Let’s talk skin anatomy 101
From head to heels, your skin covers every inch of your body, making it your largest organ — and one of the most complex. The delicate, soft skin of your eyelids is vastly different from the texture and thickness of the skin covering your elbows. The backs of your hands may be tan and freckled while your palms are lighter and unmarked. Even the short distance from the arch of your foot to the back of your heel offers a completely different terrain, but it’s still all one organ. So, let’s explore this diversified landscape that we live in and try to understand it a little better.
Our skin has three layers — epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue — each serving a specific and necessary purpose. Together, they keep our insides in while protecting them from what’s outside, store water and fat, regulate body temperature, and more.
- Epidermis: “Ha ha! Your epidermis is showing!” Arguably one of the most quoted lines taunted by Nelson Muntz, the 12-year-old bully from The Simpsons was teasing Bart about his yellow skin’s outermost layer. The epidermis itself has five layers, but for our purposes we’ll just explore its overall cellular makeup and function.Flat, scale-like squamous cells form the surface of the epidermis, which is our first barrier against bacteria and injury and is continuously shed as the skin regenerates. Below these cells are round basal cells that divide and push older cells toward the skin’s surface, and melanocytes, which are responsible for making melanin to give our skin color.
- Dermis: It could be said that the dermis makes up the skin’s “personality.” Also, having multiple layers, it’s what makes our skin flexible and durable, but also houses the touch and pain receptors we rely on to avoid injury. The dermis is held together by collagen and contains blood and lymph vessels, oil and sweat glands, nerves, hair follicles, and more.
- Subcutaneous tissue: The bottom layer of the skin is all business: a network of fat cells, collagen, blood vessels and nerves. This layer’s thickness varies in different areas of the body and serves as a shock absorber, protecting against pain and damage. Subcutaneous tissue is also vital in the regulation of body temperature.
Hopefully, this has helped you get to know your skin (and some of the vocab and jargon that comes with it) a little better! If you want to know more, we have offices to serve you in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Bartlett, Buffalo Grove, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, McHenry, Naperville, and Park Ridge, and coming soon in Oak Brook.