Why healthy skin is important

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How skin works

45 seconds on… what skin does

45 seconds on… what skin does

Skin acts as a natural barrier against the world around you and protects your body from a range of harmful factors in your environment. Skin also:

  • Prevents the loss of water from your body
  • Helps to regulate your body temperature
  • Helps to recognise and respond to sensations like touch, pain, and pressure
  • Plays a key role in the production of vitamin D

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The science behind skin

Skin is made up of three layers that form a protective barrier between your body and the environment:

  • The epidermis – your skin's thin but tough outer protective layer
  • The dermis – which contains tough connective tissue, hair follicles and sweat glands
  • The subcutaneous layer – the deepest layer made from fat and connective tissue

The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin and plays a big part in keeping your skin healthy. The very top layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum, and – when undamaged – it acts as the barrier that limits water loss from and prevents most foreign substances entering into your body.

Healthy skin is like a brick wall: the bricks (skin cells in the uppermost layer of skin ‐ the stratum corneum in the epidermis) are held together snugly, with natural oils (called lipids) filling the gaps between the cells like mortar between bricks. This structure forms the skin's natural protective barrier ‐ helping keeping moisture in and irritants out.

Dry skin occurs when this “brick wall” structure in the stratum corneum is disrupted: the skin loses moisture or the lipids holding the cells tightly together are lost or damaged, which weakens the skin's protective barrier. When your skin's protective barrier is weakened, less moisture is retained and more irritants can get in, causing further damage to the skin's protective barrier.

To help maintain the natural protective barrier of your skin, you need to keep it hydrated and healthy. Actively moisturising your skin can help it retain more moisture.

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The dry skin cycle

You might have noticed that your skin feels different from day to day, week to week, or year to year. Both external factors (such as humidity or exposure to irritants) and internal factors (such as your age or an underlying condition) can affect your skin’s natural protective barrier.

Because dry skin can be caused by lots of different things, you might have an idea of what made your skin worse or you might not.

Many people find they can help to manage their skin by building a skincare routine that fits into their daily life. Because your skin can feel different at different times, you may need to adapt your skincare routine to deal with any changes.

This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

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More about dry skin conditions

Not real skin imagery - conceptual representations of skin conditions

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