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Understanding your skin, skin care and the Sun

Cosmetic Plastic Surgery and Rejuvenating Skin Care for Ashburn, Leesburg, and Reston Virginia

The skin is the largest organ of your body. It is a flexible, elastic organ that protects the inner environment of your body from the external surroundings. It also conserves your body's moisture and heat. For practical purposes, the skin has three top principal layers. The outer layer is known as the epidermis, the middle layer is known as the dermis and the inner layer is known as the subcutaneous layer. Associated with these top layers are the accessory structures, including the hair follicles, sebaceous (oil) glands and sweat glands. Other structures involved with the skin are nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels.

The outer surface top layer or epidermis is only about one-tenth of a millimeter thick in most parts of the body. The majority of the cells in this top layer are keratinocytes. These cells are created in the deepest part of this superficial layer and are pushed upward and outward as new younger cells are formed below them. By the time the older cells become the outer most layer, they are dead and are then sloughed off. The process of sloughing the old cells is usually balanced with the production of the new cells. This process usually takes about 6 weeks for the new cells to work their way up through the skin and become sloughed away. In aging skin, this process slows down, creating a roughened outer layer. Quality topical skin care can smooth and improve this top layer and help eradicate skin diseases and pre skin cancer conditions. It will help you can see that these changes will take time to have a lasting effect.

Another cell type that is found in the epidermis is the melanocyte. These cells are found scattered throughout the epidermis. The melanocytes are responsible for producing the protective pigments of the skin. They produce melanin granules. Their best function is to try and stop some of the harmful effects of the sun (ultraviolet radiation) from getter into the deeper layers of the skin. When they have years of repeated UV radiation they can undergo a change and become diseased or dysplastic. When the UV light stimulates the melanocyte, it becomes darker and produces a color change in the skin. Sometimes an area can have an uneven response and this results in darker areas of skin color in an irregular distribution. This is known as hyperpigmentation. Other names used to describe this condition are age spots and melasma. Conversely, when an area does not produce enough melanin, it is called hypopigmentation.

Age spots are flat, brown discolorations of the skin that frequently appear on the back of the hands, neck and face of people over the age of 40. These harmless discolorations have nothing to do with how old you are, they are the result of years of sun exposure. The hyperpigmentation of age spots represent an increased number of damaged melanocytes and melanin. It is important when evaluating the skin, skin cancer screening is preformed. Skin cancer screening is covered by most major medical insurances which are accepted in the office. Melanoma skin cancer and Squamous Cell skin cancer can metastasize to other organ systems in the body and may have severe consequences, including death.

Melasma is a fairly common hyperpigmentation disorder that causes dark, patches on the face. Melasma can be any size and is usually irregularly shaped and scattered in distribution. The discoloration often appears a shade of tan or brown but sometimes appears much darker or even dark red. The patches tend to darken as they are exposed to the sun and will often turn brown in the summer and fade in winter. This 'blotchy' look can actually be caused by several different factors aside from the UV light. Inflammation or hormonal changes often upset the melanocyte response. Topical treatments may calm down the melanocytes and this results in a more even color tone. Treatments of the melanocytes typically take about three months of daily topical applications for a response. With calming the skin's melanocytes down, there is less likely for the melanocytes to become dysplastic or diseased with skin cancer. Sunscreens are essential to maintain the benefits of treatments.

The dermis is comprised primarily of strong connective tissue fibers and elastic fibers. This network supports the epidermis. There are many blood vessels in this layer and these vessels nourish both the dermis and the epidermis. The connective tissue fibers are made from the cells known as fibroblasts. They produce both the collagen and the elastin. As you age, the fibroblasts diminish in size, experience a slow down in metabolic activity and have a low turnover rate. The elastic fibers loose a lot of the natural spring back effect. The skin can become more lax, wrinkled and thinned. If you damage your skin with sun exposure, the fibroblasts often grow erratically large and produce defective collagen. The elastin fibers are also abnormal and effected by the UV radiation. Quality topical skin care, under our direction, will actually penetrate to this layer and improve it. These medical products have been scientifically shown to be effective and have been validated by years of study and quality results.

In summary, quality skin care can help repair, restore and refine all layers of your skin. This process serves to treat, repair and prevent further skin diseases. Dr. Michael J. Brown and is medical aestheticians are experts in rejuvenating skin.

To learn more about how to care for your skin please click to visit our page on how to care for your skin. If you would like to learn about dermotology and the dermatologist, visit the dermatology page.