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General Facts about Skin

Updated on March 27, 2016
Skin structure
Skin structure

Skin functions

Skin protects internal organs .

It contains sensory nerve endings of pain, temperature and touch.

It is involved in regulation of body temperature.

Structure of skin

Skin is the largest organ in body and has a surface area of 1.5 to 2 m2 in adults and it includes glands,nails,hair.

There are 2 main layers:epidermis and dermis.

Between skin and underlying structures is subcutaneous layer composed of areolar tissue and adipose tissue.


The epidermis is composed of stratified keratinised squamous epithelium. It varies in thickness in different parts of body.It is thickest on palms and soles.Epidermis has no blood vessels and nerve endings.Deeper layers of epidermis are bathed in interstitial fluid from dermis.It provides oxygen and nutrients and drains away as lymph.

Several layers of epidermis cells extend from deepest germinative layer to stratum corneum.Stratum corneum is a thick horny layer.Surface cells are flat,thin,non nucleated,dead cells.Cytoplasm in these cells are replaced by fibrous protein keratin.

Maintenance of healthy epidermis depends on synchronization of 3 processes:


*keratinization of cells coming to surface.

*cell division in deeper layers with new cells being pushed to surface. Sweat gland ducts,sebaceous gland secretions, hairs pass through epidermis to come to surface.

Epidermis surface is ridged by cell projections in dermis called papillae.

Skin color is affected by various factors.

*Melanin,a dark pigment is absorbed by surrounding epithelial cells.

*Normal haemoglobin saturation and blood circulating in dermis give pink color to white skin.

*Excessive bile pigment in blood and carotenes in fat of subcutaneous give yellow color to skin.


Dermis is a tough and elastic layer.Connective tissue forms it.The matrix has collagen fibres which is interlaced with elastic fibres.Elastic fibre rupture occurs when skin is overstretched. Collagen fibres bind water and give tensile strength to skin.Fibroblasts, macrophages and mast cells are main cells in dermis.

The structure in the dermis are:

blood vessels

lymph vessels

sensory nerve endings

sweat glands and ducts

hairs,sebaceous glands and arrector pili muscles



Functions of skin

The skin forms a waterproof layer provided mainly by its keratinised epithelium. It protects the deeper and more delicate structures.It acts as a barrier against



*ultraviolet light

invasion by microorganisms

The epidermis has immune cells called Langerhans cells,which are microphage type.They phagocytose intruding antigens and travel to lymphoid tissue.Here they present antigen to T-lymphocytes thus stimulating immune response. The body reacts by reflex action by sensory nerve endings in skin.

Regulation of body temperature

Body temperature remains constant at 36.8 degrees Celsius across environmental temperatures. This is to ensure optimal range for enzyme activity. In health,variations are between 0.5 and 0.75 degrees Celsius although it rises slightly in evening during exercise. A negative feedback system maintains the balance between heat produced in body and heat lost to environment.

Heat production

Body temperature rises when metabolic rate increases.Body temperature falls when it decreases.Energy released during metabolic activity is in form of heat.Most active organs produce most heat.Main organs involved are :

*Skeletal muscles

Skeletal muscle contraction produces a large amount of heat .More strenuous the muscular exercise greater is the heat produced.


Liver is very metabolic active and heat is produced as a by product.

*Digestive organs

These produce heat during peristalsis and during chemical action involved in digestion.

Heat loss

Heat loss is mainly by skin.Small loss of heat is in expired air,urine.Only loss of heat by skin can be regulated.

Loss of heat by skin is affected by difference between body and environmental temperatures. The exposed amount of body surface and type of clothes worn also affect heat loss.

Formation of Vitamin D

7-dehydrocholesterol is a lipid based substance in skin and ultraviolet rays of sun convert 7-dehydrocholesterol to vitamin D.

Wound Healing

Systemic factors

These include good nutritional status and general health.Infection, impaired immunity,poor blood supply reduce wound healing.

Local factors

Local factors include good blood supply to provide oxygen and nutrients and remove waste and freedom from contamination.

Wound healing
Wound healing

Disorders of skin

*Viral infection

*Bacterial infection

*Fungal infection

*Microbial infection

Non infective inflammatory conditions



*Acne vulgaris

Pressure ulcers


Complications of Burns

1.Dehydration and hypovolaemia




5.Renal failure


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    • sriv profile image

      Parul Srivastava 22 months ago from Lucknow,India

      Thanks Sir for your comment and visit.I'll look into your query.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Useful and informative article. It will be more appealing if you can define some difficult phrases or definitions used in the article. Your approach should be to educate even a common man. He may not understand "stratified keratinised squamous epithelium". So, give its explanation. For example "epidermis is mostly made up of flat, scale-like cells called squamous cells. Squamous cells are round cells also called as basal cells. They are situated at the lowest layer of skin." You can expand it more to give full knowledge for a lay man.

      But, your article is very good for students of biology who can more easily understand it. Wish you good luck and my blessings.