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You and Your Skin

NetWellness receives –> about the skin and how to take care of it. The skin is not only the largest organ in the human body; it is also one of the most complex. Our skin protects us from our environment, including injury, infection, heat, and light.1 Skin is often taken for granted and often only thought of when something is wrong with it. But so much relies upon the skin that it is impossible to imagine a world without skin, our protective shell.

Skin Function

Our skin has three main functions:

  • Protection- Provides an intermediary between the world external to us and the one inside of our bodies
  • Heat regulation2
  • The ability to sense pressure, pain, touch, hot, and cold.3

Skin Structure

The skin is made up of three major layers:

  • Epidermis– The epidermis is the thin outer layer of the skin which protects us from our environment, which is in a constant state of regeneration and is replaced every 28 days. This is how we naturally heal cuts and scrapes over short periods of time. The epidermis is also responsible for filtering sunlight. It is in this layer that most of the common skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma) may start.
  • Dermis – This is the layer directly below the thin layer of epidermis that supports the epidermis as it contains two important fibers: elastin and collagen.

    • These fibers in the dermis allow our skin to stretch and return to its natural state.
    • Wrinkles occur when there is too little elastin in the dermis.
  • Hypodermis (subcutaneous) – This is the section of the skin that contains the fatty cells that cushion the bones, help to keep us warm, and store energy.4

Other important structures, such as blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, sweat glands, oil glands, etc. are also found in the lower two layers of the skin.

Skin Care

The best ways to preserve young, healthy-looking skin are:

  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
  • Use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher
  • Use proper sun protective clothing (hats, long sleeves, pants) when possible
  • Do not smoke
  • Moisturize regularly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise regularly and get good sleep
  • Take a daily vitamin

For more information about general skin care, please visit “Skin care: Top 5 habits for healthy skin” from the Mayo Clinic.

Related Articles

Skin Cancer and Sun Damage

Other Skin Problems



1. National Cancer Institute. Skin Cancer Prevention. Accessed 5/14/2008.

2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus: Skin Conditions. Accessed 5/14/2008.

3. Merck Manual Online Medical Library. Structure and Function: Biology of the Skin. Accessed 5/14/2008.

4. Ibid.

For more information:

Go to the Skin Care and Diseases health topic.