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Is your skin keeping secrets?

Ever judge a book by its cover? We’ve all been there.

Appearing healthy, balanced, polished and poised is valued highly in most cultures, ours certainly being no exception. Superficial physical attributes often speak volumes (especially in the professional world) about attention to detail or the ability to balance tasks. Often our unconscious minds draw parallels and jump to conclusions based on one’s apparent ability to maintain their own business. Are we wrong? Sometimes. And sometimes we’re right. What’s most important though, is to recognize that our own outward appearance can give us signs about our overall health -- both physical and emotional.

It’s not just what’s inside that counts.

Outweighing the liver, at around 20 pounds, the skin is the largest human organ. Covering the body with an average surface area of approximately 21 square feet, the skin has important functions. It provides a barrier that protects us from bacteria and regulates our body temperature. Exposure of the skin to enough sunlight has health benefits; the sun enables our bodies to produce necessary vitamin D in a natural way.

Here’s why the hands are one of the fastest parts of the body to show age.

When outside in the western world (no matter what the current fashion trend) our hands and faces are almost always exposed to sunlight. This is the predominant reason why many of us will eventually notice brown patches known as liver spots on our hands and arms as well as face, neck, and shoulders -- areas of the body which are regularly exposed to the sun. While the exposure does help us to produce the valuable “Sunshine Vitamin” it is worth considering that our hands, faces and décolleté should not do the lion’s share of the job.

What do spots on your skin have to do with your liver?

It was once a commonly held myth that unsightly brown spots were symptoms of an ill-functioning liver, hence the name liver spots. While this has been well established as myth in the field of modern medicine, some controversy among the alternative health community still remains. Claims of clearing away liver spots on the skin with a remedy called a “liver flush” have not been substantiated and many who have tried this approach have been disappointed with the results (ie. the spots have not faded). Since there doesn’t seem to be any proof to support the practice of removing the unsightly spots using this approach, it could be safe to assume there’s no easy way to remove liver spots without resorting to expensive methods such as laser treatments or chemical peels which can cause serious discomfort and require recovery time of at least a week. Many fading creams are commercially available, though the results are notably less than spectacular.

If it’s not my liver, what causes liver spots?

Also known as age spots or sun spots, the proper medical name for liver spots is Solar Lentigines. They are harmless discolorations of the skin caused by several factors and the result of the human body’s overproduction of melanin (a dark natural pigment ) in a concentrated area. A few things can play a role, including genetics and age, however the primary cause of these highly pigmented areas is overexposure to the sun’s UV radiation.

Prevention, prevention, prevention.

Everyone knows the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and it’s still as true today as ever. This advice applies equally true when it comes to liver spots.

  • SPF Protection

Protect your frequently exposed areas daily, year round. Wear a sun hat in summer when gardening or at the beach, for example. If you are a person who does a lot of driving, consider wearing light gloves or a simple application of SPF 30 to hands and arms. As well, a little SPF under makeup every day can offer a layer of protection and serve as a base for your foundation, improving the application and smooth finish of your makeup. Broad spectrum sunscreens are best. Make sure you know the ingredients are safe. Heidi and Company offers a product called Creme d'Satin, available for order here.

  • Limit Sun Exposure

Be sensible and know your limits. Try to avoid working outside during the most intense hours of sunlight. Individuals with pale skin shades have less natural protection than those with higher concentrations of melanin and need to get out of the sun faster. All skin burns and there have been zero benefits found in sunburns.

  • Phototoxicity

Be aware of the ingredients in the medicines and beauty products you are using and how they may affect your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Certain prescriptions and essential oils are known to have sun-magnifying effects because of something natural they contain called furanocoumarins. This is important information if you use products that are designed to for us to “leave-on.” Bergamot is a wonderful essential oil and perhaps the best known example of an essential oil which increases sensitivity to sunlight. Check with your doctor for information on prescriptions you might be using and how they may affect your sun sensitivity.

As with anything, moderation is the key.

Enjoy the warmth and energy that is provided by the sun though be wise and protect yourself accordingly. Preventing brown spots is one key way to ensure that your appearance remains fresh and youthful for years to come. It’s in your hands.

Photo credit: rishibando / Foter / CC BY-NC

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