Skin: The importance of the maintenance of the normal skin barrier with emu oil.
by Dr. Leigh Hopkins
The skin serves numerous functions but the primary protective or barrier function is the most obvious. All of the cells in our bodies have miniature barriers called cell-walls to separate each cell. The cell wall, in turn, must have many mechanisms that enable the cells to communicate with other cells through pores, channels and receptors. This communication is necessary since all the cells must function in an orchestrated fashion to accomplish everything that we do in our daily lives. The cell wall barriers are simply layers of fats that surround the watery contents. Therefore, the communication mechanisms must operate through these fatty cell walls. In fact, many of the substances that are involved in this communication process are various fats since it is easiest for fats to move within the fatty layers that comprise the cell walls. Our societal attention to fats as only sources of calories and a sign of being overweight does a critical disservice to the major importance that fats play in our body’s biochemistry and physiology.
Fatty substances control the majority of our body’s physiology through receptors that activate many important genes.
Likewise, our skin barrier is comprised of a supporting structure of collagen, a protein, that contains fats that serve a critical function. These fats prevent the excess loss of water through our skin and prevent the cells of our body from becoming dehydrated and dying. A major sign of a defective skin is the dryness that results from excessive water loss. This water can not be applied topically but must be ingested otherwise we would drown in our shower. To prevent the excessive water loss and the resulting dry skin, we must repair the skin barrier. We find that the skin composition in individuals with dry skin is due to an improper mixture of the skin fats. This is due to a deficiency in our diet of the correct fats. On a nutritional basis, we can provide these necessary fats through the skin. The skin is not a usual means to acquire nutrition but it can absorb enough fatty substances to correct the fat imbalances that are the cause of the defect in the skin’s barrier function and thus correct the dry, itchy skin problem.
Essentially, all moisturizing lotions on the market do not contain nutrition for the skin but rather serve to provide an artificial barrier through the use of petrolatum. Petrolatum is an inert substance that does not allow water to escape through the dry skin. Petrolatum is not a means to correct the underlying problem but it is a temporary solution. However, if you want to have a normal healthy skin that is as soft as baby’s behind, you must supply the correct composition of fats to the skin.
The fatty acid composition of emu oil is very close to the correct composition of these fats as found in normal skin. Thus, emu oil is an excellent moisturizer that returns the skin to its natural barrier function. Emu oil can make the skin feel soft, more elastic and firm due the restoration of the normal fats in the skin.