3 facts you should know about your skin

3 facts you should know about your skin

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.

Five top secrets to looking younger

Five top secrets to looking younger

Apply sunscreen to the neck, chest, and hands, where aging skin is most telling.

Fabulous hair, a great plastic surgeon, personal trainers, stylists, and chefs who make house calls—when it comes to maintaining a youthful appearance, it’s true, celebs have it easier than the rest of us. But, never fear, our panel of experts revealed a surprising number of ways to defy your age, and none of them require red carpet access.

The Cosmetic Dermatologist

Who: Heidi Waldorf, MD, associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology in New York.

Top Secret: Diligently apply sun protection. (You knew that was coming.) “Most women miss the jawline, neck, chest, and hands, and they’re all very telling of aging skin,” says Waldorf. Beyond that, if you’re not planning to get pregnant, use topical retinoids a few times a week. You can get them in OTC products or in higher concentrations from a dermatologist. “Studies show they help aged skin look more normal microscopically,” Waldorf says.

Next Best Tips: Once you hit 40, regular, gentle exfoliation helps keep the complexion lustrous. Of all the anti-aging products on drugstore shelves, Waldorf recommends RoC Deep Retinol Correxion Wrinkle Serum and SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, which she calls, “chicken soup for the skin.”

The Image Consultant

Who: Kelly Machbitz, certified image consultant in Tampa, Florida, and author of All About Face.

Top Secret: Soften the eyeliner. “Women tend to go too heavy, which drags the eyes down and makes them look older,” says Machbitz Instead of black, try a slate or grey. “Then, with your pencil or brush, just dot along the rim where your lashes are, and lightly connect the dots without drawing a harsh line straight across.”

Next Best Tips: Lose the dark-outline lip trick. “You can create a much fresher look by using a nude lip liner to define the shape, and then filling in with a clear or subtle gloss,” says Machbitz. And when it comes to choosing the right foundation it’s worth a one-time splurge at the makeup counter to have a specialist help you pick the right foundation so it looks like you’re not wearing anything. Before buying, let the product dry on your skin (the color can darken) and check it outside in the daylight. Once you have the perfect shade, you can always match it with a less pricey product.

The Dating Coach

Who: Rachel Canis, professional matchmaker and president of Best Foot Forward, a Chicago dating service.

Top Secret: Downplay. “Make sure you’re not going into dead-on cougar attire,” says Canis. “I’m talking about wearing really tight clothes that show it all. I don’t care how great your body is. After a certain age, it looks like you’re trying too hard, and you just come off older.” Then again, she says, “dressing super corporate can age you too.” Young women have a sense of feeling comfortable with themselves, which is why Canis recommends mixing in some softer fabrics. “Try a structured piece with a flowy piece, or a tight tank top with a fuller jacket,” she says. “I always seem to meet people when I’m wearing a cocktail dress and a pair of funky flip-flops.”

Next Best Tips: Err on the side of less makeup, versus more. Peachy colors and a little shimmer are all you need for a young and dewy appeal, says Canis. Also trendy can be tricky. “The short, sculpted hairdos are great in your twenties, but when you’re older, they frumpify you. And at a certain age, you really don’t want to be doing green nails.”

The Photo Director

Who: Katherine Schad, director of photography at O, the Oprah Magazine.

Top Secret: If you’re posing for a photo, “black and white film is more forgiving than color,” says Schad. “And shoot outdoors—an interior flash can be glaring if the photographer isn’t a pro.” The key to projecting “young”, she says, is being relaxed. One tried-and-true trick: Look away from the camera and then turn back so the “click” will capture your spontaneous energy.

Next Best Tips: Schad, who often shoots real women for her magazine’s makeovers, re-dresses her subjects in a classic look with a fun little twist: “Maybe a cute black dress with a pair of great red shoes, or jeans and a crisp, white shirt, with an unusual appliquéd jacket,” she explains. As for hair? Overly-fussy updos are a little dated, she adds. When in doubt, get a blowout.

The “Real Age” Doctor

Who: Micheal Roizen, MD, author of RealAge: Are you as young as you can be? and coauthor, with Mehmet Oz, MD, of You: Staying Young.

Top Secret: Above and beyond everything else, the No. 1 key to looking younger is a healthy attitude, says Roizen, who chairs the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “And the trick to that is re-focusing on how fortunate you are. Instead of griping, that jerk cut me off, you want to be thinking, At least I’m not as obnoxious as he is—or, in as much of a hurry.”

Next Best Tips: Number 2 on the list (take Roizen’s test to determine your “real age”) is avoiding cigarettes, including second-hand smoke, which is “amazingly detrimental to your skin and health.” Number three is exercise. To get maximum youth benefit for minimum sweat, find 30 minutes each day to walk, and every week do the following: a half-hour of resistance training plus three 21-minute bouts of cardio in which you go as fast as you can for the 10th and 21st minute. Not only will these interval blasts boost your metabolism, says Roizen, “but they’ll increase the size of your hippocampus, which will keep you remembering long into the future.”