Our skin, the body’s largest organ, weighs in at 20 pounds. The skin protects internal systems and other organs and provides insight into the rest of our body’s overall health. Our skin weighs approximately eight pounds or a little over three and a half kilograms as a full-grown adult. Our skin is the organ that is in direct contact with the world, holds body fluids to prevent dehydration, and deters harmful microbes from entering our bodies and causing infections. The skin also helps us detect sensations like touch, pain, cold, heat, and even pleasure.
About The Skin’s Three Layers
This fascinating organ is divided into three layers, each playing a vital role in our body’s overall condition: The 1. Epidermis, 2. The Dermis, and 3. The Hypodermis. Each layer maintains a particular function in the body to keep us healthy.
1. The Epidermis
The epidermis, the outermost visible layer of our skin, containing mostly flat, scale-like cells, called squamous cells. Below the squamous cells, more rounder cells referred to as basal cells containing melanocytes reside. However, this layer does not have a blood supply. Derived from our epidermis’ deepest layer, Melanocytes are responsible for producing melanin, which gives our skin its color. The epidermis undergoes a renewal phase every 28 days. During the cell’s turn over, most of the superficial cells get replaced by new ones.
The epidermis layer itself contains five sublayers continually working together to rebuild the surface of the skin:
- Stratum Basale (deepest layer)
- Stratum Spinosum
- Stratum Granulosum
- Stratum Lucidum
- Stratum Corneum (most superficial layer)
2. The Dermis
Unfortunately, we’ve all knicked our skin beyond the epidermis to the dermis, where our blood supply lies. The dermis, a skin layer residing beneath the epidermis and above the hypodermis or subcutaneous layer, is thickest of the skin layers, houses blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles, fibrous/elastic tissue, and glands. The glands responsible for sweat production, regulating body temperature, and accountable for producing sebum, an oily substance that keeps our skin from getting dry. The fibrous and elastic tissue provides strength and flexibility to the skin.
The dermis contains its own two layers:
- Papillary Dermis- The more superficial of the two layers, it lies beneath the epidermal junction. This layer, created from loose connective tissue, contains capillaries, reticular fibers, elastic fibers, and collagen.
- Reticular Dermis- The more in-depth and thicker layer of the dermis lies above the skin’s subcutaneous layer. This layer contains dense connective tissue that includes blood vessels, interlaced elastic fibers, parallel layered collagen fibers, fibroblasts, nerve endings, mast cells, and lymphatics.
3. The Hypodermis
The hypodermis, otherwise known as the subcutis or subcutaneous layer, contains fat, connective tissue, and collagen cell network. This innermost skin layer functions as an insulator, shock absorber, and fat/nutrient store that serves as an energy reserve. The blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles, fibrous/elastic tissue, and glands that run through the dermis layer also travel through the hypodermis. The thickness of the hypodermis layer varies through different parts of the body and from person to person. The thickness of the hypodermis plays a role in distinguishing males and females. In men, the hypodermis is thicker in the abdomen and shoulders, whereas it is thicker in the buttocks, hips, and thighs for women.
The hypodermis serves these five specific purposes:
- Stores fat for energy
- Protection for parts of the body.
- Attaching the upper skin layers (dermis and epidermis) to underlying tissues.
- Supporting structures such as nerves and blood vessels.
- Keeping the body temperature regulated.
- Producing the body’s hormones
Proper skin care is essential for your health. Protect yourself from the sun by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 every hour to every two hours. Please don’t smoke, as smoking contributes to wrinkles and narrows the tiny blood vessels in our outermost layers of skin, decreasing blood flow, and the much-needed oxygen to keep skin healthy. Daily beauty routines take a toll on your skin, so treat your skin gently by limiting bath times, avoiding strong soaps, always pat drying after bathing, and regularly apply moisturizers.