What is the largest, and most dynamic and visible organ of the human body?
Well, if you guessed the skin, you’d be correct! It is a significant part of the integumentary system (skin, hair, nails, etc.): a system that works to protect the body from outside forces. Your skin and its various layers are vitally important to your overall health and well-being as it balances fluids, regulates body temperature and is your first line of defence against bacteria, chemicals, UV and other toxins. Therefore, you must always care for your skin, regardless of your age.
Let’s think of the skin’s structure like a lasagna.
My favourite aspect about lasagna is its three layers of pasta, meat and cheese that, when combined, make the whole dish work together to be simply delicious! Like lasagna, your skin has layers and each of its three main layers plays an important role in its overall functioning.
1. EPIDERMIS (Epi-derm-is)
The epidermis is the cheese in your lasagna: the top and outermost layer of your skin. The thickness of this layer varies depending upon where it is located. For example, your eyelids are thinnest, while your palms are thickest. This is one reason why eye and facial skin care is so important (and profitable). The cells of the epidermis are tightly interconnected and bound together by molecules called lipids that act like a closely linked army, protecting against the dangers mentioned above.
Skin is constantly changing. The epidermis is comprised of five layers that work like a never-ending conveyer belt, transferring new skin cells from the inner layers to the outer epidermal layers where they replace the old dead skin cells. This is the process of cell division called mitosis.
Personally, in my lasagna, I like to add various cheeses that each serves a different gustatory function. Like the different cheeses, there are four main epidermal cells within the epidermis that each perform a specific role. The majority of the cells are called keratinocytes and produce keratin that forms a protective and water-proof barrier against environmental damage. Next, there is melanin that gives skin its pigmentation. The other two cell types deal with immune response and sensation of the skin.
2. DERMIS (Der-mis)
Directly underneath the lasagna’s cheese, is the meat. Similar to the meat in a lasagna, the dermis is underneath the skin’s cheese, the epidermis, and is the thickest layer of the skin because it contains blood vessels, hairs, sweat glands, oil glands and nerve endings. The dermis has two layers. The first layer supplies the epidermis with nutrients and helps regulate temperature through a network of blood vessels. (Fun fact: the pink undertone to skin in light-skinned people is due to the network of blood vessels found in this layer). The second layer is the thicker of the two and contains two important proteins that I’m sure you’ve heard of: elastin and collagen, critical for the skin’s strength and elasticity.
3. HYPODERMIS (Hy-poh-dur-mis)
Lastly, and certainly not least, is the hypodermis or more commonly known as the subcutaneous tissue. This is the pasta portion of your lasagna, sitting directly under the dermis (or your meat). Similar to the function of a carby pasta, the hypodermis stores fat and provides insulation.
Although this post may seem like a lasagna-overload of information, learning about your skin’s layers will help you gain a greater understanding of how external and internal forces affect it and how to maintain your skin properly with optimal beauty and skin care products and protocols. By breaking the skin into layers of cheese, meat and pasta, and targeting and treating each layer individually, you can create the most delicious lasagna ever!