UNDERSTANDING THE SKIN
The skin is the largest organ of our body, and it is constantly changing. The specialty of dermatology has been devoted to understanding skin, how to care for it, and what can cause a variety of skin problems. To understand a little more in depth about the skin (without getting a degree) and what causes skin problems such as eczema, rosacea, aging skin, hyperpigmentation, and acne it is important to understand that it is composed of many specialized cells and structures. These specialized cells function as a protective barrier from the outside environment that can possibly cause us harm. This extraordinary organ has the ability to maintain the optimum body temperature and to pick up sensory information from the outside environment to actively protect us from disease. To give a better understanding of the skin’s function below is a list of the layers of the skin and its structure.
OUR SKIN IS COMPRISED OF THREE LAYERS:
Subcutaneous Tissue or Stratum Corneum
FUNCTION OF THE EPIDERMIS
The epidermis is our outermost layer of our skin which contains five different layers. Starting at the bottom and working our way up, these layers are referred to as:
THE STRATUM BASALE
(The bottom layer) has living cells referred to as keratinocytes that look similar in shape to columns. This layer is where these cells divide and push already formed cells into the higher layers of the skin. When these cells move into the upper layers, they become flat and gradually die out. The uppermost layer of the epidermis or (the Stratum Corneum) is what makes up the outer layer of the skin. These flat, dead, wax-like skin cells shed approximately every other week and, unfortunately, become thicker as we age, requiring regular exfoliation.
FUNCTION OF THE DERMIS
The dermis is where cells referred to as fibroblasts make and secrete hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin. Collagen and elastin fibers are made up of these fibroblasts which form a crisscross link to the matrix giving the skin its firmness, strength, and elasticity. These fibroblasts respond negatively to environmental factors by producing several inflammatory hormones which have the ability to cause a vasodilation that signals immune cells to leave the blood vessels and enter into the skin. These immune cells, although designed to protect damaged skin from harmful bacteria and infections, unfortunately, can also cause considerable damage to the skin as well.
FUNCTION OF THE HYPODERMIS
The subcutaneous tissue also known as the hypodermis is a layer of fat and connective tissue where the nerves and larger blood vessels reside. This layer is an important part of the skin that is responsible for temperature regulation of the skin and the body. This layer varies in size throughout the body and also varies in size from person to person.