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We wouldn’t be who we are without our skin. It protects us from the outside world, maintains our body temperature, synthesises essential vitamin D, and helps us interact with the people we love. But it’s also sensitive and needs our care and attention to stay healthy.
The structure of the skin
Our largest organ has three distinct parts:
- The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. The stratum corneum is the most external part of the epidermis and serves as a physical barrier, protecting the body against external aggressions such as cold temperatures, UV rays and infections. The rest of the epidermis mostly serves the role of producing the skin barrier.
- The dermis is the middle layer of skin, which contains blood vessels that supply the outer layer. The dermis also contains hair follicles, sweat glands and nerve endings.
- The hypodermis, the deepest layer, and the thickest part of the skin contains fat cells. These form an energy reserve and allow the thermal regulation of the body.
The role of the skin
Our skin is the body’s biggest organ, and it performs many functions. A major role is for protection, including against physical aggressors such as friction, chemicals and infection, as well as against harmful UV rays. As well as protecting against external forces, it’s also our largest sensory organ and we receive lots of information about the world through the nerve endings in our skin. These experiences range from heat, cold and pain to the comforting touch of friends and loved ones.
Another major role of the skin is temperature regulation. Our skin contains about 2-5 million sweat glands, and we can sweat up to 10 or more litres per day in hot climates to help our bodies cool down. When it’s cold, sweat production and blood supply to the skin is reduced to help conserve heat in deeper organs.