Healthy Skin Matters

What you know about your skin

Your skin is the organ that comes into contact with the rest of the world. It holds body fluids in, preventing dehydration (dee-hahy-DREY-shun), and keeps harmful microbes (MYE-krobs) out—without it, we would get infections. Your skin is full of nerve endings that help you feel things like heat, cold, and pain. If you couldn’t feel these things, you could get badly hurt and not even know it!

Why is healthy skin important?

Since your skin plays such an important role in protecting your body, you should keep it as healthy as you can. This will help you keep from getting sick or having damage to your bones, muscles, and internal organs.

What you might not know about your skin

Skin is actually your body’s largest organ by size. Your skin helps keep your body temperature even. If you get too hot, blood vessels near the surface of the skin, called capillaries (CAP-uh-ler-ees), enlarge to let the warm blood cool down.

Your skin also makes vitamin D (VYE-tuh-min D) when the sun shines on it. Vitamin D is important for the health of your bones and other parts of your body.

What can go wrong? How do I keep my skin more healthy? Definitions What can go wrong? You can injure your skin

It’s not too hard to injure your skin. So be careful when you’re doing anything that might injure it (like using sharp tools, working in the yard, or playing a sport). Cuts, bumps, and scrapes are a normal part of life. It wouldn’t be much fun if you tried to avoid them completely. But it’s smart to wear the right protective equipment, like gloves, long sleeves, knee and elbow pads, or helmets.

Be very careful when you’re around anything hot that can burn your skin. Burns, including sunburn, can be very painful and can take a long time to heal. Burns can also get infected easily. Sometimes, burns leave bad scars and permanently damage your skin. If you’re helping out in the kitchen, make sure you use hot pads or wear oven mitts to protect your hands when you’re grabbing something hot.

What to do when your skin is injured

If you do get a cut or scratch, clean it right away with soap and warm water and put on a bandage to protect it while it heals. This keeps dirt and germs from getting into the wound and causing an infection. If you come into contact with a plant like poison ivy, wash your skin and clothing right away. If you develop a rash, ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines. For severe rashes, you might need to see your doctor.

What to do about insect bites

Watch out for insect bites, too. Try not to scratch them, because they could get infected. Cover up your skin as much as possible when you will be in the woods, tall grass, or other areas where there may be ticks (small, 8-legged bugs). It helps to wear light-colored clothing, so you can see ticks before they have a chance to bite. Ticks can carry germs that will make you sick. If you find a tick attached to your skin, get a trusted adult to help you remove it.

Skin diseases

There are many diseases that can affect your skin. Some like vitiligo (vit-ill-EYE-go) cause the skin to lose its natural color, and some like alopecia areata (al-oh-PEE-shah ar-ee-AH-tah) can make the hair fall out. Another skin disease like epidermolysis bullosa (ep-ee-der-MOL-eh-sis bull-O-sa) can cause painful blisters. Psoriasis (suh-RYE-uh-sis) can cause itchy, scaly red patches. Go see your doctor if you think you might have a skin disease.

There are many false ideas about what causes acne.


Most teenagers get a skin disease called acne (AK-nee). The blackheads and pimples can be embarrassing and make you feel bad about your appearance, but keep in mind that almost everyone gets them at some point. Acne isn’t usually serious, but severe cases can cause scars that will last for years.

Acne is caused by bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes, often shortened to P. acnes and pronounced P. AK-nees), which live on everyone’s skin. Sometimes the follicles (FALL-lick-els) in the skin, where hair grows, become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, and the bacteria thrive. Then that spot on the skin may hurt, become swollen, red, and hot. Eventually the walls of the follicle break down and spill the oil, skin cells and bacteria into the nearby skin, and a pimple forms.

There are many false ideas about what causes acne. Chocolate and greasy foods are often blamed, but foods probably don’t have much effect on acne in most people. Another common myth is that dirty skin causes acne. But blackheads and other acne lesions are not caused by dirt. Stress doesn’t cause acne either, but for people who have acne, stress might make it worse.

If acne really bothers you, ask your parents about going to see a doctor. If your acne is not very bad, your family doctor may be able to give you medicines that will help to improve it. Or you might want to see a doctor who treats just the skin. These doctors are known as dermatologists (dur-muh-TOL-uh-jists). Dermatologists have a number of good treatments for acne.