The nature of skin

Skin has an almost magical ability to repair itself, which we seem to take for granted. It constantly replenishes itself. It covers an amazing 20 square feet and is 15% of our total body weight. In the three layers of one square inch of skin, you’ll find 19 yards of blood vessels, 65 hairs, 78 yards of nerves, 100 sebaceous glands, 650 sweat glands, 1300 nerve endings, 20,000 sensory cells, 129,040 pores and 9.5 million pores.

Your skin's top layer - the epidermis

This microscopically thin layer of your skin is a mere 7 to 10 cells thick; in a young adult, it completely renews itself every 28 days. Almost 95% of this layer is composed of new cells called keratinocytes. The rest (5%) is made up of cells that product melanin, which gives your skin color, and Langerhan cells, which work with the immune system to help fight infections. The renewal rate of the epidermis diminishes with age. As a result, the pores pack up with dead skin cells, which makes them look larger. This slowing down with age is also the reason for the epidermis being less resilient and bright as we get older.

Your skin's middle layer - the dermis

Most of the skin’s volume is found in the middle layer. The dermis is composed of collagen and elastin fibers; nerve endings that sense temperature and pressure; blood vessels that supply nutrients to keep everything replenished and renewed; sweat glands, which function to cool you down; muscles that contract and cause you to “shiver” and make your hand “stand up;” hair follicles, and oil glands. However pesky you may find them when you’re having an outbreak of acne, you can’t live without oil glands. They produce the sebum that keeps your skin soft, pliable and waterproof.

Your skin's bottom layer - the subcutaneous layer

In this layer there are lots of fat cells. These provide insulation and protection for your fragile organs. Rooted in these fat cells are most of your hair follicles. The hair follicle and attached sebaceous, or oil, gland share space in what is known as the pilosebaceous gland. The pore is the passage from the base of the hair follicle to the surface of the skin (the epidermis). Sebum is an oily substance composed of free fatty acids, cholesterol, triglycerides and wax. It is released from the gland, into the pore and travels to the skin’s surface to keep it pliable and protected. Without sebum, your skin would be dry and itchy.

Understanding this vital organ

It’s important to understand how your skin works and what can go wrong with it, just as it’s important to understand how any other organ in your body works. We tend to take our skin for granted, not realizing that it is an organ performing functions just as vital to our health as our hearts, lungs and other organs. Knowing how skin works is the first step to understanding the causes of acne and how to reduce or prevent outbreaks of acne.