Exploring the skin’s purpose in whole-body health

Exploring the skin’s purpose in whole-body health

Reference Lab

JAN 12, 2023

All it takes is a strained muscle or a bad case of the flu to remind us just how grateful we should be to live in healthy bodies. But most of us tend to take our health for granted. Rarely do we take a second to marvel at our rapid brain function or say a little thank-you to our constantly beating hearts. In fact, we may not think about our organs at all until we begin to notice changes in how they’re functioning.

But one organ in particular has perhaps the most thankless job: our skin. The largest organ in our bodies–and arguably one of the most important–skin has long been disregarded as simply aesthetic window dressing. For decades, skin health has almost exclusively been a matter of appearances, with interventions focused on the look of skin rather than its essential functions.

The fact remains that skin is absolutely essential to whole-body health. From protecting our vulnerable interior against external pathogens to maintaining core body temperature, skin health is so much more than skin deep. So is it time for us to change the way we think about our skin?

Here at OneSkin, we believe that it is. Join us as we take a closer look at the way our skin health impacts our whole-body wellness – and what we can all do to honor, protect, and care for this vital organ.

What are the skin’s core functions?


Even if your skin is sensitive, it is still a very powerful shield. Beneath our skin, our body is incredibly vulnerable to outside aggressors like bacteria and UV rays. Our first line of defense against pathogens and physical injury, the epidermis keeps bacteria, viruses, and other damaging elements from entering our bodies unchecked.1 In fact, our epidermis contains a special kind of immune cells called Langerhans cells, which determine the appropriate immune response to foreign substances on the skin – activating other immune cells when they detect pathogens.2

The skin’s protective features don’t end there. Oils created in the dermis prevent your skin from absorbing too much water when you take a bath or go for a swim–protecting against external environmental factors that might otherwise throw off the body’s delicate balance. Plus, fat in the deeper layers of the skin protects our muscles and bones from injury–especially important when we fall or get cuts and lacerations.1
We all grow older. Our skin doesn’t have to. Learn more!


In addition to protecting our body against the elements, the skin also plays many important roles in regulating the delicate internal environment required for optimal health.

One of the most important functions of skin is regulating our internal body temperature. Blood vessels in the dermis help keep our body temperature steady by dilating or constricting during times of intense heat or cold. This allows more or less blood to pass through the vessels near the skin surface, either releasing or retaining the body’s heat in the process. Another important way that skin helps regulate body temperature is by hosting our hair follicles and sweat glands. Both hair and sweat help regulate our body temperature in response to heat, cold, and stress. 3

In addition to temperature regulation, our skin also helps us maintain optimal internal hydration levels. Our bodies are about 55-60% water and water is essential to everything from brain function to new cell formation.4 The outermost layer of the skin–the stratum corneum–is a relatively waterproof barrier that not only keeps excess water out but also helps keep moisture inside our bodies–ensuring we have enough water to support essential organ function. 3

Finally, the skin plays a critical role in whole-body health by participating in vitamin D synthesis. While we can get vitamin D from some food sources, most of the vitamin D we need is created in the skin as a result of sun exposure. Because vitamin D impacts a number of the body’s essential processes, the skin’s role in vitamin D synthesis helps regulate whole-body health. Insufficient vitamin D levels are linked to bone weakness, hormonal imbalances, and muscle spasms.5


Consider the last time you touched a hot pan or accidentally pricked your finger while trimming roses. Just minor injuries, right? Now think about what those injuries might have been if you hadn’t felt that first flash of heat or sting to let you know to draw your hand away. This is the importance of skin’s sensory functions.

As our primary sensory organ, skin helps us interact with the outside world: sensing both painful and pleasant stimuli to help us avoid injury and gather vital information about the things we touch. Some areas of our skin–including the fingertips and toes–contain more nerve endings so they can send the brain more information about the things we touch or step on.4

How does skin health affect our whole-body wellness?

