Anatomy of Skin

Happy Friday Lovelies!

Today, I'm going to be talking about skin. Alright alright, I've talked about skin since day one, but today is THE skin day. More often than not, many of us find ourselves standing in the store looking for new skin care products, confused as to what each one does. Salicylic vs. Benzoyl, Glycolic vs. Lactic. To properly understand how products affect our skin, we must first understand what skin is.

Skin Defined

Skin Defined

Skin is an organ. Yep, most people don't know and/or realize this, but it's true! By definition, an organ is a differentiated structure consisting of cells and tissues and performing some specific function in an organism. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Think about it...skin is the barrier between your precious insides and the harsh environment of the world. But how does it actually work?

Skin is made up of three primary layers:

  1. Subcutaneous Tissue
  2. Dermis
  3. Epidermis

The subcutaneous tissue is the bottom layer of the skin. It contains fat, tissue, nerves and larger blood vessels. It's responsible for supplying blood (nutrients and oxygen) to the dermis and helping regulate skin and body temperature.

The dermis is the gut of the skin. It contains the hair follicles, sebaceous glands, sweat glands, nerves and three types of tissue - collagen, elastic and reticular fibers.

Sebaceous Glands: Produce oil.

Collagen: Maintains skins firmness.

Elastin: Gives skin elasticity.

Complex sugars form the bottom of the dermis, acting as a base. That base then binds to water and allows nutrients and oxygen to penetrate the tissue. Within this bunker called the dermis, new skin cells are formed. And as the life cycle of skin continues, these cells eventually make their way to the outer layer to form the epidermis.

When any one of the dermis elements become unbalanced or begins to deteriorate, we are introduced to skin concerns. For this reason, this is the primary layer we want products to reach to utilize them to their full potential.

The most outer layer, the epidermis, consists of both living and dead skin cells. Continuously, as skin cells die, new cells push them to the surface. This process is known as skin cell turnover. The faster the turn over, the healthier your skin looks. Unfortunately, as we age this process slows down. The average young adult has a turnover rate of 16 - 20 days, whereas a mature adult's skin may not turnover for 40 days. This is why we often purchase exfoliating products - to help remove dead skin cell build up and/or to promote skin cell turnover.

The epidermis is also where the melanin pigment (pigment that makes you look tan!) and the Langerhans cell reside. Huh, Langerhans say what? Accidentally scratch yourself? The Langerhans cell is the skin's first defense against infection.

I always find myself in awe about how "thick" skin appears in writing, but then it seems so thin when thought with this analogy someone once told me...Think of a paper cut. Stings right? Stinging means you've hit nerves. Nerves mean you have cut through the epidermis and hit the dermis. So why is it so difficult to penetrate with products? The epidermis actually has a protein called Keratin, which retains fluids. However, the same properties that help retain fluids in the skin also prevents foreign substances from passing to the dermis.

Fun Fact: It's amazing that all of this happens in such a thin area. Did you know that skin is only 0.002in to 0.2in depending on the location? That's thinner than a standard piece of paper at its thinnest, and only as thick as about a dime at its thickest!

Hope all of you found this helpful! Stay tuned for more information in my next series, Products Defined.