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Maintaining Your Skin

Ever wonder how clean your skin really is? Dead skin cells are continually sloughing off the epidermis. Sweat and gland secretions are excreted continually in your skin, and dust, dirt, and other environmental pollutants land on your skin all day long. Together, these create a filthy layer on the skin’s surface. Minimizing this layer of grime will help your skin’s complexion shine, allow your skin’s functions to work properly, and reduce the chance of infection, inflammation, or acne.

A layer of dirt on the skin blocks some of the skin’s functions, including the production of antibacterial compounds. Unclean skin is a good environment for the growth of bacteria, which can lead to infection (not to mention an unpleasant odor). Proper hygiene practices can prevent dirt from accumulating on the skin, and wearing season-appropriate clothing can help sweat on the skin properly evaporate. Nutrition can also offer the skin healthy oils (e.g., monounsaturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids) to promote a balanced, healthy moisture level.

Note, however, that none of these practices can prevent the presence of microorganisms on the skin. The skin supports its own ecosystem of microorganisms, including yeasts and bacteria. One square inch (25 mm) of skin holds up to 500 million microorganisms. If this makes you squeamish, you must realize that despite the staggering quantity of microorganisms, their volume is only about the size of a pea. Not all microorganisms are harmful—in fact, some, known as probiotics, help keep the bad microbes in check and help the skin stay healthy.

Stress, travel, changes in diet, and antibiotic use can disrupt the balance of microorganisms on the skin and in the body and can lead to red, puffy skin and even acne and psoriasis. Changes in the skin’s balance of microorganisms can decrease the number of helpful probiotics and allow bad microbes, like yeast, to grow and cause great discomfort. A proper diet can contribute to a healthy ecosystem of microorganisms on your skin.

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