The skin is the outer covering of living tissue of an animal (or plant). It is the largest organ of the integumentary system made up of multiple layers of epithelial tissues, and guards the underlying muscles, bones, ligaments, internal organs. The adjective cutaneous literally means "of the skin" (from Latin cutis, skin).
Because it interfaces with the environment, skin plays a very important role in protecting (the body) against pathogens. Its other functions are insulation, temperature regulation, sensation, synthesis of vitamin D, and the protection of vitamin B folates. Severely damaged skin will try to heal by forming scar tissue. This is often discolored and depigmented.
Skin has pigmentation, or melanin, provided by melanocytes, which absorb some of the potentially dangerous ultraviolet radiation (UV) in sunlight. It also contains DNA-repair enzymes that help reverse UV damage, and people who lack the genes for these enzymes suffer high rates of skin cancer. One form predominantly produced by UV light, malignant melanoma, is particularly invasive, causing it to spread quickly, and can often be deadly. Human skin pigmentation varies among populations in a striking manner. This has led to the classification of people(s) on the basis of skin color.
Mammalian skin often contains hairs, which in sufficient density is called fur. The hair mainly serves to augment the insulation the skin provides, but can also serve as a secondary sexual characteristic or as camouflage. On some animals, the skin is very hard and thick, and can be processed to create leather. Reptiles and fish have hard protective scales on their skin for protection, and birds have hard feathers, all made of tough β-keratins. Amphibian skin is not a strong barrier to passage of chemicals and is often subject to osmosis. A frog sitting in an anesthetic solution could quickly go to sleep.
The skin is often known as the largest organ of the human body. This applies to exterior surface, as it covers the body, appearing to have the largest surface area of all the organs. For the average adult human, the skin has a surface area of between 1.5-2.0 square meters (16.1-21.5 sq ft.), most of it is between 2-3 mm (0.10 inch) thick. The average square inch (6.5 cm²) of skin holds 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels, 60,000 melanocytes, and more than a thousand nerve endings.
The skin supports its own ecosystems of microorganisms, including yeasts and bacteria, which cannot be removed by any amount of cleaning. Estimates place the number of individual bacteria on the surface of one square inch (6.5 square cm) of human skin at 50 million though this figure varies greatly over the average 20 feet2 (1.9 m²) of human skin. Oily surfaces, such as the face, may contain over 500 million bacteria per square inch (6.5 cm²). Despite these vast quantities, all of the bacteria found on the skin's surface would fit into a volume the size of a pea. In general, the microorganisms keep one another in check and are part of a healthy skin. When the balance is disturbed, there may be an overgrowth and infection, such as when antibiotics kill microbes, resulting in an overgrowth of yeast. The skin is continuous with the inner epithelial lining of the body at the orifices, each of which supports its own complement of microbes.
Oily skin is caused by over-active glands, that produce a substance called sebum, a naturally healthy skin lubricant. When the skin produces excessive sebum, it becomes heavy and thick in texture. Oily skin is typified by shininess, blemishes and pimples. The oily-skin type is not necessarily bad, since such skin is less prone to wrinkling, or other signs of aging, because the oil helps to keep needed moisture locked into the epidermis (outermost layer of skin).
The negative aspect of the oily-skin type is that oily complexions are especially susceptible to clogged pores, blackheads, and buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Oily skin can be sallow and rough in texture and tends to have large, clearly visible pores everywhere, except around the eyes and neck.
The goal of treating oily skin is to remove excess surface sebum without complete removal of skin lipids. Severe degreasing treatment can foster an actual worsening of sebum secretion, which defeats the aim of the cleansing. A method of cleansing oily skin is to wash with a solution of a mild synthetic detergent (see: surfactant) containing no oils, waxes or other lipid agents that could aggravate the oily condition of the skin, sometimes combined with a toning lotion. Such a product removes the oily residue and debris from the skin surface. Some cleansing products have lower concentrations of hydroxy acids, which remove dead cells from the upper levels of the stratum corneum. Those products should be used on a regular basis to work adequately. A light moisturizer may be included in a product to counteract any drying effects of the cleanser.
