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The three layers of your skin
Skin Institute
July 21, 2017

Our skin is the largest organ of the body. It’s a supple membrane that is made up of three layers – the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. Each layer plays a specific role, and all three work together to form a protective barrier between our internal body and the environment, helping us regulate body temperature, and allowing the sensations of touch, heat and cold.  But, what exactly is the function of each layer and how can we look after it? Read on further to find out.

What is the epidermis layer and what is it made up of?

The epidermis layer is the most outer layer of your skin (the layer of your skin you can see), consisting of both living and dead skin cells. It is no thicker than a sheet of paper. As old skin cells die, new cells push them up to the surface. The quicker this process is, the healthier your skin will look. As we continue to age, this process slows right down, and is also accelerated by other factors such as UV exposure.

The epidermis layer of the skin is in charge of:

  • Shedding old skin cells to make way for new – the skin cells travel from the deepest layer of the epidermis to the top layer and flake off to make way for fresh cells, about a month after they form; this is the process of regeneration. Your body will remove about 30,000 – 40,000 old skin cells every day.
  • Protecting your body – the epidermis layer has special cells called Langerhans cells that are part of your immune system and help you stay healthy by detecting foreign substances and defending the body against infection.
  • Giving skin it’s colour – the epidermis layer produces melanin, which is what gives your skin colour and protects it from ultraviolet light.

Appearance treatments such as peels, microdermabrasions, ablative laser and fractional laser can be performed to support the functions of the epidermis layer.

What is the dermis layer made up of and what does it do?

The dermis layer is the layer of skin between the epidermis and the hypodermis, and is full of collagen and elastin fibres that gives your skin strength and firmness.

The dermis layer:

  • Produces sweat – there are little pockets of skin in the dermis layer that are called sweat glands. These glands produce sweat, which travels through tiny tubes that come out of holes called pores. Sweating helps you keep cool and is one of the most efficient ways to detoxify the body. Sweating can flush the body of substances like alcohol, cholesterol, and salt.
  • Allows you to feel things – there are nerve endings in the dermis layer that send signals to your brain so you know how something feels, i.e. if it hurts, if it’s itchy or feels nice when you touch it.
  • Grows hair – the dermis layer is where you find the root of each hair on your skin. Each root is attached to a small muscle that tightens and gives you goose bumps when you are cold and/or scared.
  • Produces oil – the sebaceous glands produce oil, which keeps your skin soft, smooth and waterproof. Sometimes this gland can produce too much oil, resulting in acne.
  • Brings blood to your skin – the blood vessels of the dermis provide nutrients to the skin and help regulate body temperature.

Appearance treatments such as fillers, IPL, fractional laser, nonablative laser and dermal needling can be performed to support the function of the dermis layer.

What is the hypodermis layer and what is it made up of?

The hypodermis layer is the bottom layer of the skin, containing fat, nerves and large blood vessels. It acts as our temperature regulator, as the fat insulates the body.  It’s also responsible for:

  • Providing blood (oxygen and nutrients) to the dermis layer and helping to control the skin and body temperature.
  • Connecting the skin to the bone and muscle which lies beneath it.
  • Acting as a shock absorber to keep us free from injury.

The thickness of the hypodermis layer can vary throughout your body, i.e. it tends to be thick on your waist, thin on your forehead and almost non-existent on your eyelids.

What happens to your skin as we age?

Each layer of skin also contains connective tissue with collagen fibres to give support, and elastin fibres to provide flexibility and strength. As you age, the connective tissue reduces the skin’s strength and elasticity resulting in lines and wrinkles appearing on the skin’s surface, with the majority of the age-dependant changes occurring in the dermis layer.

To fight the signs of ageing, we must be aware of what is happening to it. As you age, the skin will no longer shed and renew itself as quickly. Skin will start to lose moisture, thin and begin to sag. Sun damage, facial expressions, lifestyle habits (i.e. smoking, alcohol, diet), and even gravity all contribute to the ageing of your skin.

“Your skin serves many essential functions. Look after it well.” Dr Maneka Deo, Dermatologist.

There are many options available to slow down the ageing process and repair damage to help your skin look it’s best. Good skin care, sun protection and a healthy lifestyle can all contribute to the health of your skin and help prevent the signs of ageing.

Read our blog on the changing face of you for your guide to skin care and treatments to maintain your skin health as you age. There is no one size fits all approach to ageing, but a proactive approach to age management can help you continue to look good for your age, no matter what your age is. Every choice that we make plays a vital role in our body’s overall health and wellness.

If you are ready to take the next step in looking after the appearance of your skin, with high potency active skin care and/or treatments, we can help. Phone 0800 SKIN DR (754 637) to book in for a cosmetic consultation with an Appearance Medicine Nurse who will assess your skin, listen to your concerns and desires, and offer skin care solutions tailored to suit you.