Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 3: Skin -- Function - part 2

A little over a week ago, I wrote the first part of the "Skin -- Function" in the continuing series: "Anti-Aging Skin Series."  In that post, I briefly introduced the top layer of skin -- the Epidermis.  Generally speaking, there are two main layers of interest to designers of cosmetic formulations and skin care products -- the top two: Epidermis and Dermis.  The last post was concerned with the Epidermis since this layer is made up of 5 critical layers (each with a specific function).

In the interest of Kayla's advice of breaking down the initial blog post on "Anti-Aging," I chose to divide up that last post into two parts.  This post will be the second part of the function of skin concerned with the deeper layer below the Epidermis -- the Dermis.  Without further delay, lets explore the Dermis in regards to the function that it plays in the overall purpose of skin.

Usual Disclaimer:

For some readers the material might be too elementary ( or too much detail).  I would challenge you to think deeply about the simplicity of the descriptions and also I will include links for you too (on the side with greater detail).

How Important Is The Dermis?

I decided to start off this part with the question of "How Important Is The Dermis?"  Why?  In order to answer these questions, lets revisit the diagram of the structure of human skin.  A diagram of the structure of human skin taken from a book authored by Dr. Zoe Draelos and Dr. Peter Pugliese titled "Physiology of the Skin" is shown below:

As you can see the top few layers of the skin make up the epidermis and were discussed in the previous post.  From the diagram above, the first assumption of the function of the dermis in relation to the entire "skin" as an organ might be to serve the epidermis.  In the last post, we learned that the epidermis is not static and is quite dynamic (evolving over time).  Since there is no vascular layer in the epidermis, a supply of some sorts needs to come from somewhere.  Where is that "somewhere"? The dermis layer of the human skin organ.

What are some of the other functions of the dermis layer?

If "Wikipedia" is consulted to answer the question above, here is the response in the form of an excerpt:

The dermis is a layer of skin between the epidermis (with which it makes up the cutis) and subcutaneous tissues, that primarily consists of dense irregular connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. It is divided into two layers, the superficial area adjacent to the epidermis called the papillary region and a deep thicker area known as the reticular dermis.[1] The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis through a basement membrane. Structural components of the dermis are collagen, elastic fibers, and extrafibrillar matrix.[2] It also contains mechanoreceptors that provide the sense of touch and thermoreceptors that provide the sense of heat. In addition, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, apocrine glands, lymphatic vessels and blood vessels are present in the dermis. Those blood vessels provide nourishment and waste removal for both dermal and epidermal cells.

The dermis appears to play a large role in the production of skin.  Stem cells start forming here and move up into the Epidermis to proceed further into the five layers -- which were discussed in the previous post.  Above all else, the dermis plays a critical role in thermal regulation.  Controlling the body temperature along with providing the sense of touch, reaction to heat, and housing the glands to secrete toxins makes the dermis layer critical to having healthy skin.

Upon inspection of the dermis layer in the diagram above, the layer appears to be quite heterogenous.  Heterogenous means that there are multiple components that make up the dermis -- which have many different functions -- such as those highlighted in the excerpt above.  In order to control the body temperature, the ability to sweat is critical.  Sweating is the main avenue toward "cooling down" the body.   Along with the hair follicles and blood vessels are sweat glands.

How many sweat glands do we have on our skin?

According the American Academy of Dermatology website, we have a the following in every square inch of skin:

1) 650 sweat glands

2) 20 blood vessels

3) 60,000 melanocytes (which give skin its color)

4) 1,000 nerve endings (sensing touch, pain, etc.)


How many sweat glands are needed across our entire body?

In a previous post that I wrote on my personal (Mike Thinks) site, the number was set at around 2.5 million strategically spread throughout the human body surface.  These sweat glands are mixed with a system of blood vessels that differ in size and range in function -- from providing oxygen to the epidermis (lower layers) to providing oxygen and nutrients to the dermis.  Remember, the dermis makes up around 90% of the skin (three layers: Subcutaneous, Dermis, and Epidermis).  The temperature control and shock/strain control are a major function.

How Does The Dermis Produce Healthy Skin?

In the previous post on the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin was essentially the "defining layer" toward the appearance of healthy skin.  Although, there are five layers of the epidermis that are continuously changing.  Over the course of two months, stem cells formed in the dermis layer move up through the epidermis and go through the following processes.  As the layers move toward the surface, the cells start to die out and flatten out.

At the same time, the body produces a "glue" called the "natural moisturizing factor" to hold the flattened out 'corneocytes' together.    This layer of the epidermis is responsible for holding in water and helping to regulate the body temperature.  At this point, you may be wondering the following question:

Why are you talking about the epidermis when the post is about the dermis layer of the human skin?

The reason is because the dermis and epidermis work in synchronization with one another.  Collagen, the "cushy" part of the skin -- giving skin the volume or body is produced in the dermis and then moves into the epidermis -- which ultimately flatten out.

As people age, their skin tends to lose collagen.  Additionally, as the "natural moisturizer factor" is depleted over time and not replenished by our body, then the skin tends to dry out and become irritable and flaky.  Other descriptions include "crepey" skin.  This is where the importance of using skin conditioners -- moisturizing factors become important.  That is one way of keeping healthy skin along with not smoking, drinking enough water, and staying out of the sun.

Do not fall for the scams!!

Now that you have knowledge of the process by which skin is produced, try not to fall for any scams.  For instance, if a cosmetic product has a "promise" or "claim" written on the bottle that the formulation contains "chemicals" or "ingredients" that will replenish the "collagen" in your skin -- do not fall for the scam.  The only way to produce more collagen is the genetically enhance the production.  If that were possible, the cosmetic product would still fall out of the reach of the skin care business -- and would need to be FDA (Food and Drug Association) regulated.  The product would have to be treated like a pharmaceutical product.  Be careful what you believe in a product's claim.


Over the past three blogs, I have introduced the structure and function of the human skin.  Along the way, I have raised questions which should remind you (the reader) to be wary of the claims on a given cosmetic products brand.  At the same time, when a cosmetic product is being used to enhance the appearance of your skin, be sure not to interfere with the skin's natural progression (of producing new skin) to shed old skin.  Any good cosmetic product should enhance the appearance of your skin while allowing the skin to regulate body temperature and feel wonderful touches.

Remember as we traverse the landscape of anti-aging claims and products that above all, your opinion is most important.  Looking back on questions such as: "What does healthy skin look like for me?" -- are critical to consider when deciding which cosmetic product is right for you.  Alternatively, do not forget that the human skin is a living organ.  Despite the corneocytes that have died and flattened, there is a whole other layer -- dermis to consider with the vast networks of blood vessels and sweat glands along with the nerves to consider.  Quite possibly, a cosmetic product could damage the 'dynamic' nature of the skin or process.  Normally, cosmetic chemists aspire to achieve the correct formulation for a given result.  But each of us should be wary of the method by which the result is achieved.

Until next time, have a great day!!!

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