Layers of the skin

Your skin consists of two main layers: the outer layer, known as the epidermis and the inner layer, known as the dermis.

The epidermis is the outer layer of your skin and is made up of different levels, each with a different role.

The base of the epidermis is where new cells grow and divide. Once a new cell appears it slowly moves upwards, towards the skin's surface.

Once it gets near the skin’s surface the cell will die and fill with a strong protein called keratin. These dead cells make up the tough outer layer of skin that protects our body.

This outer layer is replaced every 20–30 days as dead cells are shed and replaced by new ones.

The dermis is the inner layer of your skin.

It is much thicker than the epidermis and contains all the blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and sweat glands that allow your skin to function and keep it healthy.

The dermis also acts as a cushion against injury. If you cut yourself, the cells in the dermis grow and divide to repair the damage and close the cut.

  • Blood vessels supply the skin with blood which contains nutrients and oxygen, and carry away waste products. They also help to maintain body temperature by controlling heat distribution.
  • Sebaceous (oil) glands produce an oily substance which moisturises and conditions the hair and skin. They are found all over the body but are most common on the scalp, forehead, chin, cheeks and nose.
  • Sweat glands produce sweat to help to cool the skin.
  • Hair and hair follicles are found all over the body except on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the lips. Hair grows from the hair follicle and when the body gets cold, a small muscle makes the hair stand on end trapping a layer of air next to the skin to help keep you warm.
  • Nerves in the skin sense changes in pressure and temperature, allowing you to react to your surroundings.
  • Adipose (fatty) tissue acts as a protective cushion and helps to insulate the body.
  • The lymphatic system helps transport nutrients and waste substances to and from the skin.


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