Book Notes #5: The Remarkable Life of the Skin
May 23, 2020
A book that manages to be entertaining, scientific and throughout informative, The Remarkable Life of the Skin: An Intimate Journey Across Our Surface breaks down a complex subject in an accessible way, touching not only on health concerns but also about our society’s view on the skin.
I can’t recommend this book enough. A 5-star rating on my GoodReads.
Here are my highlights:
- Although an individual human sheds more than a million skin cells each day, making up roughly half the dust found in our homes,5 our entire epidermis is completely replaced each month, yet remarkably this endless state of flux doesn’t cause our skin barrier to leak.
- Callus formation – hyperkeratosis – is a healthy, protective response from our skin when it needs to reinforce the wall.
- Despite the ubiquitous internet and magazine recommendations to drink water for healthy skin, there has actually been very little research into this area. This is, perhaps, unsurprising, because water can’t be patented so pharmaceutical companies have little to gain from funding such activities.
- Helpfully, our body has a very reliable internal meter: we should drink water whenever we are thirsty.
- UVA particles. These penetrate beyond the outer layer of our skin and cause damage to the deeper dermis. Over time this weakens the skin’s supporting layer of collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles, leathery skin and pigmented spots in a process known as photoageing.
- Although it contributes to tanning, UVA is not responsible for sunburn and was originally thought not to cause cancer. This is why it has traditionally been used in sunbeds. But evidence is beginning to show that UVA can initiate and accelerate skin cancer development, as well as speed up the ageing process.
- a suntan is not a sensible form of sun protection: it provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of around only 3
- Current research suggests that although many people who are severely sunburned as children never develop skin cancer, one blistering sunburn in childhood increases the risk of melanoma later on in life by 50 per cent.
- Once the DNA damage is done, the area of skin is particularly vulnerable throughout life.
- To have adequate protection while out enjoying, or working in, the sun requires all exposed skin of an average-sized adult to be covered with 35–45ml (the size of a golf ball or 6–8 teaspoons) of broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15
- A diet rich in colourful, carotenoid-containing vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes can marginally (but noticeably) deliver a golden glow, and the perceived attractiveness of one’s complexion after a carotenoid-rich diet is higher than for someone with a mild suntan.
- In 2018 a group of Canadian scientists from the University of Alberta discovered that visible blue light emitted from the sun could explain our winter weight gain.
- Vitamin D is unique amongst essential nutrients in that most of our needs are met through skin, not diet
- Vitamin D can also be obtained through diet. Foods high in this vitamin include oily fish and fortified dairy products, but it is tricky to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. Achieving an adequate daily dose of vitamin D without any sunlight would almost certainly require supplementation through tablets.
- The key to youthful skin is sun protection, and the most effective anti-ageing cream is sunscreen.
- Sugars in our diet bind to proteins to form AGEs (advanced glycation end products), which attach to collagen, making it brittle.
- Inadequate sleep harms our immunological, metabolic and mental health, which inevitably accelerates skin-ageing.
- with some studies suggesting that cheap moisturizers have exactly the same effect as their expensive, ‘anti-ageing’ counterparts.
- All that we can confidently assert is that psychological stress definitely affects the skin. It can worsen existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, alopecia and pruritus (the medical term for the symptom of itching) and it can give opportunistic microbes a foothold. It’s likely, then, that at some point your skin, too, has felt the stresses and strains of life.
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