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Anatomy of the Skin

Anatomy of the skin
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Facts about the skin

The skin is the body's largest organ, covering the entire body. In addition to serving as a protective shield against heat, light, injury, and infection, the skin also:

  • Regulates body temperature

  • Stores water and fat

  • Is a sensory organ

  • Prevents water loss

  • Prevents entry of bacteria

Throughout the body, the skin's characteristics vary (for example, thickness, color, and texture). For instance, the head contains more hair follicles than anywhere else, while the soles of the feet contain none. In addition, the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands are much thicker than skin on other areas of the body.

The skin is made up of the following layers, with each layer performing specific functions:

  • Epidermis

  • Dermis

  • Subcutaneous fat layer

Epidermis

The epidermis is the thin outer layer of the skin that consists of three types of cells:

  • Squamous cells. The outermost layer is continuously shed.

  • Basal cells. Basal cells are found just under the squamous cells.

  • Melanocytes. Melanocytes are found in every layer of the epidermis and make melanin, which gives the skin its color.

Dermis

The dermis is the middle layer of the skin. The dermis contains the following:

  • Blood vessels

  • Lymph vessels

  • Hair follicles

  • Sweat glands

  • Collagen bundles

  • Fibroblasts

  • Nerves

The dermis is held together by a protein called collagen, which is made by fibroblasts. This layer gives skin flexibility and strength. It also contains pain and touch receptors.

Subcutaneous fat layer

The subcutaneous fat layer is the deepest layer of skin and consists of a network of collagen and fat cells. It helps conserve the body's heat and protects the body from injury by acting as a shock absorber.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jones, Niya, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 2/10/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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