Skip navigation

Components of skin

This video plays in QuickTime format. To view the video, download and install the Apple QuickTime player at: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/.

Skin is the body’s largest organ. About six pounds of skin cover eighteen square feet on an average adult.

The top layer of skin is called the epidermis. It protects the underlying skin layers from the outside environment and contains cells that make keratin, a substance that waterproofs and strengthens the skin. The epidermis also has cells that contain melanin, the dark pigment that gives skin its color. Other cells in the epidermis allow us to feel the sensation of touch and provide the body with immunity against foreign invaders like germs and bacteria.

The very bottom layer of the skin is the hypodermis. It contains the fat cells, or adipose tissue, that insulate the body and help it conserve heat. The layer between the epidermis and the hypodermis is the dermis. It contains the cells that give skin strength, support, and flexibility. As a person ages, the cells in the dermis lose their strength and flexibility, causing the skin to lose its youthful appearance.

Located in the dermis are sensory receptors. They allow the body to receive stimulation from the outside environment and experience pressure, pain, and temperature. Small blood vessels provide the skin with nutrients, and remove its waste products.

Sebaceous glands produce the oil in the skin, which keeps it from drying out. The oil from the sebaceous glands also helps to soften hair and kill bacteria that get in the skin’s pores. These oil glands are all over the body, except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

Update Date: 9/4/2012

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

Related MedlinePlus Page

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo