The Skin

Our skin is the largest organ of the body. It comprises of about 16% of our body weight and has a surface area of about 2 square meters.

The skin is made up of 3 layers:

The outermost layer of the skin is called the Epidermis. The epidermis is our interface to the world and comprises of 2 main layers 1. the inner layer which has living cells, and 2. the outer layer which has dead skin cells. The dead skin cells of the outer layer are what we can actually see, and they are constantly flaking off and being replaced by new cells that are pushed outward. This is why we scrub our face, so that we can help scrape off flaky dead skin and replace them with newer ones that arise from underneath.

The middle layer is the Dermis. The dermis is the functional layer of the skin containing all the vital machinery. It contains sweat glands, hair follicles (each with its own tiny little muscle so that your hair can ‘stand on end’!), nerve endings and so on. There are several different types of nerve endings in the dermis which help us with the sensation of heat, cold, pressure, itch and pain.

The innermost layer of the skin is the subcutaneous layer. It is mostly made up of fatty tissue, although it also has blood vessels and nerves. Its similar to the pipes and electricity conduits found under buildings and in terms to what they supply. The fat defends the body from extreme heat and cold (insulation) and provides a cushion to protect the body from injuries.

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How the skin protects us

The skin serves to help us in many ways. Its most important functions are the following:

  • Skin prevents germs from entering the body.
  • Skin plays a role in maintaining the immune system, and acts as the first line of defence.
  • Skin helps regulate temperature.
  • Skin helps us with sensation of touch, such as pain, and temperature.
  • When skin is exposed to sunlight it helps in the production of Vitamin D, an important vitamin for healthy skin and a healthy body (vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and form healthy bones).

  • Skin helps protect us from UV radiation.

Find out more about: Healthy Skin and Healthy Choices, Sun Safety and Tanning and A-Z Skin Conditions

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The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension, or cancer. Despite skin being the largest organ of the human body, dermatological research remains one of the most under funded areas of medicine. In a world where society has an increasing preoccupation with image and it’s importance to every aspect of a person’s life, sufferers of skin diseases are feeling and being more marginalised and isolated than ever.

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