Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Does Skin Do?

We see our skin everyday and we always read about it being the largest organ of the body, but what exactly does it do? It must do something if it is an organ. What is the role of skin? Here are seven important physiological roles for skin.

1. Regulation of Body Temperature (Thermoregulation). The skin helps the body maintain its desired temperature of 98.6F or 37C. It does this by dilating (opening or enlarging) blood vessels on the surface to release heat, or by constricting blood vessels to retain heat. A second way is by secreting sweat which evaporates on the skin's surface so that in evaporating it has a cooling effect. Finally, the hypodermis layer of the skin provides insulation to maintain heat. The hypodermis is the deepest layer of skin under the dermis and is composed mostly of fat .

2. Protection. The skin is physical barrier that prevents not only bacteria, viruses, and fungi from entering the body but also keeps most things from the environment or that you put on your skin from entering the body. Yes, you may have heard differently but the skin absorbs very little of what goes on it. This is often called the Skin Barrier Function and it provides a barrier between the inside of the body and the outside of the body. If the skin surface becomes compromised, however, due to abrasion, pathogens and toxin can enter the body more easily.

Besides preventing things from getting into the body, the skin also prevents water from leaving the body thus preventing dehydration. In situations like severe burns to the body, preventing excessive dehydration becomes a major, life threatening challenge.

3. Sensation. The skin is a sensory organ that we use to evaluate the outside environment. Receptors in the skin transmit information on temperature, pain and pressure.  In some cases this can be very enjoyable, even sexual.

4. Excretion. Through the process of sweating the skin can secrete products of metabolism from the body as well as drugs and toxins. The skin also contains enzymes that process toxins helping to break them down.

5. Immunity. Cells of the immune system called Langerhans cells can be found in the skin ready to be called into action when necessary to prevent infection. The skin also participates in the inflammatory response to protect the rest of the body from potential pathogens.

6. Blood Reservoir. Approximately 8-10% of the total blood volume of the body resides in the skin. When necessary this blood can be sent to the skeletal muscles to increase oxygen and nutrients there when needed it is directed to the more central parts of the body to maintain warmth.

7. Endocrine gland.  The skin acts as an endocrine gland by making hormone vitamin D or more specifically vitamin D3 from 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), a process that requires sunlight or UVB radiation. This vitamin D3 is then sent to the liver for additional processing. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium from the intestines as well as other less defined roles.

Want to learn more about skin physiology? You can purchase our downloadable class notes here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Transitioning into Winter

We had our last market yesterday; the Boulder County Farmers Market Holiday Market. I readily let out a big sigh of relief when markets end. Its hard work packing things up every Friday and then getting up early every Saturday to set up at Farmers Market. However. Even though we love getting to meet new people every week and show off our Colorado Aromatics products every Saturday, come December I am more than ready to call it quits and start to focus on my own family and our Christmas.

This week we will cut a tree down from our yard, bring up the boxes of decorations from the basement, put up outdoor lights if the weather permits. I'll need to think of Christmas gifts for my husband and two boys (any ideas?) and drop hints for what I want (which of course I don't know, I really just want to spend good time with my family relaxing). This year will be special as 3 of my siblings will be visiting. I wish they all could but its rare to get everyone together. I'll have fun coming up with things we can do around town and surrounding areas. Maybe we'll even go skiing for a day.

Since we had our major frost I haven't had a chance to roll up the drip tape in our field, nor have I cleaned out the goat pen. So although the work load may be lighter for growers in the winter, it never goes away. In the extra time I might find, I hope to formulate new products, read some books (both fiction and non-fiction), figure out an exercise routine, and maybe do some knitting.

I'm well stocked on herbs this year and might experiment with some nice herbal tea recipes. I'd like to use lemon balm more. I'm attracted to its gentle citrus taste/aroma. It is used as a nervine to renew and strengthen the nervous system. For me, its a good uplifting herb for this transition time into winter. This is the tea I am planning to make tonight:

Lemon Balm Tea
1 part lemon balm
1/4 part chamomile
1/8 part orange peel
1/8 part oatstraw
pinch of lavender

Friday, November 14, 2014

Beneficial Ingredients for Skin Care

What to look for in skin care.

I get tired of all the negative press skin care products get and hearing about what should not be in there. Lets look at the beneficial ingredients of skin care and what you should be looking for on your label. Here are a few. 

Natural Vegetable oils. I think it’s better to have natural vegetable oils in a skin care product because they offer the skin a variety of necessary fatty acids that the skin needs to maintain its barrier function. Good vegetable oils include olive oil, meadowfoam oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil and more.

Water. Water is an important part of a moisturizer because only water can moisturize. An all oil product helps hold in water and softens the skin but it of course cannot add water or moisture to the skin.

Preservative. Preservative free is a big trend now but just like food, anything you keep for more than a day or so requires preserving.  You can make a nice bowl of soup using fresh ingredients from your garden and it tastes great when you make it. But you would never leave it on your dresser and take a bite each night for the next few months. A non-preserved skin care product that you might make at home such as a mask is great to use immediately, but it needs to be preserved if you are not planning to use it up within a few days. It is just not safe to use an unpreserved product and you are putting yourself at risk for an infection.

Something extra.  There are many extras for skin care products from humectants to herb extracts and higher end ingredients such as peptides. Depending on what you want from your product you might want to look for these.

Humectants. Does your product contain a humectant? Something that binds water? This could be glycerin, hyaluronic acid, honey or caprylyl glycol. 

Vitamins. Vitamins are popular in cosmetics and might include vitamin E, vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C is unstable and so is often found as vitamin C ester. Vitamin A is often masked in another oil that is high in vitamin A such as parsley, pumpkin or calendula flower extracts. These vegetable sources of vitamin A are actually a provitamin A called carotenoids. Vitamin B has several family members seen in skin care products including Vitamin B3 (niacin) often seen as niacinamide and Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid. Vitamin B deficiency can result in redness, irritation, dermatitis and hyperpigmentation.

Peptides. Peptides are made in a lab but made by green chemistry meaning they it does not use or produce hazardous substances. 

Read your labels and look for something extra in your skin care. Natural skin care products can and should contain actives. And if you can't pronounce it, just ask - its not an indicator of toxicity.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Apples, Apples

We are having a great apple harvest this year so they seem a perfect topic for a blog.
Facts: an apple has about 60-95 calories depending on size, no fat, and 25 gram of carbohydrate (4.4 g of which are fiber!). Applies also contain potassium vitamin C, vitamin B-6, magnesium as well as some vitamin A, calcium and protein.

Apples are rich in polyphenols (flavonoids) that help regulate blood sugar and are also antioxidants. Apples also contain malic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid, is used for exfoliating the skin. Which means a facial mask of applesauce would be awesome. Someday I’ll learn how to extract the malic acid from apples so that I can use it in a skin care product.

Research indicates that ingesting apples decreases the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer. The benefits of apples seem to have a special affinity for the lungs because they have been found to decrease the risk of asthma too.  But apple consumption can also lower your risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

On our farm we grow Honeycrisp, Akane, Golden Delicious and Gala apples all of which are delicious. Since we do not use any pesticides on our apples we get some wormy apples. These go to the goats and horses or into the compost pile where they provide needed moisture.

John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, had a dream to plant apples across the country so that no one would go hungry. When I see apple trees growing wild I always wonder if it was one that he planted. Maybe you’ll consider planting an apple tree in your yard.
Do you  remember this favorite song from childhood:

Oh, the Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed;
The Lord is good to me.


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