Dermis Love: The Basics

July 24, 2012

There is no organ that is more prevalent than skin.  Unfortunately, beyond the need for sun protection during the summer, our skin rarely gets much consideration when we discuss health and wellness.  The more I think about my own skin the more I realize I just don’t know that much about it.  Dermis Love is the name I am giving  to my journey of discovery about my skin, its function and what I’m suppose to do to keep it healthy.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind I have always known that skin is an organ.  Beyond that, I have never given it a great deal of thought.  In fact, it is the body’s largest organ with an adult skin weighing 8 pounds on average and covering approximately 22 square feet.  I have always thought of the skin as fairly inert, but in reality there is a remarkable amount of activity going on in your skin.  It is made of numerous cell layers, nerves and glands which all work together to perform a number of functions. These functions include:

  • Protection: The skin protects our internal organs from environmental threats
  • Sensation: The skin contains countless nerve endings which help us identify, evaluate and interact with our environment
  • Heat Loss: The skin helps regulate body temperature by opening pores when you are hot and by constricting vessels to reduce surface blood flow when you are cold.
  • Water & Nutrient Barrier: The skin acts as a barrier keeping essential bodily fluids from evaporating and preventing critical nutrients from being lost.
  • Absorption: The skin allows absorption of important elements such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

All of this activity takes place within three distinctive layers which make up our skin.  The outermost layer is the epidermis and consist largely of cells called keratinocytes. These cells are made of keratin which is the same protein that forms our hair and nails. In a cycle that takes roughly five weeks these cells are formed and grow out to create the stratum corneum which is the tough outer layer of skin that we see. By the time the cells reach this outer layer they are actually dead, lacking both nuclei and organelles. Below is a nice pic detailing the various layers of the epidermis.

Below the epidermis is a thicker layer of skin called the dermis and this is where most of the activity takes place. The dermis contains a myriad of glands, nerves, vessels and more which help the organ perform its vital functions. It also contains fibers of collagen and elastin which gives skin its elasticity and strength.

The final layer of skin is called the hypodermis or the subcutis and consist of adipose cells. This layer provides connective tissue which helps hold the outer layers of skin to the body while also providing a layer of fat that further cushions and protects the body, provides fuel reserves and provides a layer of heat insulation.  In the image below you can see the Subcutis lying directly below the dermis.

So, we have taken the first step on our journey towards skin enlightenment.   I hope this has provided a basic foundation for things to come.  If you have any questions or information you would like to share, please comment below.

UP NEXT: Since we are starting this series in the Summer it seems appropriate to talk about how your skin interacts with and is affected by the sun.




Disclaimer: Please note that we are not doctors. We have collected this information from various internet sources. This information has not been evaluated by any government agency.

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