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The skin is actually an organ. It is the largest organ of the body and it regenerates itself over and over again throughout our lives.

The outer covering of flat, dead cells that is found over the surface of our skin – called the stratum corneum.

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What is the skin made up of?

Skin is made up of three major layers. The outermost of these is the epidermis. The epidermis varies in thickness at different parts of the body. The palms of our hands and the souls of our feet are the thickest. The thinnest layer of epidermis is found over the eyelids where much flexibility is required. The epidermis, in turn, is made up of five layers and each of these layers has its own specific function and cell types. One of these types of cells is called melanocyte.

Melanocytes contain pigmentation and determine the color of our skin. The epidermis also contains cells that deal with immunity – helping us fight off infections.

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The second layer of the skin is called the dermis. It is often known as the ‘true skin’ and it also varies in thickness throughout the body. The dermis is largely comprised of a tough protein called collagen. It contains many nerve endings and tiny blood vessels. The nerve endings are important in the sensation of touch. When your skin comes up against something, these nerve endings send signals to your brain with information about the object they have sensed. The nerve endings may convey softness, roughness, cold or extreme heat. The brain then transmits to you, the owner of your skin, which category the object you are touching belongs to.

The dermis also contains many important structures that perform various functions. For instance, the sweat glands are found in the dermis. These are called eccrine glands and are connected to the surface of the skin by a narrow tube called the sudoriferous canal. The pore through which sweat exits to the surface of the body is called the sudoriferous pore. Hair grows from specialized cells which are also found in the dermis. The hair follicle – the actual hair that we see on our heads and other parts of our bodies – is surrounded, at its base, by a structure known as the sebaceous gland. This gland is responsible for the production of oils that condition the hair and keep it looking shiny. Scent glands are also housed in the dermis. These are called apocrine glands and are responsible for the natural smell that we all let off!Underneath the dermis is a third layer called the subcutis. One process that this layer is responsible for is the formation, and maintenance, of a layer of subcutaneous -under the skin – fat.

What is the function of fat?

  • It is a shock absorber, for bones and muscles.
  • Fat provides energy to get you through to your next meal.
  • Fat is important for body temperature control.

What is the function of the skin?

The skin holds in our insides together. This is one function of our skin but it has other jobs as well. Skin has a protective function, preventing us from infection and, also, skin houses cells that produce hair, sweat and oils and other substances that are important for our health and appearance.

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If some area of your skin is not functioning properly, skin rashes and/or abnormal sensations – such as a ‘crawling feeling’ – may occur. But there is one major category of skin breakdown that nobody can avoid – aging! As we all get older, important changes occur in our skin. Collagen production decreases, and slows, down making skin less resilient to injury or weather. Fat deposits, directly under the skin, decrease in quantity and, therefore, areas of the face and body will occur less full – they will sag and wrinkles will be seen. Barriers which keep moisture in the skin will break down and the skin will dry out – this too will cause wrinkles!

Interesting Facts

  • The skin can stretch out to 12-20 feet in area.
  • The skin accounts for 12% of our total body weight
  • The reason our lips are red is because the skin on lips is very thin and the blood vessels show through.
  • In a lifetime the average person sheds enough skin cells to fill and entire 2 story house!

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