Many people think that skin care is only a cosmetic issue, but the reality is that skin health and overall health are linked. Inflammation in the body can translate to inflammation in the skin, leading to a variety of skin issues. This article looks at skin and immunity which impact each other.
Skin Health and Immunity
Aesthetic professionals see many skin problems in those with increased inflammation. As immune processes are activated, inflammation goes up and inflammation is pro-aging.
Aesthetic professionals should understand how the skin and immunity are related. A healthy skin barrier forms part of the body’s immune system. Within the skin are cells of immunity called Langerhans cells, a type of mast cell. Many messages are passed back and forth throughout the skin when immunity and inflammatory processes are activated.
Humoral immunity, which produces antibodies, constitutes a significant part of the immune system. Antibodies are proteins that recognize and bind to invading micro-organisms and the antigens on and within them. A chemical reaction occurs between antibodies and antigens that improves the immune response, helping to defeat the micro-organisms. In the future, the body remembers this reaction, helping it to fight more quickly against invaders.
Cellular immunity uses cells, like lymphocytes, to engulf micro-organisms and kill them. Cytokines are messenger molecules used by both the cellular and humoral branches of immunity. Most cytokines increase inflammation, although some decrease it. If someone’s skin exhibits a lot of swelling, then there are many inflammatory cytokine messengers present.
How Antibodies Are Produced
Antibodies are produced in several steps to fight antigens that are invading the body. Some antibodies become activated immediately upon recognizing a foreign substance, such as a virus or bacteria, but most are produced after the body recognizes a foreign invader that it “knows” and has seen before. First, the antigen breaches the skin barrier and enters the body. A healthy skin barrier makes this more difficult. Various parts of a micro-organism are composed of proteins (antigens) that the immune system recognizes as foreign. Antibodies are produced in large numbers against the foreign antigens. Antibodies bind to antigens, forming antigen-antibody complexes. Cytokines are released and call in more antibodies and cells of immunity. Inflammation increases throughout these events.
In the future, should the same antigen enter the body, it will be recognized as foreign and neutralized more quickly. The production of antibodies to fight the invaders continues until the antigens are overwhelmed. As this fight continues, other parts of the immune system, including cellular components, become activated and are recruited for the immune war.
At the end of this process is latent immunity, a condition in which some antibodies remain and can easily multiply to fend off the same invader, should it return. If the antigen returns, the immune system will be able to act much more quickly this time around.