The skin is not only the body’s largest organ, but it is also one of the most complex and important. It is made up of water, protein, fat, and minerals and contains three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. While each of these layers plays a different role and is made up of different substances, they all work together to perform one of the skin’s most important jobs: protection! Here’s a closer look at each of the three layers of skin.
This is the outermost layer of the skin and acts as a barrier for harmful substances and UV rays, and it makes new skin cells to replace the 40,000 old cells it sheds every day. In certain areas of the body where the skin needs more protection, such as the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, the epidermis is much thicker.
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin and makes up about 90% of the skin’s thickness. It contains collagen and elastin which helps keep the skin flexible, grows hair, produces oil and sweat, and supplies blood to the epidermis.
The innermost layer is the hypodermis and is made up of mostly fat. Its role is to cushion muscles and bones and protect from injuries if you are in an accident. It also does a great job of regulating body temperature to help prevent you from feeling too hot or cold.
So, how do these layers protect the body? There are many ways!
The first way the skin protects us is by acting as a barrier against harmful substances outside of the body. If you think about it, we come into contact with a lot each day, whether we realize it or not, and without the skin performing its role as a firewall, substances like germs, bacteria, and toxic chemicals could make their way into the body causing more harm to our precious internal organs. The sebaceous glands of the skin do this by producing an oily substance called sebum. The sebum helps our skin retain moisture and prevent it from cracking or drying out, which could offer germs a way in.
Another way the skin protects us is by acting as the first line of defense against the sun’s UV rays. In most people, UV rays activate melanin, which is a chemical in the skin. Melanin absorbs those UV rays that can damage the skin and lead to things like cancer. This process is visible to the human eye because it looks like a suntan! While suntans give us that “healthy summer glow” it is actually a sign that your skin is trying to keep you protected. However, there are only so many UV rays that melanin can absorb, and people who don’t have much melanin in their skin burn easily. This can lead to skin cancers, premature aging of the skin, cataracts, and various other eye problems.
The skin also helps us respond to sensations around us. The dermis layer of the skin (the middle!) is filled with nerve endings that receive stimuli from the brain and send back signals. Have you ever touched something extremely hot or cold by accident? This process happens in an instant because your skin is trying to protect you! When you touch a hot object, your brain immediately sends a signal to remove your hand from the hot surface to prevent harm.
Regulating body temperature is another very important process for which the skin is responsible. The skin has approximately 2.5 million sweat glands all of which produce sweat when the body’s temperature creeps up. This process opens the pores on the skin and lets heat out in the form of sweat which then cools the body back down. When the skin is exposed to colder weather, the skin attempts to prevent heat from escaping and trap it at the surface by contracting the muscles around the hair shafts so they stand up. You may know this as “goosebumps!”
The skin does an unbelievable job each day supporting us, so how can we best support our most essential firewall? Here are our best tips now that summer is just around the corner, and we’ll be outside and on the move even more this season.
Ensuring skin is moisturized is key in supporting the skin barrier. Dryness and cracking can more easily let germs and bacteria in which could cause sickness or infection.
One of the most important (and easiest!) ways you can protect your skin is by using sunscreen when you are in the sun for an extended period of time. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and reapply every two hours if you’re swimming or sweating. It is also good practice to wear protective clothing and seek shade when the sun is at its strongest in the afternoon.
Avoid scrubbing your face, especially in areas where you might experience breakouts as this could worsen the condition. Use lukewarm water, apply a gentle cleanser, and massage your face in circular motions, then pat dry with a towel.
A lot of information about caring for the skin can feel overwhelming–that’s where a specialist like Dr. Praveen Buddiga can help. Everyone’s skin is unique, which means everyone’s skin’s needs are unique as well. If you have questions about your skin’s needs, how best to support it during various times of the year, or are wondering about a condition, it’s time to schedule a consultation today. Dr. Praveen Buddiga is dedicated to treating the cause of your symptoms and recognizes how important it is to not only look your best, but feel your best as well.
Healthy skin is possible and Dr. Praveen Buddiga can’t wait to work with you. Schedule your appointment today: https://www.buddiga.com/contact/
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