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Learning About Your Skin

The three layers of skin

What does your skin do?

Your skin protects you from the environment around you. It helps keep infection and toxins out of your body. It also helps your body stay at a constant temperature.

Nerve endings in your skin make it possible to feel sensations, such as hot and cold or pain.

The skin has three layers:

  • The epidermis, which is the layer you see.
  • The dermis, which is below the epidermis.
  • The subcutaneous tissue, which is below the dermis.

What problems can happen to your skin?

Skin problems include:

  • Viral, fungal, and bacterial infections, such as cold sores, warts, shingles, boils, ringworm, and athlete's foot.
  • Skin growths, such as moles, skin tags, and seborrheic keratoses. Skin tags are unsightly but harmless growths that show up in skin folds. Seborrheic keratoses are slightly raised tan spots that may look like warts but are almost always harmless.
  • Conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.
    • Psoriasis (say "suh-RY-uh-sus") is a long-term skin problem that causes thick, white, silvery, or red patches of skin.
    • Eczema is a group of long-term skin problems that may cause itching, small bumps that look like blisters, and thickened and scaly skin.
    • Rosacea (say "roh-ZAY-shuh") is a skin disease that causes redness and pimples on your nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead.
  • Symptoms from food allergies, drug allergies, and other allergies. Symptoms include rashes and hives.
  • Skin cancer, such as melanoma, basal cell cancer, and squamous cell cancer.

How can you prevent skin problems?

To help with dry skin:

  • Shower or bathe in warm or lukewarm water. Don't shower too often—no more than once a day. Wash your skin gently.
  • Use a mild skin cleanser rather than soap. A skin cleanser, such as Aveeno, Dove, or Neutrogena, can help protect your skin's natural moisture barrier.
  • Pat your skin dry after a bath or shower.
  • Apply a moisturizer right away, such as Aquaphor or Eucerin. Apply moisturizer several times a day. Use moisturizer on your hands, especially if you must wear gloves often or if the air is dry where you live.
  • Consider using a humidifier if the air inside your home is very dry. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Protect your lips with a lip balm that contains petroleum jelly or mineral oil.

To make skin infection less likely:

  • Avoid squeezing any lumps that form under the skin.
  • Wash soon after doing things that cause you to sweat.
  • Avoid skin care products that contain oil, which may clog your pores. Instead, use water-based skin care products. Read the labels on products and look for the terms oil-free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic.

To protect your skin from the sun:

  • Try to stay out of the sun, especially from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on any exposed skin.
  • Don't forgot to use sunscreen on the back of your hands.
  • Do not use tanning booths and sunlamps, which give off ultraviolet radiation and can cause skin damage and may increase the risk of skin cancer.

For general skin health:

  • Eat healthy foods. Your skin benefits when you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains. It's also important to eat foods that contain protein.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. The chemicals in cigarettes can make your skin age faster. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Manage stress. Stress can make some skin conditions worse.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.