Do you think of the skin merely as a covering for your body or as something to give you beauty? It serves a far greater purpose, however. Perhaps its greatest use is to help keep the inside of the body clean, thereby helping to keep the body strong and healthy.
How the Skin Works
What the skin is like.
The skin is made up of layers of tissue. The outer layer is known as the epidermis and the inner layer as the dermis. New cells in the skin are always being formed in the dermis. As these cells form they push the older cells outward toward the surface of the body. Thus the outer part of the epidermis is made up of flaky materials that constantly rub off. If you look at the skin under a microscope, you can see some of these cells. You will also see a number of openings. Some of these openings lead to oil glands located in the dermis. These glands secrete an oil which keeps the skin soft and pliable. Most of the openings, or pores, lead to sweat glands in the dermis. These sweat glands take up waste materials from the blood and carry them through the pores to the surface. Sweat is not made up entirely of waste materials. In fact, most of it is water which serves to flush the waste materials from the body.
Taking care of the skin from within.
In its work of removing waste materials, the skin works very closely with the kidneys. Together they remove most of the liquid waste materials from the body. What one does not do, the other must. Thus during the summer the sweat glands throw off more waste materials than during the winter. On the contrary, the kidneys usually work harder during the winter than during the summer. Also, if either the kidneys or the skin does not work properly, the other must do extra work. If the skin works too hard, pimples appear on the face and other parts of the body. The pimples may also be caused by clogged pores, which do not permit the waste materials to leave the body.
Eating the right kinds of foods and drinking plenty of water will do much to clear up the skin. The foods must be easy to digest and contain sufficient roughage to prevent constipation. When a person is constipated both the skin and the kidneys must work harder than usual. Water helps to dissolve the solid waste materials and to flush them out of the body before their poisons have a harmful effect.
Exercise is another means of keeping the skin in good condition. It increases the circulation of the blood, which in turn increases the flow of perspiration and thus helps to flush out the poisons. It may even open some of the pores that are clogged with dirt. It also helps the skin, because it helps to keep all the various parts of the body in good condition.
The skin, like any other part of the body, needs rest. During the day the skin may not be able to throw off the waste materials as fast as they are formed. At night when the body is at rest, it catches up with its work.
Taking care of the skin from without.
Have you ever examined your skin carefully before and after bathing? If so, you doubtless have noticed that it has a different appearance. It usually has a better color, is less oily, and has more open pores. Most people should have at least two warm baths every week. The bath should always end, if possible, with a dash of cold water. The warm water, along with soap, removes body odors and dirt, and the cold water closes the pores.
Warm water alone leaves the pores wider open than usual and causes a person to sweat more freely. Unless the pores remain somewhat closed for a while after a bath, a person may perspire so much that his body becomes chilled. Closing the pores also serves as a protection against cold weather. You should end your bath by rubbing the body briskly with a rough towel to increase the circulation of the blood near the surface and to remove bits of dead skin. Walking or moving about after a bath will also help to increase the circulation of the blood.
If a person bathes regularly with pure soap and water, he needs to think little of lotions and face creams. The most such things do is to open the pores, but water and soap do just as well and are often easier to use. Rubbing the skin with lotions and creams may also help somewhat to increase the circulation of the blood. Powders should be used very sparingly, as they clog the pores and thus tend to prevent the skin from doing its work in a satisfactory manner.
If a person is bathing at school or any other public place he should be very careful to avoid skin diseases. One of the most common skin diseases is “athlete’s foot,” which usually attacks the tender skin between the toes. Sometimes, however, it settles on the hands or other parts of the body. The best way to avoid the disease is to wear shoes when walking about in damp places or to dry the feet thoroughly with a clean towel before dressing. A person suffering from athlete’s foot, of course, should not use a public bath until he is completely cured.
Skin and Beauty
Making the appearance attractive. When the skin is doing its work well, it does much to give a person a pleasing appearance. A healthy skin is smooth, pinkish in color, and free from pimples. It is soft and pliable but is not so oily that the oil can be seen. In order to have a healthy appearance, of course, the skin must be clean.
Not only does the skin have much to do with personal appearance, but also the hair and finger nails, which are outgrowths of the skin. A person may not have a single beautiful feature, yet be attractive if he has a healthy skin, clean, glossy hair, and well-kept finger nails. Anyone, therefore, may be attractive if he gives attention to these parts of the body.
Taking care of the hair.
The condition of the hair depends somewhat upon the condition of the body. If the body is in good working order, the hair is likely to be healthy also. Like the skin, the hair should be washed. If the dirt is not washed out, the scalp becomes dry and scaly, and a person is said to have dandruff. The soap used in washing the hair should be a good liquid soap or toilet soap which makes plenty of suds. When the washing is finished, the hair should be rinsed several times to remove all the soap. Then it should be thoroughly dried with a towel. Special care should be taken not to go into the cold air until the head is dry, for this is an easy way to catch cold.
