Skin – An Owner’s Manual

So, we’re covered in the stuff, but what does skin actually do for us, and what is it made up of?  If you’re keen to look after your skin, then read on.

Functions of the Skin

It’s the largest organ in the body, and carries out many functions, all day, every day.  For example:

Acts as a waterproof shield, so that vital nutrients don’t escape from the body.

Temperature control – blood vessels in the skin open and close, and production of sweat.

Barrier function – keeping out toxins and microbes from the environment outside.

Excretion of waste products such as salt and ammonia.

Melanin production – for sun protection.

Synthesising vitamin D for healthy bones and organs.

Self-healing – a pretty miraculous function in itself, from all those little grazes and scratches that we pick up.

Sense of touch

The skin is made up of three layers, the first, outside layer, and the one we can see, called the epidermis.  It’s the first line of defence against infection and microbes, and the top layer of this, called the stratum corneum, is the oldest skin cells, which have risen to the top and keratinised, meaning that the protein keratin has become hardened.  It’s this layer that we remove when we exfoliate.  The living cells, the squamous cells, are what eventually forms the keratin layer.  The bottom layer of the epidermis also produces melanin.  The second layer is called the dermis, which contains nerves and blood vessels responsible for the sense of touch, together with the proteins collagen, which gives the skin its fullness and shape, and elastin, which is responsible for resilience and elasticity.  These are bathed in hyaluronic acid, which holds water and gives bounce and texture.  This is also the area that contains hair follicles, oil glands and the beginnings of the pores.  The deepest layer of the skin is the subcutaneous layer, composed of fat and tissue between the skin and muscle, and also regulates the body’s temperature.