Gotta have “thick skin” in this world.
I find meaning behind that coined phrase…in more ways than one.
How thick is skin exactly? [Keep reading and you’ll get a visual.]
Answering that question depends who we examine; Age, gender, ethnicity, lifestyle, and area of examination will influence results. Licensed for professional skincare since 2008, I think it’s fair to say I’ve examined a lot of skin, and the results definitely do vary across the body, eyelids being the thinnest. Reports state skin is only 0.3 millimeters thick on your elbows and the back of your knees, and up to 4 millimeters thick on other parts of your body such as the soles of your feet and palms of your hands. Compare that to the neck, chest and face. Men’s skin is thicker, presumably why they don’t age as rapidly compared to women. That and hormones. To quote a moment of Science, “all skin is either classified as thick or thin…Thick skin is adapted to activities such as gripping, and the wear and tear that goes with that. Thus, it’s void of hair, and it’s thicker.”
Now, I dont want to get too technical with anatomy and physiology. I only want you to better understand this very deliberate design.
A quick outline of the skin’s layout: Two main layers; The outer (epidermis) and inner layer (dermis). The epidermis is (or what SHOULD BE) a more resilient defense against environmental aggressors, made up of 5 layers. Within the inner (two) layers are the living tissues responsible for the functions carried out by this specialized organ. If all those living structures were on the exterior and not protected by the epidermis, you can imagine how vulnerable they would be. To recap, that is 7 total layers. If you want a more specific outline and visual representation, click here.
When trauma occurs to the skin (and I’ll use that word loosely for now), the barrier may become blistered, broken, burned, cracked, cut, scraped etc. Anyone’s experience can attest to the fact that it will heal on its own from the inside out. This is pretty miraculous, considering we dont NEED to be a participant in this action. It surely helps to facilitate the healing, but it’s not required.
Depending how deep the trauma goes, those 7 layers will rebuild the best they can, one by one from the bottom up. The skin cells start out round, full, plump, cushioned, full of water, in perfect health. As they ascend they flatten, losing their water and hardening until they become the perfect protective coverings, our outermost layer; a shield, also known the “Stratum Corneum”. This is the layer targeted by our environment, pollution, OTC & Rx products, and professional facial services & at home remedies (performed in good faith). Thankfully, skin cells can withstand damage throughout the whole life cycle. There is quite a long list of influences to their developments.
Any esthetician can tell you average cell turnover rates are about 28 days, touting the necessity and benefits of exfoliation. While that turnover statistic is factual information, it does slow as we age. Is it truth that we must be such avid exfoliators, to combat this biological process? Check out this anti-exfoliation article from another skin therapist whose view on the matter aligns with my own. Of course, exfoliation does have its place, but doing too regularly and aggresively can cause its own set of problems. Another thing to consider: How many layers do we really get down to using products and procedures? Do you doubt that certain “chemicals” don’t make it all the way to the bloodstream via the skin?
Fast forward to Summer 2013. I was letting my dog pull me longboard skate boarding. Add in a speed wobble downfall. Extending my palm to brace the fall, I slid across the asphalt, losing what appeared to be a significant amount of skin. Between assuring a neighbor I was fine and getting home to pick the gravel out (yes, ouch), the bleeding subsided and already the healing process began.
If you’ve ever had an injury like this, then you know the clotting and yellowish crusting that builds on the surface of your fresh abrasion. This is the start of a scab, otherwise known as a hard, protective coating; shield. See where I’m going here? It’s a necessity.
At the time of that event, I was also treating a friend’s arm skin for a radiation burn due to cancer treatment. The radiation literally cooked his skin tissue down to open flesh. That was my introduction in oncology Esthetics. Looking back, it was the start of my deeper understanding in skin regeneration and all the factors that can influence the process, positively and negatively.
I’ll be 100% honest and say that I did not take proper precautions with this compromised skin. Being a professional, I knew better, but I remember impressive healing; this process was moving along quickly with additions of light therapy and various professional product topicals. Then, I had to forgo bandages when I realized I forgot to pack them and there was NOT enough time to run to the store. More negligence at the beach and not worrying too much about it because the salt water was “good for it”. I grew up on the seashore, salt water is good for EVERYTHING. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much environmental exposure would influence this fresh new skin’s development over the time to come. That area was sensitive to the heat of my shower for more than a year; 5 years later I can still see the outline and texture change around the borders of the exact spot.
My point in sharing these photos and that (perhaps irrelevant) story, is to illustrate the necessity of thick skin in a literal sense. This world is tough. We are bombarded by antibacterial handsoaps, dishsoaps, shower products, cleaning products, labor; Our bodies and faces too. We are under the impression that a “good” skincare routine must consist of many products with active and performance ingredients that boast resurfacing, renewing, reviving…
The truth is that we USE and DO too much, and many of these ingredients are known to be aggressive and disruptive of the barrier. Peeling, blading, abrading, needling, lasering, and whatever else-ing the skin down to it’s now unprotected layers is not advisable for age prevention.
I say it a lot, and I’ll say it again; Less is More. Keep in touch. <3