The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It performs several functions, including protecting the body from microbes and outside elements. It also helps to regulate body temperature, and gives us the sensations of touch and temperature.
There are three major components of the skin. The skin layers are called:-
The health of our skin is determined by the structure and proper function of these three components. To maintain healthy skin and reduce the rate of ageing, both the structures and the functions of the skin have to be protected and supplemented. Here is a deeper look at the anatomy of the skin and its physiology.
The hypodermis is the thickest and innermost layer of the skin. It is attached to the dermis by collagen and elastin fibers and lies immediately above it. The hypodermis is made up of cells called adipocytes, which are specialized in accumulating and storing fats.
The hypodermis is the layer of the skin that reserves energy. The fats that are in the adipocytes can be redistributed into circulation during exercise and transformed into energy when the body is not being fueled by another source. When it comes to burning fat, the hypodermis plays a role in thermoregulation due to the fact that fat is a heat insulator.
The hypodermis's position around the body is determined by biological sex (male or female). It is present over the entire body in both men and women. But in men it tends to accumulate above the waist over the abdomen and over the shoulders. While in women, it accumulates below the waist around the hips, thighs, and buttocks.
The hypodermis is primarily made up of loose tissue and lobules of fat. It has larger nerves and blood vessels than the dermis does.
The dermis is the middle layer of skin, situated between the epidermis and the hypodermis. The dermis is primarily made up of irregular, dense connective tissue. It provides a cushion for the body from external strain and stress.
The dermis contains 'mechanoreceptors' that allow feelings of touch, and 'thermoreceptors' that allow you to feel different temperatures. It also has hair follicles, sebaceous glands, sweat glands, apocrine glands, and lymphatic and blood vessels. The blood vessels provide the dermal and epidermal cells with the nourishment and waste removal that they need in order to stay healthy.
The most abundant structural component in the dermis is a protein called collagen. Collagen gives the skin flexibility and strength through its mesh-like framework. The moisture-binding molecules of the skin are called glycosaminoglycans. These allow collagen fibers to preserve water and provide the necessary moisture to the epidermis. Elastin is another protein that is found throughout the dermis. Elastin allows the skin to return to its original condition after moving or stretching. It essentially provides the skin with elasticity.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin which functions as the body's protective shield. It creates a barrier between the body and infections that are found in environmental pathogens.
Some factors that may have an impact on the effectiveness of this barrier are stress and sudden changes in humidity. Stress increases glucocorticoids in cells which in turn compromises the outer layer of the skin and the barrier function. Additionally, sudden, large changes in humidity change the hydration of the outer layer of skin in a way that may potentially permit the entry of pathogenic microorganisms.
The epidermis also regulates the amount of water that the body releases into the atmosphere. The skin's ability to hold water is mainly due to the outer layer of the skin. This ability is critical for the maintenance of healthy skin. Lipids that are arranged between the cells of the outer layer of skin create a barrier to transepidermal water loss.
Skin color is also determined by the epidermis. The amount of melanin pigment and its distribution are the main reasons for variations of skin color. The size, amount, and distribution arrangement of melanin varies among racial groups. While in Caucasian and Asian skin melanin is packed in masses, in black skin it is distributed more evenly. Melanin increases with UV light exposure, which is what causes a suntan. The production of melanin is a process driven by melanocytes.
The cells that are located in the deepest layer of the epidermis constantly divide to create new cells which are pushed to the skin's surface. These cells eventually die and become filled by a tough protein called keratin. This protein gives your body a heavy-duty overcoat that helps protect the body's deeper cells from damage and infection.
The cells on the skin's surface steadily flake off and are continuously being replaced with new cells. Your body produces a new epidermis about once a month.
Your skin covers your entire body and has a surface area of about 2 square meters. The skin's thickness can vary from 0.5mm on places such as your eyelids to 4mm on the soles of your feet. Your skin accounts for about 16% of your total body weight.
With age, the collagen and elastic fibers in the skin decreases, which makes it thinner. Also, you lose fat from the subcutaneous areas of skin. This results in your skin losing elasticity and gaining wrinkles.
Drinking plenty of water and maintaining a healthy diet are both very important when it comes to skin health. It is also important to be wary of sun exposure. Wearing sunscreen or sun protection (hat, long sleeves, sunglasses) can help prevent damage to your skin as well as skin cancers. If you cannot avoid sun you can also stay in shaded areas in order to prevent most UV rays from reaching your skin. Although do bear in mind that your skin does need some sunshine to manufacture vitamin D. Keep your skin hydrated with moisturizers that are free from perfumes and dyes and stay out of long, hot showers that can actually dry out your skin.
As with other health concerns, avoid smoking and tanning beds to increase your chances of maintaining optimal skin health.