Not only should the hair be washed but it should also be brushed and combed regularly. This spreads the oil and gives the hair a smooth, glossy appearance. Usually the oil glands at the roots of the hair provide plenty of oil, but a little olive oil may be worked into the scalp if it seems to be dry. Brushing and combing are also needed to help the circulation of blood through the scalp. Plenty of blood is needed to carry food to the roots of the hair.
When going to a barber shop or beauty parlor, a person should be sure to select a place that is clean. A number of diseases may be spread if the towels and instruments are not kept clean. Usually barber shops and beauty parlors are inspected regularly by the government to make sure that they are perfectly safe.
Care of the hands.
Since the hands are used so much in handling things, they should be washed several times a day. One reason for washing them is to get rid of disease germs. This is especially important before eating and of course before cooking to prevent germs getting on foods and being carried into the mouth. Another reason for washing the hands is to keep them looking well. In general, people notice the hands more than any other part of the body except the face. This is because they are used so much in nearly everything that is done.
If the hands are to be truly clean, the nails must be given special care. They should be trimmed frequently so that there will be little room for dirt and germs to collect. It is better to trim them round or blunt rather than pointed, as rounded nails leave less space for dirt and are not so easily snagged. Of course, the nails should never be bitten, as it makes them unsightly and increases the danger of disease.
The care of the feet.
The toe nails should be cared for in much the same way as the finger nails. They should be kept short but should not be trimmed too short at the corners, as they may grow into the skin and cause sore places known as ingrowing nails. The feet must be bathed frequently because they often sweat more than most other parts of the body. After the bathing they should be carefully dried. A person should never wear tight or poorly-fitted shoes or stockings. To do so hinders the circulation of the blood and cramps the bones and muscles. It also causes corns, calluses, blisters, ingrowing nails, fallen arches, and even poor posture of the body as a whole. Wearing one pair of ill-fitting shoes may cause trouble for a long, long time. Taking care of the feet adds not only to comfort but also to the personal appearance.
Protecting the Skin
Wearing clothing for comfort. People in different parts of the world wear different kinds of clothing. Have you wondered why they do not all wear much the same kind? The Eskimos in the far North wear heavy clothes made from the skins of animals. The people in northern China, where the winters are extremely cold, wear heavy blankets. The Bedouins in the hot, sandy desert wear long, loose robes with capes to throw over their heads.
Thus you see that there is a close relationship between climate and clothes. Even in your own country the people wear clothing suited to warm and cold weather. In summer they wear clothing that is loose and well ventilated, to let out the heat of the body. In winter they wear heavy clothes to keep in the heat of the body. Used in this way clothing adds greatly to comfort.
Clothes are comfortable not only when they keep the body warm or cool but also when they fit well. They should be neither too tight nor too loose. If they are tight, they hinder the circulation of the blood and cramp the delicate organs of the body. If they are too loose, they hinder freedom of movement and may allow the body to slump because they give it little support. Therefore, a person should fit his clothes to his body, not his
body to his clothes. If a foot that needs a size 4A shoe is crowded into a size 3B shoe, it may grow corns and require a size 5B shoe for comfort.
Wearing clothes for cleanliness. Underclothes are worn chiefly to help keep the body clean by taking up the perspiration that comes from the skin. They should be made of materials that will absorb perspiration readily. They should be changed frequently so that the perspiration does not get through to the outer clothing. Moreover, if worn too long, they take on a disagreeable odor.
Underclothes should be washed often in warm, soapy water and dried in the sun to kill all the germs. Night clothes, too, should be washed often because they are worn next to the skin. The clothes that are worn during the day should be hung up in the open air at night, and the night clothes should be hung up during the day.
Special attention should be given to shoes and stockings. Since most shoes are air-tight the perspiration cannot escape and is taken up by the stockings. Therefore the stockings must be frequently washed.
Wearing clothes for style.
People wear clothes for appearance as well as for comfort and cleanliness. Often they dress according to style. Style means certain colors and shapes of clothes that are worn to make a person attractive. Style in the past has sometimes led people to wear clothes that were not good for the health. Women once thought it was necessary to wear shoes with high heels everywhere they went. They wore them to church, down town, and around the house. Fortunately, other women began to realize that shoes with low heels were more comfortable and looked better than shoes with high heels. For this reason, shoes with low heels are rapidly coming into style. In the same way, clothes that are suited to people’s needs are becoming more stylish than clothes that are worn merely to attract attention. Style today, then, includes both appearance and comfort.