Understanding the Skin’s Layers

December 4, 2012By

The skin is one of the most important parts of our body, and it takes  constant care and attention to keep it looking its best. By understanding how the different layers of the skin work, you can find out how to treat the different skin conditions related to each layer and at the same time better understand different products and how they affect the different layers, particularly those related to wrinkles and aging of the skin.

The human skin is primarily composed of three major layers, namely the epidermis or the outermost layer, the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue. Under each layer there are several other layers which all have their specific functions to keep our skin healthy.

Here are the different layers of skin and their sub-layers:

1. Epidermis – is the most superficial layer of the skin and is composed of five layers. The outermost layer of the epidermis is the Stratum Corneum which is made up of keratin proteins and lipids. When this part of the skin is affected by the elements and other factors like aging and skin diseases we can often see immediate dryness and flaking. The second layer is the stratum spinosum or the prickly layer. It is held together by prickly cells and is where protein, or keratin, is synthesized and produced. The next layer is the granular layer where melanocytes, precursors to keratin, are found. Melanocytes are responsible for the skin’s color or pigmentation. The stratum lucidum is the fourth layer, which is very thin. It is found almost exclusively in the palms of the hand and soles of the feet. The last layer of the epidermis is the basal layer which produces the keratin by which dead skin cells are replaced on the upper layers. It takes approximately two weeks for the new cells to move to the top layer of skin.

2. Dermis – is the skin that lies below the epidermis. It is primarily composed of two layers, the papillary and the reticular layers. The papillary layer is composed of connective tissues, collagen, and elastin. The reticular layer contains thick connective tissue and collagen fibers. Collagen fibers are very strong and give the skin its durability and toughness. Elastin fibers keep the skin flexible and pliable. The dermis also contains hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands, blood vessels and fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are an integral part of the skin’s structure. They produce collagen and deposit it where it is needed for growth, repair and additional strength in the dermis. Loss of dermis can cause the epidermis to atrophy or die, leaving the skin thinner and more wrinkled.

3. Subcutaneous Tissue – is the skin layer located just below the dermis. It is a layer of fat also known as subcutaneous tissue or the hypodermis. It is mainly made up of loose connective and adipose tissue. The hypodermis aids in metabolism and insulates the skin or keeps it warm during cold weather. Inflammation in the hypodermis can cause skin dimpling or cellulitis.

By knowing the different layers of the skin and how they function, you can choose the right kind of skin care products that will work best for your skin condition. Remember, each layer can have different problems, and different products have different formulas specifically aimed to target problematic areas of the skin.

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