As skin ages, it becomes thinner and more easily damaged. Intensifying this effect is the decreasing ability of skin to heal itself as a person ages.
Skin aging is caused by the fall in elasticity. Aging skin also receives less blood flow and lower gland activity.
There are several other skin diseases as well.
Individuals with ancestors from different parts of the world can have highly visible differences in skin pigmentation. Individuals with Sub-Saharan African ancestry (black people) tend towards darker skin, while those of Northern European descent (white people) have paler skin. Between these extremes are individuals of Asian, South-East Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, Polynesian and Melanesian descent.
The skin of black people has more variation in color from one part of the body to another than does the skin of other racial groups, particularly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Part of this is the result of the variations in the thickness of the skin or different parts of the body. The thicker the skin, the more layers of cell with melanin in them, and the darker the color. In addition, these parts of the body do not have melanin-producing cells.
Darker skin hinders UV A rays from penetrating. Since vitamin B folats are degraded by UV A and vitamin D is synthesized different skin tones are more likely to produce different vitamin deficiencies.
|I||Always burns but never tans||Pale skin, red hair, freckles|
|II||Usually burns, sometimes tans||Fair Skin|
|III||May burn, usually tans||Darker Skin|
|IV||Rarely burns, always tans||Mediterranean|
|V||Moderate constitutional pigmentation||Latin American, Middle Eastern|
|VI||Marked constitutional pigmentation||Black|
Skin is composed of three primary layers:
The epidermis contains no blood vessels, and cells in the deepest layers are nourished by diffusion from blood capillaries extending to the upper layers of the dermis. The main type of cells which make up the epidermis are Merkel cells, keratinocytes, with melanocytes and Langerhans cells also present. The epidermis can be further subdivided into the following strata (beginning with the outermost layer): corneum, lucidum (only in palms of hands and bottoms of feet), granulosum, spinosum, basale. Cells are formed through mitosis at the basale layer. The daughter cells (see cell division) move up the strata changing shape and composition as they die due to isolation from their blood source. The cytoplasm is released and the protein keratin is inserted. They eventually reach the corneum and slough off (desquamation). This process is called keratinization and takes place within about 27 days. This keratinized layer of skin is responsible for keeping water in the body and keeping other harmful chemicals and pathogens out, making skin a natural barrier to infection.
Mnemonics that are good for remembering the layers of the skin (using "stratum basale" instead of "stratum germinativum"):
Blood capillaries are found beneath the epidermis, and are linked to an arteriole and a venule. Arterial shunt vessels may bypass the network in ears, the nose and fingertips.
The dermis is the layer of skin beneath the epidermis that consists of connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis by a basement membrane. It also harbors many Mechanoreceptor/nerve endings that provide the sense of touch and heat. It contains the hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, apocrine glands, lymphatic vessels and blood vessels. The blood vessels in the dermis provide nourishment and waste removal to its own cells as well as the Stratum basale of the epidermis.
The dermis is structurally divided into two areas: a superficial area adjacent to the epidermis, called the papillary region, and a deep thicker area known as the reticular region.
In the palms, fingers, soles, and toes, the influence of the papillae projecting into the epidermis forms contours in the skin's surface. These are called friction ridges, because they help the hand or foot to grasp by increasing friction. Friction ridges occur in patterns (see: fingerprint) that are genetically and epigenetically determined and are therefore unique to the individual, making it possible to use fingerprints or footprints as a means of identification.
Tattoo ink is held in the dermis. Stretch marks from pregnancy are also located in the dermis.
The hypodermis is not part of the skin, and lies below the dermis. Its purpose is to attach the skin to underlying bone and muscle as well as supplying it with blood vessels and nerves. It consists of loose connective tissue and elastin. The main cell types are fibroblasts, macrophages and adipocytes (the hypodermis contains 50% of body fat). Fat serves as padding and insulation for the body.
Microorganisms like Staphylococcus epidermidis colonize the skin surface. The density of skin flora depends on region of the skin. The disinfected skin surface gets recolonized from bacteria residing in the deeper areas of the hair follicle, gut and urogenital openings.