There is more to the skin than meets the eye. The skin is the body’s largest organ. It works to protect us from microbes and the elements such as UV, pollution etc. Our skin also helps to regulate body temperature, and permits the sensations such as touch. Our skin is one of the aspects of the body that many find fault with, but what is it and how does it work?
Our skin is made up of cells which are made up of molecules. The cells are divided into 3 layers known as the epidermis, dermis and the hypodermis each have a vital role to play and they all come together to form our skin.
The roles of each layer in the skin:
The Stratum Corneum is the top most layer of the skin and is also known as the horny layer. It is comprised of dead skin cells and is replaced every 28 to 30 days in young adults and around 45 to 50 days in elderly adults. This layer is part of the Epidermis and works to protect the living cells beneath it, by providing a tough barrier between the environment and the lower layers of the skin.
The Epidermis is the outer layer of the skin. It is made up of keratinocyte cells which produce keratin. Keratin protects the epithelial cells from damage and/or stress.
The Basal Layer is the innermost layer of the epidermis and is considered a living layer. This layer contains cells called melanocytes which produce melanin. Melanin gives skin its colouring and helps to protect the deeper layers of the skin. The Basal layer is also home to keratinocyte cells.
The Dermis is the thickest of the skin’s layers. The main functions of the dermis are to regulate temperature and to supply the epidermis with nutrient-saturated blood. Most of the body’s water supply is stored in this layer. It is in the Dermis layer where you will find Hyaluronic Acid, collagen and elastin. Collagen is made by fibroblasts which are the cells that give the skin its strength and resilience. Collagen supports the epidermis, lending it its durability. Elastin, is the substance that allows the skin to spring back into place when stretched and keeps the skin flexible. Hyaluronic Acid stores water within the skin and keeps skin plump and moisturised.
The Hypodermis is mainly used for fat storage. It comprises of a network of fat and collagen cells. The hypodermis functions as both an insulator, conserving the body’s heat, and as a shock-absorber, protecting the inner organs. It also stores fat as an energy reserve for the body. This is where you will find the Adipocyte cell, which are also known as lipocytes and are the cells that primarily compose adipose tissue, specialized in storing energy as fat. As we age the fat cells diminish and skin loses its plumpness.