Look in the mirror, what do you see?
Well… you see you—and a big part of being contained in your body is being in your skin.
Your skin is your largest organ, it covers the entire body from head to toe and is responsible for sensation, heat regulation, absorption, protection, excretion, and secretion—that’s a pretty big job.
The skin is made of several layers, all that serve a distinctive purpose, and it
The Layers of Your Skin
Our skin has three layers—the hypodermis, dermis, and epidermis, that are constantly cycling through cellular metamorphosis. In addition to all of that, our hair, nails and exocrine glands are all housed within the layers of the skin and function as tools for the skin to work optimally.
The hypodermis is the deepest layer of the skin. It functions as a layer of loosely connected subcutaneous tissue by connecting the skin with the underlying muscles, bones, and fat.
The connective tissue in the hypodermis has elastin and collagen to allow the skin to stretch with the movement of the body. This is the part of the body where fatty tissues store extra energy in the form of triglycerides (fats).
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin and provides both strength and elasticity to the skin.. This is made of irregular connective tissue like the hypodermis but it’s a bit more densely packed.
This layer of the skin is where you’ll find the nervous system tissue, the lymph system, blood and blood vessels, hair follicles, and exocrine glands - in other words, this is where a lot of the business happens. This one layer of skin can be split into the papillary and the reticular layer.
The papillary layer of the skin is borders the dermis and contains dermal papillae—these are little chicken skin bumps that live just under the epidermis and contain blood vessels to provide the skin with nutrients and oxygen, and nerves to allow us to feel the outside world.
The reticular layer of the dermis is the thick and tough part that provides strength and elasticity to the skin. Hair follicles, sebaceous glands (connected to the follicle), the lymph and nerve fibers are housed in this part of the skin. This part of the dermis subtly communicated to the epidermis through the dermal papillae.
The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin, the part that you see in the mirror.
It is 40-50 layers thick and protects all the things that are hiding in the dermis and hypodermis. It doesn’t contain any blood vessels directly and the most inner layers get their nutrients from the dermal papillae living in the dermis.
90% or so of the epidermis is made of keratinocytes for waterproofing and strengthening, then you have Melanocytes at about 8% which contribute to the color of your skin, then you have about 1% of cells called the Langerhan cells that fight pathogens for you, and just under 1% of cells called the Merkel cells that connect to the nerve endings in the dermis and allow us to feel the sensation of touch.
Like the dermis, the epidermis is also broken into layers. From innermost layer outward, those are the stratum basale, the stratum spinosum, the stratum granulosum, and the stratum lucidum (this layer exists only on tougher parts of the skin like the palms and the soles of the feet).
How the Epidermis Works
The cells that make up the epidermis are constantly being produced in the stratum basale. As the basale layer reproduces, the epidermal cells move outward toward the surface of the skin.
On their way out, the skin cells serve different functions like reducing friction, holding the skin together, producing the waxy coating as a waterproof , and then they can harden and callus before they are too far away from the stratum basale to receive nutrients, then they die and fall away (be happy, most of the dust in your house is coming from your own stratum basale reproduction!)
Pores Vs Follicles
The difference between a pore and follicle is an important distinction to understand. Pores are where the body releases sweat, which is basically just water and minerals. Most of the time when you hear about “pore-clogging” it’s actually the hair follicle that has been affected. There’s a lot more going on in the follicle.
The hair follicle is held in the dermis of the skin and is connected to the sebum gland, which is directly connected to the nervous system and feeds oils directly into the follicle to protect the hair and the skin from pathogens.
The two most common issues caused in the follicle are acne and rosacea, which can be caused by similar things (diet, hormones, stress, allergies, etc) but they show up a little differently. In both cases, the endocrine system plays a big role.
Skin and the Endocrine System
If the body is working with emotional stress, there is a fresh release of hormones into the bloodstream.
The follicle has teeny-tiny blood vessels that feed into the base of it. Remember that one of the skin’s functions is to secrete, and that includes extra stuff that the body isn’t able to push out through other means—making it a major detox system.
If you have extra toxins (things like allergen antibodies, unbroken down fats, stress and/or sex hormones) floating in your bloodstream that your body isn’t able to purge through other systems of elimination, those toxins can get into the follicle directly from the bloodstream. The sebum gland connected to the follicle is stimulated by the foreign stuff in the follicle to overproduce, the follicle is stimulated and inflamed, and a breakout is formed.
That means that a skin issue can actually be a symptom of ongoing internal issues.
Now you know. Next time you look in the mirror, thank your skin for everything that it does.
How do you thank your skin? Let us know in the comments below!