Beyond the Bedside: Protecting Your Skin

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Beyond the Bedside: Protecting Your Skin

By: Lori Blanchard Eaton

“Beauty is more than skin deep.” This old saying holds profound meaning and emphasizes that inner beauty comes from qualities that are often unseen at first sight. But in some cases, beauty is a reflection of what is on the inside. Primary medicine often focuses on the solid internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, brain and kidney as these organs are vital to life. In this month’s Beyond the Bedside, I’d like to discuss the skin, another vital organ that is important for primary prevention.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body and is made up of 3 layers which consists of water, protein, fats and minerals. The epidermis, the outer layer, is an important barrier to infection, chemicals, and ultraviolet light. Blood vessels within the skin dilate and constrict to control blood flow to and from the skin to provide the cells with nutrients and help regulate internal body temperature. The outer skin layer contains melanin which is responsible for the color of our skin. The dermis, skin’s middle layer, contains proteins, collagen and elastin, along with nerves. These nerves allow us to feel pain, heat, cold, etc. The inner layer, the hypodermis, is the fatty layer and provides a crucial cushion to our musculoskeletal system. (Skin,, 2023). 

Our skin is vulnerable to damage. It’s exposed to many external environmental factors, such as the sun, pollution and free radicals. From Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics by the Skin Cancer Foundation: 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun. One in five people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70. Risk for melanoma doubles with 5 or more lifetime sunburns. (Skin The skin is also vulnerable to internal factors, such as lack of sleep, dehydration, smoking, alcohol, poor nutrition and stress. It’s easy to see normal aging effects of the skin by contrasting smooth newborn skin with the wrinkles of a person who has lived in this world for many years. Again, beauty is more than skin deep. However, if the skin is the largest organ in our bodies and vital to life, shouldn’t we protect it from premature aging and damage? 

Here are a few ways to keep your skin healthy:

  1. Schedule an annual skin evaluation and report skin concerns to your provider. Early detection of skin cancer improves survival. The 5 year survival rate for melanoma, when detected early, is 99 percent ( 
  2. Sun Protection: Apply daily, broad spectrum sunscreen, minimum SPF 30, apply a generous amount and reapply at least every 2 hours. Wear protective clothing, including a wide brim hat, sunglasses. Avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm. 
  3. Avoid smoking: Smoking constricts blood flow to the skin and results in poor oxygenation and less nutrients. Smoking causes the skin to be less elastic and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking increases your risk of skin cancer. 
  4. Skin Care: Keep your skin clean with a gentle skin cleanser. Avoid hot water when showering or bathing. Moisturize dry skin. Wear protective gloves when washing dishes, working in the yard or potential contact with harmful chemicals. 
  5. Healthy diet: Include a well-balanced diet with fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Limit sugar, processed foods and saturated fat. 
  6. Stay hydrated: Include water as the main source of hydration. Include at least half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. Limit caffeine and alcohol. 
  7. Get adequate sleep: Skin is restored and repaired overnight. The skin has increased blood flow and more collagen production overnight. Include 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. 
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