Human Skin Layers

skin layersHuman skin is amazing. More often than not, we don’t give it enough thought.

We take it for granted that it is there, but don’t really understand what it truly is.

Our skin is our largest organ and does quite a number of things for us. It is also one of the most abused parts of our bodies. Perhaps, if we understood what skin is and what it does for us, we might take better care of it.

Skin Layers

The first thing to learn is what comprises our skin. There are three layers and each layer has its own special properties. These three layers are called

  • the epidermis

  • the dermis

  • the subcutaneous fat layer

The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin. This is the part we see. New cells are made in this layer constantly. The bottom of the epidermis is where this takes place. The new cells move up as they are ready to take their place in the middle of the epidermis. The cells here are resilient and strong to provide protect for everything beneath them.

The upper most layer is made up of dead skin cells and these will slough off continually. The cells of the epidermis are short lived and are constantly replacing themselves to provide the best protection they can to the rest of the body.

The epidermis is also where you will find melanin, which is produced by cells in the epidermis called melanocytes. Melanin is what gives our skin the color it has. The more melanin, the darker the skin. It provides some protection from the burning rays of the sun. People who have little melanin are likely to get sunburned with far less exposure to sunlight than those who have more.

The multitasking dermis

The dermis could be called the industrial center of the skin. It is the thickest layer and contains many important aspects that affect not only our skin but our overall health. It is very different from the epidermal layer and does so much more.

First, its structure is comprised of an elastin fiber and collagen mesh.

These are very important proteins. The skin’s structural support comes from collagen and its resilience comes from the elastin.

The cells in the dermis that are key to producing collagen and elastin are called fibroblasts. The fibroblasts also produce other molecules that provide structure for the skin. For the skin to be healthy, the fibroblasts must be working properly.

The blood supply for the skin is brought in through the capillaries in the dermis and there are also lymph nodes here that hold necessary immune cells.

The capillaries bringing in oxygenated blood ensures enough oxygen and nutrients and the lymph nodes protect against harmful microorganisms. The blood also carries away waste from the skin.

The dermis is home to the hair follicles, the sebaceous glands and the sweat glands. The hair follicles and the sebaceous glands are in close proximity and actually are connected.

The hair follicles, of course, produce hair and there are tiny muscles attached to them. The sebaceous glands are responsible for producing sebum, also referred to as skin oil. Sebum is important because it gives lubrication and a protective, waterproof barrier to the skin.

When not enough sebum is produced, the skin becomes really dry and when not enough is produced or there is something wrong with the sebum, skin disorders like acne occur.

The sweat glands pull double duty. They are one of the means the body has of keeping the body cool and to get rid of toxins. It is important to keep hydrated for the sweat glands to function properly.

The nerve endings that give us our sense of touch are also in the dermal layer. Because of these nerve endings, we are able to tell the difference between smooth and rough, heat and cold and feel pain and pleasure. When the nerves are damaged, we can lose some or all of our sense of touch in the damaged area.

The dermal layer is what gives our skin its resilience, strength and elasticity. This is also where wrinkles originate. Any wrinkle treatment has to reach this layer to be effective.


The unique subcutaneous layer

Since humans don’t have fur to act as insulation against the cold or to absorb most physical trauma, we have the subcutaneous layer.

This layer is mostly comprised of fat tissue, which is what absorbs shock and keeps cold away from the deeper parts of the body. The muscles attached to the hair follicles originate here. The sweat glands also have their origins here.

As we age, we often lose subcutaneous tissue and this is what causes the sagging we see. This layer helps to give shape and form to our features and when it is gone, that changes.

With some knowledge of what our skin is and what it does, it is easier to do what is best for our skin’s health and keep it working to protect us.

If our skin is healthy, we look and feel better.


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Category: Body Skin

Comments (1)

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  1. Hadiza Ibrahim Jimoh says:

    This is a very good piece that talks about the human skin in a short, but precise and explanatory manner.

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