"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Ignore the body's defense system

Make essentially the most of your skin barrier to forestall certain varieties of diseases. Tip: It pays to moisturize.

Picture this: You're the military commander of a corps, and also you're reviewing your security forces. Immune system? Check. Stomach acid? Check. Beneficial Gut Bacteria? Check.

Don't forget to incorporate your skin: it's crucial bastion within the fight against disease, stopping harmful organisms and substances from entering the body.

Unfortunately, our skin weakens as we age, and it takes more work to maintain it healthy. If you're busy tending to other health issues or unsure about the way to handle your skin, this task can take a back seat.

With infections on everyone's minds, it's time to concentrate on the skin and strengthen its defenses.

Important troops

The skin consists of three layers:

  • The deepest layer (subcutaneous tissue) is made up of connective tissue and fat, and provides insulation, energy storage, and shock absorption.
  • The next layer (dermis) incorporates collagen and elastin, blood vessels, nerves, sweat and oil glands, and hair follicles.
  • The top layer (epidermis) is designed to be a barrier. It consists of 5 distinct layers, each with cells growing constantly to the highest of the epidermis, called the stratum corneum—the skin we are able to see and a significant a part of the body's defenses.

Within the stratum corneum are as much as 30 layers of flat, dead, protein-rich cells that mix with fat and water to form a variety of brick-and-mortar matrix. It maintains moisture within the body and protects us from toxins, ultraviolet rays and bacteria.

Weak defense

Overuse of certain medications — corresponding to topical, oral, or inhaled steroids — may thin the skin, says Dr. Arndt. Inflammatory skin disorders, corresponding to eczema (atopic dermatitis), can reduce the quantity of fat within the stratum corneum, weakening the skin barrier.

And frequent hand washing or cleansing with solvents or alcohol in hand sanitizers can dry out the skin and damage the skin's surface. “The skin becomes dry because the soap can wash away the oils in the skin,” says Dr. Arndt.

In other words, what we’d like to do to guard our health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is concurrently endangering the health of the skin on our hands.

Threats of attack

Dry, thin skin is more permeable than plump, healthy skin, and it could crack or tear as easily as tissue paper. “Anytime the skin is cracked or excessively dry, it's an opening for an organism to get in and cause problems,” noted Dr. Arndt. They say the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 doesn’t spread through the skin. But other varieties of bacteria could make us sick in the event that they break the skin barrier, e.g Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes.

These worms could cause a variety of infection within the skin tissue called cellulitis. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, causing fever or swelling, and increasing the chance of sepsis and hospitalization. Strong antibiotics are needed to fight back.

Rally the troops.

Before you end up in the course of a battle, attempt to strengthen your defenses. Dr. Arndt says one of the simplest ways is to lock in moisture. “When you add moisture, the skin becomes thicker and more elastic,” he says. “The trick is keeping it that way.”

He recommends moisturizing your skin immediately after you shower or wash your hands (which adds water to your skin). “Petroleum jelly is great at sealing in water, but it's not aesthetically pleasing,” explains Dr. Arndt. “Creams contain water, oil and emulsifiers to mix the ingredients together for ease of application. But things that aren't greasy don't work as well or as long.”

Here are another options:

Skin cream with ceramides. Ceramides, a variety of fat, are a vital component of the stratum corneum.

Moisturizing oils, corresponding to mineral oil. They have the effect of petroleum jelly without the greasiness.

Products with humectants. These substances help bind water to the skin for absorption. Ingredients to search for: glycerin, urea, pyroglutamic acid, sorbitol, lactic acid, -lactate salts, or alpha hydroxy acids.

Other plans of attack

In addition to moisturizing your skin throughout the day, Dr. Arndt recommends avoiding sun exposure and using sunscreen when outdoors.

He also recommends getting a humidifier so as to add moisture to the air, especially in the autumn and winter when humidity is low and dry air sucks moisture away out of your skin.

And while staying hydrated is important to the health of all cells within the body, Dr. Arndt says it's essential to forestall the skin from losing water with creams, oils, and humectants. Drinking an excessive amount of water won’t hydrate the skin.

Photo: © VladimirFloyd/Getty Images