Beauty may be only skin deep, but your skin is more than just another pretty face: it’s your largest organ, and your first line of defense against the outside world!
The skin has three layers. The top layer, or epidermis, is made primarily of tough keratinocyte cells that ward off everything from pathogens to blunt objects – and also prevent vital water and nutrients from escaping. These cells are born near the edge of your body’s network of blood vessels. Over the course of a month, they are pushed away from the blood supply by even newer cells until they die and slough off. Tens of thousands of skin cells flake off your body every minute – nearly 10 pounds each year!
The epidermis also contains pigment-producing melanocyte cells that give your skin its color. Darker skin provides increased protection from the sun’s UV rays, but lighter skin allows for increased production of bone-strengthening Vitamin D when the sun is less bright. (A suntan is the body’s way of trying to limit its exposure to the sun.)
Beneath the epidermis, the dermis layer contains the blood vessels that help regulate temperature and the nerves that allow you to feel heat and touch. In addition, the dermis supports the oil and sweat glands that keep the skin lubricated and waterproof, and acts as an anchor for your hair follicles – all critical to keeping you warm, dry, and looking good.
Finally, a thin layer of subcutaneous fat cells provides you with a measure of insulation and food storage – and which naturally keeps your body from getting too … skinny!