Why You Should Care About the Anatomy of the Skin
When it comes to the anatomy of the skin, one fun fact you should definitely know is that the skin is a big deal. Literally. The skin is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for so much of the body’s overall health. In fact, if something is going wrong on the inside, one of the first places you will notice the problem is through changes with your skin – especially when it comes to gut health. Caring about the anatomy of the skin is crucial since it plays such an important role in your health, but it’s also important to understand the anatomy of the skin so you are able to avoid skin disorders and know what products work best for your skin mood.
- Your skin is all over you, so it's super important that you take care of all of it.
- Understanding the anatomy of the skin is integral to learning how to care for your specific skin needs.
- Practice daily skincare to protect your skin barrier and check your diet to heal from the inside.
Why is it important to know about the anatomy of the skin?
As mentioned previously, the skin is our largest organ in the body, so an issue with the skin is hard to miss. Not only does the skin hold everything inside (i.e. water and nutrients), but it also acts as a powerful barrier between the pollution from the outside world and the inner workings inside of the body.
It also helps with:
- temperature regulation
- immune system defense
- vitamin production
- storing water and gat
- wound healing (bacteria and other harmful substances can get into the body through cuts or sores)
- preventing water loss
- preventing entry of bacteria into the body to ward off infections
- can help make vitamin D when exposed to UV rays (wear your SPF, though!)
The skin demands a lot of attention and concern when it comes to disease and health, as there are over 3,000 skin disorders or conditions that someone could possibly develop or experience in their lifetime, including eczema, acne, dandruff, rosacea, warts, fungal infections, impetigo, erysipelas, cellulitis, cysts, psoriasis, and skin cancer (1).
Knowing how to treat, get a handle over, and prevent these possible skin disorders is vital, and the only way to do this is to understand the anatomy of the skin.
In the beauty world, world of health, and mainstream media, there is a huge focus on skin health. Skin-thusiasts all over the globe are constantly seeing new products on the market that claim to give you fresh, clear, younger looking, and glowing skin. However, few people actually know how to identify the anatomy of the skin, which makes it difficult to understand how your skin mood will interact with new products.
The structure of the skin
The skin is divided into three layers known as the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous fat layer, or the hypodermis. Together, they allow the skin to function effectively. Let’s break them down:
The epidermis is the thin, outermost, waterproof layer of the skin. However, the epidermis can vary in thickness depending where on the body the skin is. For example, body parts that are more susceptible to injury, such as the soles of your feet or palms of your hands, have a thicker epidermis to protect from injury (1). On average, the epidermis is less than half a millimeter thick.
This layer resembles a “brick wall” of cells known as keratinocytes, which are bound tightly together and prevent harm from free radicals, bacteria, viruses, infectious agents, or chemicals from your outside surroundings. The epidermis also consists of three types of cells – squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes.
Squamous cells are the outermost layer that is shed. Basal cells are found under the squamous cells at the base of the epidermis (2). Melanocytes are found at the base of the epidermis and make melanin to give the skin its tone or color. Melanin can absorb UV light from the sun when it hits the skin, thereby protecting the basal calls underneath from UV damage, which is the leading cause of skin cancer. Plus, excess UV radiation can also contribute to wrinkles, sun spots, and other signs of aging.
The epidermal cells also develop hair follicles, sweat glands and sebaceous (oil) glands which extend down into the layer below known as the dermis. The dermis lies beneath the epidermis and is thicker. It’s made up of a dense layer of collagen and elastin tissue. The dermis gives the skin its flexibility and strength, but it also contains:
- Blood vessels
- Lymph vessels
- Hair follicles
- Sweat glands
- Collagen bundles
- Sebaceous glands
- Pain and touch receptors/nerve endings
3. Subcutaneous fat layer
Beneath the dermis is the subcutaneous fat layer, also known as the hypodermis and/or subcutis. This is a layer of fat and fibrous, or collagen, tissue that protects the bones and tissues by acting as padding for potential injuries. The thickness of this layer varies dramatically depending on where the skin is on the body and a person’s body shape and weight.
Overall, it cushions the body from external trauma by acting as a shock absorber, insulates the body from the cold, and stores energy, or fat, for your body to use when you need it.
In addition to these cells, Langerhans cells can also be found in the epidermis and are responsible for learning and recognizing foreign invaders, or allergens/bacteria/viruses, and then breaking down the invader and initiating an immune reaction in the dermis (4).
How to keep the skin healthy
Now that you know the anatomy of the skin, it’s important to understand how to care for it. The most common concerns when it comes to the skin include dryness, scarring, sensitivity, oiliness, wrinkles, sun damage, and other signs of aging. While everyone has a different skin mood and thus will require different products to treat their skin, there are a few foolproof tips for those who want to not only improve the appearance of their skin, but keep the layers of their skin healthy as well.
Here are some basic tips to protect the skin barrier that can make a big difference:
- Have a consistent skincare ritual
- Use SPF every day to avoid excess UV radiation
- Avoid products with fragrances or drying agents to prevent irritation
- Moisturize to avoid dehydrated skin
- Cleanse daily (once in the morning and once at night) to be sure you remove all makeup, oil, sweat, and dirt from throughout the day to avoid pore blockages
Written by Selena Ponton