We often talk about our skin types and skincare routines. But what exactly is skin? Its job goes way beyond covering our body. Skin is a marvel of engineering, physiology and technology — certainly one of the body’s most amazing resources. Learn more about this remarkable organ.
Some surprising skin stats
Comprised of three layers — the dermis, epidermis and subcutaneous tissue — skin plays a major role in your body’s overall well-being and health.
- Skin is the largest organ and can account for up to 15 percent of your body weight.
- It protects us from heat and cold, provides a barrier to harmful bacteria and shelters internal organs.
- Despite its rigorous use and exposure to the elements, skin will reproduce itself for your entire life.
- An average square inch of skin can contain over 19 million skin cells. These include 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels, 60,000 melanocytes and over 1,000 nerve endings.
Epidermis: The outermost layer
This outside layer is visible to the naked eye and made up of tightly-packed cells that undergo exfoliation.
- Constant exfoliation. Within this layer, new skin cells are born. At first, young skin cells are round and plump. They work their way outward toward the surface and flatten out as they go. Dead cells on the outer surface are constantly shed and exfoliated, replaced by new skin cells. Every minute, every day, we shed 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells.
- Melanocytes. These special skin cells produce melanin, a pigment that determines skin color. Melanin production increases when you’re in the sun, causing the epidermis to darken or tan. To a very limited extent, melanin provides extra sun protection. However, to get full protection against sunburn and skin damage, sunscreen is an absolute must.
- Epidermis problems. Unfortunately, because it’s the outermost layer, epidermal skin is vulnerable to many problems, including acne, microbial attack and damage from UVB rays. The epidermis shows signs of aging that result from environmental exposure, such as dark spots or fine lines. Sores, cuts, calluses, rashes and bruises can also show up on the epidermis.
Dermis: The middle layer
This next layer contains collagen and elastin, oil and sweat glands, nerve endings and blood vessels.
- Collagen and elastin. These tissues, which provide firmness and elasticity to skin, are crucial to a youthful appearance. Collagen is the skin’s natural cushioning, keeping it full and plump. Elastin allows skin to stretch and move without tearing.
As we age, production of these substances slows, resulting in thin, transparent, sagging or wrinkled skin. Some topical treatments, like vitamin C and copper peptides, may help bolster this natural slowdown.
- Oil glands and nerve endings. Oil glands create sebum or oil to keep skin lubricated. When the body becomes too hot, sweat glands produce sweat to regulate body temperature and cool you down. Nerve endings in this layer register touch sensations, including pain, heat, cold and being tickled.
- UVA damage. As mentioned earlier, UVB rays impact the epidermis. UVA rays, however, are a different length than UVB rays, so they penetrate skin differently. These rays can cause damage to the dermis. Therefore, a broad-spectrum sunblock protecting against UVA and UVB rays is absolutely essential. La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15 is an excellent choice. It contains a revolutionary sunblock ingredient: Mexoryl offers superior protection against damaging UVA rays, preventing them from penetrating skin.
Subcutaneous tissue: The third layer
The subcutaneous tissue is the bottom layer of skin, connecting skin to muscle membranes.
- Protection and cushioning. This highly-elastic layer of skin contains cushioning fat cells, protecting bones and internal organs from damage. It insulates heat, keeping your body warm, and acts as a shock absorber. It also has blood vessels and nerve endings.
- “Hair” I am. Hair follicles are also located in this layer. These are the small openings where hair growth begins. From here, a hair starts its journey to skin’s surface.
Show your skin some TLC
For such a complex organ, skin is resilient and adaptable. Keep it clean and hydrated for maximum health. A little pampering never hurts, either.
- Try a minty shower gel or soap for the summer and a warmer, richer scent in the winter. Bliss Mammoth Minty Scrub Soap will keep you cool even on a hot summer day. Whish Almond Three Whishes Body Wash is perfect for fall or winter.
After a shower or bath, dry skin thoroughly. Use soft, lint-free towels. Apply moisturizer while skin is still damp, so it penetrates better and hydrates the skin.
- Got dry, rough skin on your hands and feet? Slather on M.D. Forte Hand and Body Cream. With 20 percent glycolic acid, this cream loosens dead skin cells to reveal radiant, glowing skin.
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