The skin reflects your general health and social behaviour. Situations which affect your health can have an important effect on your skin, for example, cigarette smoking causes ageing and wrinkling of the skin with time. If your skin changes suddenly and with no apparent reason it may be a sign of ill health, e.g. the sudden onset of dry skin with coarse hair and weight gain may mean your thyroid gland is underactive.
How to keep skin healthy?
Keeping the skin clean is important to prevent infections and odours but excess washing can particularly in people with a tendency to dry skin already, cause loss of oil in the outer layers of the skin and provoke dermatitis. Similarly, chemicals such as petrol, white spirit and detergents can cause dry and damaged skin leading to hand dermatitis. This is a large cause of illness related to occupation; people, particularly at risk, are those who have their hands in and out of the water a lot, such as hairdressers, nurses, mechanics etc. The young and the elderly have more sensitive skin because their barrier is less well-formed. People who have had eczema, asthma or hay fever as children are more prone to these problems in adult life.
The major cause of ageing of our skin is ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet causes pigmentation changes e.g. liver spots or sunspots, broken blood vessels, thinning of the dermis and wrinkling of the skin. In order to prevent this, the protection of the skin against ultraviolet light is required. Certain skin types are more susceptible to these effects. Most at risk are those with fair skin that burns easily.