All about the skin: myths and truths about skin health

With its almost 2 m² of extension and 5 kg of weight, the skin is the largest organ of the body.

It is divided into two main layers (epidermis and dermis) and fulfills many functions, such as keeping the body’s structures intact, acting as a protective barrier, and functioning as a communication system with the environment. As with other organs, the way to care for it is often surrounded by many erroneous beliefs. Here we review and give answers to the most popular myths.

Myth 1: All skins are the same

TRUE: There are many types of skin, which in turn are influenced by different factors: food, regional and genetic. Experts usually divide skin types into four broad categories:

  • normal skin: “Normal” is a term that is widely used to refer to well-balanced skin.
  • Oily skin: It is characterized by its thickness, dull appearance and dilated pores, which is generally due to an excess of an oily substance called sebum.
  • Dry Skin: called xerosis, it is defined by the sensation of those who suffer from it. In these cases the skin is usually tense, pale and cracked. The reasons range from poor hydration, a dry environment, not washing your hands frequently or suffering alterations in the hydrolipidic layer that protects the skin (made up of water and sebum).
  • Mixed skin: This case arises from alterations in the susceptibility of the skin depending on the areas of the face. The areas with the greatest presence of fat are usually the forehead, nose and chin, which is known as the T zone. The rest of the skin can vary between a normal or dry state.
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Myth 2: What we eat has no effect on skin health

TRUE: This is not true, since food is essential to obtain energy and develop, so it directly impacts skin health. The strength, shine, elasticity, presence of wrinkles or blemishes, and speed of recovery of the skin, will depend on the and the amount of nutrients that are part of our diet.

  • What product should you use according to your skin type?

Health professionals recommend diets rich in vitamins C, D, E, and K, healthy fats, and fluids, while reducing fatty, salty, and sugary foods, as well as excess caffeine and alcohol.

Myth 3: Smoking does not affect the skin

TRUE: This is another common myth, largely because the damaging effects of tobacco are often concentrated in the lungs or heart. However, nicotine can cause a narrowing of the blood vessels in the layers of the skin (especially the outermost: epidermis). This hinders blood flow to the skin, so it doesn’t get enough oxygen and important nutrients to stay healthy, like vitamin A.

In addition to affecting blood vessels, tobacco (along with the more than 4,000 chemicals that can be found in its smoke) damages collagen and elastin, substances that guarantee strength and elasticity to the skin.

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Myth 4: Exposure to the sun is always bad for the skin

TRUE: All sun exposure can cause some degree of damage to the skin, however, this does not mean that it is always bad for skin health. On the contrary, specialists usually recommend moderate exposure to sunlight as this is essential to boost the synthesis of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is key to strengthening defenses, helping to absorb calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, improving the functioning of the muscular and nervous systems, preventing bone diseases and protecting mental health. In addition, exposure to UV rays from the sun has anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial against some skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema and itching.

To safely reap these benefits, be sure to wear high-factor sunscreen, dress appropriately, and stay in the shade between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Myth 5: Wounds need air to heal

TRUE: This is another widespread myth, since, on the contrary, skin wounds heal better in a clean and moist environment. This is because cells migrate better to initiate and continue recovery in a moist environment in the early stages of healing.

Keeping a wound covered with an ointment and bandages, as long as there is no infection, is ideal. However, towards the end of the healing process (once new connective tissue has formed) air can be helpful in finalizing the recovery.

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Myth 6: Having a dirty face causes acne

TRUE: Acne is caused by a complex interaction of hormones and skin, not dirt. So no, having a dirty face doesn’t necessarily cause acne, unless that dirt is from oily substances like hair pomade or oily makeup.

Myth 7: Daily exfoliation is mandatory for healthy skin

TRUE: Exfoliation is a process of cell renewal, which consists of removing dead cells, dirt and impurities that accumulate on the surface of the skin. For this, different products or compounds can be used, such as exfoliating brushes, sponges or gloves, alpha-hydroxy acids or beta-hydroxy acids.

Despite its popularity, it is not an essential treatment to maintain healthy skin. On the contrary, if this process is carried out repeatedly, there is a risk that it will damage the natural barrier of the skin, putting it in danger of many damages and conditions.

Myth 8: Using antibacterial soap is best for the skin

TRUE: The skin’s natural microbiome is vital to maintaining healthy skin. Constant use of antibacterial soaps can upset that balance and increase your risk of many conditions. Therefore, except in special situations, such as working in medical care or handling food, this product should not be used to protect the skin.

Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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