Anatomy of Skin

The Anatomy of the Skin

Learning about the anatomy of skin in a basic and easy to understand way.

This is by no means a complete biology lesson. My goal is simply to help you see how it all comes together.

Our skin is our body's covering, it's the largest organ of our bodies and it has many functions.

Probably the most important function of all is that it keeps inside that which needs to be inside (like our organs, bones and muscles) and outside that which needs to be outside (like germs that can cause disease).

It also helps us to maintain our body temperature.

Another function is that it allows us to interact with the world around us through the sense of touch.

The Functions of our Skin

  • To Protect against harmful germs (micro-organisms), which in turn helps the immune system protect us from disease. It also protects the delicate tissues and organs under it against injuries.
  • To Insulate against heat and cold, which helps our body to maintain it's temperature so that it can function well.
  • To Eliminate body wastes in the form of sweat.
  • To Guard against too much UV rays that can be harmful when we are exposed to the sun.
  • To Produce vitamin D, which is necessary for our body to function well.

Anatomy of Skin Diagram

by Daniel de Souza Telles (

The Three Layers 

Anatomy of Skin Epidermis 

This layer contains melanin which gives our skin its colour and protects us against UV rays. It is thickest on our palms and soles and thinnest on our eyelids. Keratin and oil produced in the epidermis makes our skin waterproof. The cells in this layer are also constantly being shed and replaced by new cells from the bottom two layers.


This layer contains connective tissue, nerve endings, sweat glands, oil glands, hair follicles, scent glands, elastic fibres, blood vessels, pigment cells and sensory cells. It strengthens and supports the epidermis.


Also known as the subcutaneous tissue, this is a fatty layer that supplies nutrients to the other two layers of the skin. It contains connective tissue to keep your muscles and tendons attached to your skin and houses larger blood vessels and nerves. It also cushions our vital organs against shock.

The Somatosensory System

The sense of touch is the first sense that develops in the womb, because it's so very important for protecting our bodies. IT IS LITERALLY VITAL FOR OUR SURVIVAL!

In medicine they use the term "somatic senses", because it describes the complex variety of mechanisms involved in the sense of touch better than just the term "touch".

Even though touch is one of our five senses, it is much more complex than the other four (smell, taste, seeing and hearing).

A network of touch receptors and nerve endings make up our somatosensory system.

There are 5 main Types of Touch Receptors:

  • Mechanoreceptors perceive sensations like texture, pressure, movement and vibrations. 
  • Thermoreceptors perceive temperature (hot and cold).
  • Nocireceptors also known as pain receptors perceive pain, but also
    includes itch or tickle.
  • Proprioceptors perceive your body position, the sense of where your body is in space and each part of your body in relation to the other parts.
  • Chemoreceptors perceive chemical stimuli.

So Exactly How Do We Feel?

    When these sensory receptors are stimulated by a stimulus, a message is released and send to the brain through your spine. The brain then processes this message and decides what the best response will be.

If the stimulus is potentially dangerous, you will have a quicker response to remove yourself from that danger and prevent serious injury or harm. 

If it's a soothing or pleasant stimulus, your body will respond by relaxing your muscles and releasing hormones that makes you feel good. 

Think of how you immediately pull away when you get pricked with something sharp or when you touch something hot. That is the quicker response that prevents you from getting seriously hurt.

But when you are caressed or massaged, you relax and most likely get a smile on your face. It makes you feel good so you respond by relaxing.

The Skin Anatomy, Physiology and Microbiology

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