Each of three primary functions of skin–protection, regulation, and sensation–plays a vital role in maintaining whole-body health. In addition to the factors like vitamin D synthesis and protection against external aggressors, skin plays an important role as the largest organ in our bodies.

Because the skin is our most exposed organ, it is especially susceptible to extrinsic aging factors. As our skin starts to age, it begins to accumulate senescent cells–aged cells at the end of their lifecycle that are normally cleared away by our bodies when we’re young and healthy. As we age, our skin becomes less efficient at clearing these dead skin cells away. When they’re left to accumulate, senescent cells release pro-aging factors and inflammatory signals that drive neighboring healthy cells into senescence. For more on cellular senescence and aging, be sure to check out our blog.

This process significantly accelerates aging throughout the body. In fact, cellular senescence is one of nine hallmarks of aging that contribute to all aspects of human aging–from fine lines on our face to age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

In addition to what we already know about how skin keeps us healthy, this link to aging puts the importance of skin health into stark relief–showing how maintaining skin health is critical to whole-body wellness throughout our lives.

Where does most skincare fall short?

For too long, a vast majority of skincare has been focused on improving the way skin looks rather than the way it functions. From injectables to topicals, many of the most commonly recommended skin interventions improve its appearance without improving its overall health. Let’s take retinol as an example. Long-regarded as the gold standard for skin aging, retinol is beloved for its ability to reduce fine lines, improve skin texture, and create brighter-looking skin. But for all its advantages, there are some real retinol dangers to be aware of. A few common symptoms to look out for with frequent retinol use include redness, irritation, sensitivity and peeling.

To see whether retinol really improves skin health, the scientists here at OneSkin conducted an expression analysis to observe how retinol impacts markers associated with skin aging, inflammation, collagen production, and hyaluronic acid production. The results were fascinating. Although retinol significantly increased the expression of markers associated with collagen and hyaluronic acid production, it also created a tenfold activity increase in markers linked to aging and cellular senescence. Additionally, retinol significantly increased the presence of inflammatory markers, IL-6 and IL-8. So while retinol does effectively boost collagen and hyaluronic acid production, it comes at a cost: increased inflammation and molecular aging.

How does OneSkin approach skin health differently?

We created OneSkin based on the belief that it’s time for a revolution in skincare: one where skin health–and actually reversing intrinsic and extrinsic skin damage becomes the primary focus. That’s why we developed OS-01: the first peptide that’s proven to reduce the accumulation of senescent cells in the skin*. By reducing senescent burden, the OS-01 peptide improves skin health at the molecular level–supporting optimal skin function to support whole-body wellness.

When compared to retinol at the molecular level, the OS-01 peptide provided similar benefits with none of the drawbacks. Like retinol, the OS-01 peptide significantly increased expression of markers associated with hyaluronic acid and collagen production. However, the OS-01 peptide actually reduced expression of the same inflammation and aging markers that retinol increased. This comparison shows that OS-01 works to hydrate and boost collagen without any of the aging and inflammatory downsides associated with retinol.

Plus, our Topical Supplements–OS-01 FACE and OS-01 BODY–were both formulated to support the skin’s natural barrier function, an essential factor in its protection and regulation functions. In a 12-week clinical study, OS-01 FACE improved skin’s barrier function by 15% on average**.

* Shown in in vitro fibroblast cultures from patient derived samples
** Shown in a 12-week clinical study performed by a third party CRO to evaluate the effects of OS-01 FACE

Reframing skin health as whole-body health

From keeping our body temp steady to helping us engage with the world around us through touch, our skin is so much more than meets the eye. In fact, healthy skin can look very different from person to person. Instead of focusing on how your skin looks as a sign of its worth, join us in thinking differently about your body’s largest organ. By supporting your skin health first (and enjoying better-looking skin as a result), you’re taking an important step in supporting the longevity of your entire being.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10978-skin
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5712534/
  3. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/biology-of-the-skin/structure-and-function-of-the-skin
  4. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body
  5. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/vitamins/vitamin-d-deficiency
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