The Structure of Our Skin
Part 1 of a 4-Part Series
I am not a health care or medical professional. The things I share in my blogs should not be construed as medical advice. I am simply writing about my personal experience and my research into different areas of personal interest. I practice the use of natural remedies and herbs and follow a basically whole-food, plant-based diet. I believe them to be extremely important in a healthy lifestyle. I also follow the advice of my naturopath physician.
One of the things I do professionally is to provide Real-Time, EEG Neurofeedback for brain injury and learning disabilities. This is frequently seen as related to health and wellness professions. As such, I am often asked questions about health.
I was recently asked whether I knew anything about help for a condition known as cystic acne. I had never heard of this condition and became curious. I did some research on cystic acne and acne. I found out some very interesting things that I am eager to share with you.
Our skin is the largest organ of the body. It protects us from bacteria and other microorganisms, helps regulate our body temperature and is our largest sense organ. Through our skin we experience touch, heat, and cold.
About the Skin
Skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin. It provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin tone. Even though our skin is waterproof, our skin is still permeable.
Being permeable means that it is possible for the skin to absorb substances that are placed on the skin. This is the reason certain medications can be placed on the skin using special patches, for example nicotine patches to help people stop smoking. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the quality and contents of cosmetics, creams, and even drugs we rub on our skin.
The epidermis is composed of anywhere between 50 to 100 layers of dead skin cells. Only the very bottom layer of the cells of the epidermis receive nourishment and oxygen. The majority of the epidermis is composed of dead cells constantly moving up to the surface to replace dead cells being continually sluffed off the surface.
Between these layers of dead cells are fatty substances that act like the cement between bricks. This combination of dead cells and fats creates the natural moisture barrier of the skin. The moisture barrier protects against microorganisms, chemical irritants, and allergens. Loss of the moisture barrier creates dryness, itchiness, redness, and other skin problems.
Beneath the epidermis is the dermis. It consists of tough connective tissue cells. It is where we find our hair follicles and sweat glands. The dermis also contains blood vessels that provide nourishment and oxygen to the bottom layer of the epidermis and the dermis. The most common structural component within the dermis is the protein collagen. It provides the mesh-like framework that provides strength and flexibility to the skin.
Finally, we find the hypodermis, the deepest layer of the skin. It consists of fat tissue that insulates the body and provides shock absorption. Like the dermis, the hypodermis contains blood vessels and connective tissue cells, which support the upper layers of the skin.
Hair prevents heat loss and helps protect the epidermis from minor scrapes and exposure to the sun’s rays. Each hair grows from its own bulb-like structure, the follicle, within a pore in the skin. Hair is composed of dead cells filled with keratin, a special protein produced by the hair follicle.
Pores are formed by a folding-in of the epidermis into the dermis and are lined with cells that constantly shed. The follicle is found in the dermis and is nourished by tiny blood vessels.
Each follicle is connected to an oil gland, the sebaceous gland. These glands secrete a fatty substance, called sebum, which lubricates each hair as it grows and helps create a moisture barrier to the skin.
Sweat glands are found in the dermis and are long, coiled hollow tubes of cells. Sweat is produced at the coiled bottom and excreted to the skin surface through the hollow tube. Perspiration helps cool the body, hydrate the skin, and eliminate toxins.
Acne and cystic acne are the result of inflammation and infection of the pores of hair follicles and sweat glands.
In Part Two of this series, we will go into detail about how acne develops.