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Layer by Layer: Understanding Your Skin's Structure

  • By Winnie Pang

Layer by Layer: Understanding Your Skin's Structure


About 15 percent of your body weight is skin. If that seems like a lot, remember that skin is your largest organ. And one of your most important. Understanding your skin’s structure is the first step to maintaining the health of your armour against the outside world.

The Purpose of Your Skin

Your skin comprises a large portion of the integumentary system. This organ system also contains hair, nails, and glands that produce sweat and oil. The three main functions of the integumentary system are protection, regulation, and sensation.

Skin’s primary function in this system is to act as a barrier. It provides protection from various environmental elements—temperature, bacteria, chemicals, the sun, and more. But the blood vessels in the skin also help it regulate your body temperature. And skin is where your body uses sunlight to manufacture vitamin D.

Layers of the Skin

Your skin performs a lot of important functions, and each of its three layers play a role.


The epidermis is the top layer of your skin. It’s made up of millions of skin cells held together by a resilient barrier and regulates the amount of water released from your body. 


The next layer of skin is the dermis. It lies beneath the epidermis, and is responsible for a variety of functions.

This layer contains hair roots, nerve endings, blood vessels, and sweat glands that help regulate body temperature and remove waste products. The dermis also contains oil glands that keep your skin looking soft and smooth, but also help with waterproofing.


The hypodermis is the lowest layer of the integumentary system. It’s used mainly for fat storage. It contains the connective tissue that attaches the dermis to your muscles and bones. It also provides support to the blood vessels, nerves, and glands in the dermis.

Key Elements of the Skin Matrix

The skin matrix is a collection of proteins, fats, and peptides that provide resilience and stability. Here are the main components of this support structure:

  • Elastin – protein that forms elastic connective tissue, found in the dermis
  • Keratin – key structural protein that makes up the outermost layer of the skin
  • Collagen – long-chain amino acid that makes up the majority of protein found in your skin
  • Lipids – the natural ‘mortar’ that helps lock in moisture and bind the cells together
  • Peptides – chains of amino acids that signal our cells to let them know how to function

Learning these basics will help you gain a greater understanding of how to take care of and maintain your skin properly.

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