Changes in thickness, dryness, and texture can indicate thyroid or other problems.
Taking care of your skin is probably second nature by now. You know to slather on SPF each morning and scan for new and changing moles to keep your skin happy and healthy. But despite understanding how to combat wrinkles and ward off disease, there’s a fair share that you might not know about your body’s largest organ. Read on for seven interesting facts about your skin.
1. Your skin’s appearance and texture can give you clues about the rest of your health.
Sometimes, changes in your skin can signal changes in your health as a whole. For example, according to Brooke Jackson, MD, Director of the Skin Wellness Center of Chicago, “The hormones that the thyroid produces are directly responsible for the natural fats that protect the skin, as well as hair and cell growth and hair pigmentation.”
She explains that in a person with hyperthryroidism (when the thyroid overproduces thyroid hormone), the epidermis––the outer layer of skin––may thicken and skin may be soft. With hypothyroidism (when the thyroid under-produces thyroid hormone), on the other hand, symptoms include very dry skin and thickened skin on the palms and soles. Another way your skin can tip you off to health issues: Acanthosis nigricans, a condition in which skin around the neck darkens and changes in texture, is often associated with diabetes, according to D’Anne Kleinsmith, MD, dermatologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI.
2. Everyone has the same pigment in their skin that’s responsible for color.
Melanin, explains Josie Tenore, MD, SM, is a coloring pigment that is present in all people’s skin—regardless of race. “The difference in skin tone between people of different races—and between people of the same race––lies in how much of this pigment is present, and its distribution within the skin.”
More specifically, everyone—no matter how dark or pale they are––has the same number of melanocytes, which are the cells that make melanin, explains Arnold Oppenheim, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “It’s their product, melanosomes—which contain the melanin––that differ. Some people have denser and larger ones, which make their skin darker.” Also, the denser and closer together they are, “the more protection the skin is afforded from skin cancer,” he says.
3. As we age, our skin sheds cells more slowly.
Ever wonder why children have such naturally rosy and dewy skin? While skin of all ages produces new cells which eventually move to the surface and shed off, young people’s skin does this more often, according to Dr. Tenore. “In kids, this happens every two to three weeks, which gives them that vibrant, shiny skin. But as we age, this process becomes slower. More dead cells stay on the surface, resulting in that dull, dehydrated look.”
She adds that exposure to direct sunlight slows down the sloughing off process even further because UV light decreases cellular turnover. Depending on your skin type—your dermatologist can identify yours––daily exfoliation or a topical antioxidant serum that contains retinoids, vitamins and peptides can help encourage cell turnover, according to Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City dermatologist.