
1. Your skin is the most versatile organ of them all
Despite being our most powerful organ of perception, the skin is often overlooked and underappreciated.
The sheer size of the skin alone is enough to wow – the average person’s skin covers 2 – square metres, accounts for 15% of body weight despite its paper thinness.
It’s also home to some 300 million skin cells and 11 miles of body vessels – and this is before we’ve got down to examining what it actually does for our bodies. We’ll let National Geographic explain just some of its crucial roles:
“Skin acts as a waterproof, insulating shield, guarding the body against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight, and harmful chemicals. It also exudes antibacterial substances that prevent infection and manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones.
Skin additionally is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world. At the same time, skin allows us free movement, proving itself an amazingly versatile organ.”
2. It gets a whole new look every 28 days
The rate of renewal is another impressive feat of the skin. The skin is in a constant state of flux and renews itself every 28 days to create a whole new look.
While this regeneration rate slows as we age, the life cycle of the skin helps us beef up our body’s outer protection to heal wounds and lessen the impact of external factors like pollution.
The skin isn’t the only body part that regenerates. The whole body replaces itself every seven years on average.
3. A midnight snack could make your skin more vulnerable
Your health and wellbeing are hugely influenced by your diet. But it’s not just what you eat but when you eat that can make a difference to the skin.
Like the rest of your body, your skin and its many processes are ruled by its circadian rhythm.
During those nighttime hours, your skin works particularly hard to ensure it can fulfil those vital protective duties by day.
This is one of the reasons why rest is important, as it gives your body the crucial downtime it needs to repair and recuperate.
Disrupting this rest period with a quick late-night snack can however make your skin more vulnerable.
By eating late at night, you’re delaying the activation of morning UV protection genes, which could leave you more susceptible to sun damage come morning.
4. You are what you eat!
Your diet can influence the look of your skin not just skin function. Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is so much more than getting the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to support better health.
The red, orange and yellow pigments (officially known as ‘carotenoids’) in our favourite coloured veggies make the skin glow with every bite to give the complexion that brighter, healthier look that everyone covets. It’s time to stock up on those carrots, tomatoes, and oranges!
5. Your skin is home to a very complex yet delicate ecosystem
Whilst the three layers that make up the skin provide a hardy barrier to keep bad bacteria from the outside world where it belongs, they don’t do it alone.
Your skin’s surface is home to the microbiome, a trillion-strong community of microorganisms that has a more diverse ecosystem than any rainforest on the planet.
These countless colonies of bacteria, yeasts, single-cell protozoa, viruses and parasites are right at home on the slightly acidic mantle that invisibly covers the skin and provides yet more protection.
The biome, acid mantle and skin work in unison to form a formidable defence for your skin and wider body.
6. A beauty secret you didn’t know – just add sweat
Just like your gut microbiome, your skin microbiome needs support and nourishment to do what it does best.
Your skin’s microbiome needs similar nutrients to thrive, but you don’t have to spend a pretty penny on friendly-bacteria-feeding probiotics and prebiotics. You have all you need on tap to give your microbiome the sustenance it requires.
Working out isn’t just great for getting blood flowing to the skin. The sweat produced during your exercise sessions feeds your microbiome and helps you reap all the rewards of this healthy bacterial balance.
7. The sweat your skin produces could help your love life too!
Want to work on your love life? Sweat could come in handy here too. One particular type of sweat produced by the apocrine glands in the armpits and groin is responsible for determining your very own ‘odour print’.
When searching for a potential love interest, this odour print can help you find more suitable partners. This study found that, based on their odour print, women would pick men with dissimilar immune genes to diversify the immunity of their offspring.