The largest organ of the body, the skin, has one of the most important protective functions of the body. This protective function can be disrupted or compromised by trauma or disease. Therefore, the skin’s ability to heal is essential to preserve health and prevent effects on other organs and overall health.
Fortunately, the skin has built within it the capacity to heal itself from mild to moderate insults in order to ensure its many indispensable functions.
The Skin’s Function
In addition to acting as a protective barrier, the skin is crucial in a number of other functions that preserve life and health.
The skin provides mechanical support to the body and has a role in body temperature regulation, maintenance of body fluid balance, filters excessive passage of sun-related radiation, and protects from the passage of toxic substances to internal organs.
The skin also has a very important role in the excretion of toxic substances and metabolites during sweating.
The skin is a crucial sensory organ that relays information from the environment, including heat and cold perception, touch, and even emotional stimuli. It also helps in metabolic processes and provides necessary nutritional vitamin D synthesized from the precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol with sun exposure.
Immune system functions also take place in the skin by way of immune cells that seize and transport invading microorganisms to the immune system’s T cells for destruction.
Basic Effects of Minor Skin Trauma and Conditions
As the protective covering of the body, the skin is one of the most vulnerable organs to illness and trauma. Many of these include abrasions, burns and cuts, skin infections, allergy related itching and rashes, and serious conditions such as cancer.
The skin also responds to illnesses such as hormonal imbalances, diet-induced poor health, metabolic diseases, stress, and more.
Although it is difficult for the skin to heal itself from some of the serious conditions such as cancer and extensive burns and lacerations, it has the ability to self-heal from minor to moderate conditions.
Healing Mechanisms of the Skin
The skin is an extraordinary organ that has the capacity to self-heal in many circumstances. There are certain types of skin damage that may surpass what one may consider to be moderate damage.
Even in these cases, the skin can often overcome this and manage to heal. This ability is possible due to the skin’s stem cells. Skin stem cells can self-renew and convert into different skin cell types.
These cells are essential in the constant skin turnover and renewal process and contribute to the growth of new skin in response to damage.
Inflammation is a common result of skin injury. Inflamed skin appears red, swollen, and can be painful and warm to the touch. However, deeper injuries that involve the dermis layer can lead to bleeding and classic inflammatory actions of various cell types.
Some of these cells help to form clots to control bleeding, and others have an immune function to prevent infection. Scabs form over the injured skin to protect and promote healing.
A process called contraction takes place to bring the margins of the skin defect close together to more easily fill the gap and close the skin well. Extensive damage seen in severe burns and lacerations, for example, need additional more extensive medical interventions.
For many minor and moderate cases, there are natural substances or products that can safely help the skin perform its natural healing functions.
Natural Skin-Healing Aids
There are a number of well-known skin healing aids, but the most used and better-known substances include aloe vera (non alcohol-based), witch hazel, and arnica.
Aloe vera is often the go-to substance for sunburns. This gel can be taken directly from the plant by breaking a leaf and using the gel secreted to topically apply to minor skin wounds, burns, and areas of psoriasis.
There are products formulated with aloe and other beneficial natural products. Due to the anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties of aloe, it can help relieve skin irritation.
Witch hazel is an extract from the leaves and bark of witch hazel plants (Hamamelis virginiana). It has traditionally been used as a toner and astringent. However, it also has properties that bolster skin healing.
It is used to alleviate numerous skin conditions including burns (also sunburns), abrasions, insect bites, and even psoriasis and eczema. As in the case of aloe vera, the alcohol-free form has more benefits since the negative effects of alcohol on the skin can be prevented.
Another plant product, arnica, has been used and studied for its medicinal properties. Although this plant’s products are considered toxic when ingested in high concentrations, it is used for ingestion in homeopathy in very diluted amounts.
However, its topical use on the skin have been documented and shown to have positive effects on healing various skin conditions. Using arnica montana products demonstrates its effects as antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
Given these characteristics, arnica has been used to help relieve muscle aches, reduce inflammation caused by insect bites, and assist in skin wound healing. The compound contains a number of health-promoting substances including lactones, flavonoids, carotenoids, essential oils, and more [4,5].
The skin has its own built-in healing system that can be given a beneficial boost with natural plant-based substances that favor the healing of skin ailments.
The scientific community has explored these possibilities and confirmed various medicinal properties of many of these natural substances including those previously discussed in this article.
Boosting the natural healing process provides the opportunity to restore the injured skin to its natural state and help people with chronic skin conditions find relief.
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