Information about the layers of skin
The skin is the largest organ in (on) the human body and there are many layers of skin.
You can get a different perspective of the human body if you think of it as a long tube (the gastrointestinal tract) which is surrounded by a protective layer of skin.
The skin is a protective barrier which serves to keep our body safe from many foreign and often dangerous elements in our immediate environment.
Our strength and bones protects us from physical injury and larger objects, while our skin is the barrier between us and the microscopic world of parasites, disease, viruses and bacteria.
What is the skin made of?
There are three main layers of skin – the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous skin.
The epidermis is the outermost of the layers of skin. It can be of varying thickness in different parts of the body. The thinner layers of epidermis are often found at the areas with the most nerves (such as the palms or fingertips).
The epidermis is made up of five layers and the top four layers are usually made up of dead skin cells. In the bottom layer, or the stratum basale, new skin cells are created over and over, pushing up the top four layers of dead skin. These are constantly falling off and being recycled from beneath. Varying layers of the top parts of the epidermis are mixed up dead or dying skin cells. When we groom and care for our skin, we are actually helping to shed its top layers.
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin and is thicker than the epidermis.
It is made up of collagen, elastic tissue and fibers. This is also where the roots of hairs grow out from and it is also the home of your blood vessels, oil and scent glands, as well as nerves.
The subcutaneous tissue or subcutis is the deepest of the layers of skin where larger blood vessels as well as fat cells are kept. This skin layer is the part responsible for regulating body temperature. This skin layer consists of a network of collagen and fat cells which helps conserve the body’s heat and protects the body from injury by acting as a “shock absorber.”
Function of the skin
In addition to serving as a protective shield against heat, light, injury, and infection, the skin also:
- Regulates body temperature
- Stores water and fat
- Is a sensory organ
- Prevents water loss
- Prevents entry of bacteria
Throughout the body, the skin’s characteristics vary (i.e., thickness, color, texture). For instance, the head contains more hair follicles than anywhere else, while the soles of the feet contain none. In addition, the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands are much thicker.
The skin is a complicated structure with many functions. If any of the structures in the skin are not working properly, a rash or abnormal sensation is the result. The whole speciality of dermatology is devoted to understanding the skin, what can go wrong, and what to do if something does go wrong. For more information about the layers of skin, read What Is Skin?
If you have questions about your skin contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a dermatologist.