Understanding Your Skin
How much do you know about your skin?
Your skin is actually quite complex and interesting.
There are approximately 19 million skin cells in every inch of your body. Your body continually makes new skin cells to replace the old ones. Typically the body sheds 30,000 to 40,000 cells per day. Your skin actually carries about 18-23 layers of dead cells (the topmost layers).
The new cells form at the bottom of the epidermis and move up as the upper dead layers shed. Your skin cells start off fat and square, as the they move to the top of the epidermis, they flatten out. They flake off once they reach the very top layer.
In just one inch of skin, you have 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels and 60,000 melanocytes (which produce melanin and give your skin color) and 1,000 or more nerve endings.
Your skin is your largest organ – about 20 square feet in size.
Your skin has some vital jobs:
- Provide the sensations of touch, heat, and cold
- Protect from microbes
- Protect from the elements
- Help to regulate body temperature
The graphic above shows the three layers of the skin:
- The epidermis:
- Very thin in some areas, for example your eyelids, and thicker in other areas like your heel or foot bottoms
- The top and outermost t layer which provides us a waterproof barrier
- Creates our skin tone
- Produces new skin cells (at the bottom of the epidermis)
- The dermis:
- Below the epidermis which holds the tough connective tissue, your hair follicles, and your sweat glands (they produce sweat, which goes through little tubes and comes out your pores. Sweating helps you cool off and helps you rid your body of toxins
- Helps you feel things. The nerve endings send signals to your brain, so you know if something is hot or cold or nice to touch
- Grows hair. The dermis is where you’ll find the root of each hair on your skin. Each root attaches to a tiny little muscle that tightens and gives you goose bumps when you are cold, scared or excited
- Makes oil. The oil keeps your skin soft, smooth and waterproof
- Brings blood to your skin via blood vessels
- The hypodermis (subcutaneous tissue):
- Made of fat and connective tissue
- Attaches the dermis to your muscles and bones via connective tissue
- Helps the blood vessels and nerve cells get bigger and they go to the rest of your body from here.
- Controls your body temperature
- Stores your fat to pad your muscles and bones and protects them from injury
To put it simply:
- The epidermis forms a protective barrier.
- The dermis provides strength, firmness and elasticity. It also contains blood vessels, immune cells, nerves and glands.
- The deepest layer consists of connective tissue and fat.
As you age, you will notice changes. You’ll find that epidermal cells don’t slough off as easily. Skin becomes drier, as it doesn’t retain as much moisture. The collagen and elastin break down. The affect is less firmness and less elasticity, resulting in aging.
Lines begin to develop around the eyes, the corners of the mouth and across the forehead. Skin around the jaw and neck starts to hang.
Your skin will also become less effective at fighting infection, regulating temperature and feeling sensations.
Sun can cause more visible damage to your skin than aging can. Sun is responsible for both fine and coarse wrinkles, baggy skin, yellow, leathery appearance, dry, scaly skin and cancer.
If you aren’t sure if you are experiencing sun damage or the effects of aging, take a look at your face and the backs of your hands and then look at an area of the body that gets limited sun exposure. You will likely see a marked difference and that tells you how much sun damage you actually have.
It is important to care of your skin daily and don’t overlook sun protection – especially when spending prolonged periods outside in the sun.