Describe the great of the skin and the features of every layer

The skin is created of two significant layers: a superficial epidermis and a depths dermis. The epidermis is composed of several layers The topmost layer consists of dead cells that melted periodically and is progressively replaced by cells created from the basal layer. The dermis associate the epidermis to the hypodermis, and provides strength and also elasticity as result of the presence of collagen and elastin fibers. The hypodermis, deep to the dermis of skin, is the connective organization that connect the dermis to underlying structures; it likewise harbors adipose organization for fat storage and also protection.

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Learning Objectives

Describe the different layers the the skinDescribe the epidermis and also identify its various componentsDescribe the dermis and also identify its different layersIdentify and also describe the hypodermis and also deep fasciaDescribe the function of melanocytes in skin pigmentation

Layers that the Skin

Although you may not frequently think of the skin as an organ, that is in reality made of organization that occupational together together a single structure to perform distinct and crucial functions. The skin and also its accessory structures make up the integumentary system, which offers the body with overall protection. The skin is make of multiple great of cells and tissues, i m sorry are hosted to underlying structures by connective tissue (Figure 1). The deeper class of skin is well vascularized (has plenty of blood vessels). It also has numerous sensory, and also autonomic and sympathetic nerve yarn ensuring communication to and also from the brain.

Figure 1. The skin is created of two key layers: the epidermis, make of closely packed epithelial cells, and the dermis, made of dense, rarely often rare connective tissue that houses blood vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, and other structures. In ~ the dermis lies the hypodermis, i beg your pardon is composed largely of loosened connective and also fatty tissues.

The skin is composed of two key layers and a closely associated layer. See this computer animation to learn more about great of the skin. What room the an easy functions of each of this layers?


The epidermis is written of keratinized, stratified squamous epithelium. It is do of four or five layers of epithelial cells, relying on its ar in the body. The does not have any type of blood vessels in ~ it (i.e., that is avascular). Skin that has 4 layers of cells is described as “thin skin.” indigenous deep to superficial, these layers room the stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, and stratum corneum. Many of the skin have the right to be classified together thin skin. “Thick skin” is found only on the palms of the hands and also the soles the the feet. It has a 5th layer, dubbed the stratum lucidum, located in between the stratum corneum and the stratum granulosum (Figure 2).

The cell in every one of the layers other than the stratum basale are dubbed keratinocytes. A keratinocyte is a cell the manufactures and also stores the protein keratin. Keratin is an intracellular fibrous protein that gives hair, nails, and also skin their hardness and also water-resistant properties. The keratinocytes in the stratum corneum are dead and regularly slough away, being replaced by cells from the deeper class (Figure 3).

View the university of Michigan WebScope to explore the organization sample in better detail. If you zoom ~ above the cell at the outermost great of this ar of skin, what execute you an alert about the cells?

Practice Question

If friend zoom ~ above the cells at the outermost layer of this section of skin (Figure 3), what perform you an alert about the cells?

Show Answer
These cells carry out not have actually nuclei, therefore you have the right to deduce that they room dead. They appear to it is in sloughing off.

Stratum Basale

The stratum basale (also dubbed the stratum germinativum) is the deepest epidermal layer and attaches the epidermis to the basal lamina, below which lie the class of the dermis. The cell in the stratum basale bond come the dermis via intertwining collagen fibers, described as the basement membrane. A finger-like projection, or fold, known as the dermal papilla (plural = dermal papillae) is discovered in the superficial portion of the dermis. Dermal papillae rise the strength of the connection between the epidermis and dermis; the greater the folding, the more powerful the relations made (Figure 4).

Figure 4. The epidermis of special skin has five layers: stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and also stratum corneum.

The stratum basale is a solitary layer the cells generally made the basal cells. A basal cell is a cuboidal-shaped stem cell the is a precursor that the keratinocytes of the epidermis. Every one of the keratinocytes are developed from this single layer the cells, which room constantly going through mitosis to produce brand-new cells. As new cells room formed, the existing cell are driven superficially away from the stratum basale. Two other cell types are uncovered dispersed among the basal cell in the stratum basale. The an initial is a Merkel cell, which features as a receptor and also is responsible because that stimulating sensory nerves the the brain perceives as touch. This cells are particularly abundant top top the surfaces of the hands and feet. The 2nd is a melanocyte, a cell the produces the colors melanin. Melanin provides hair and also skin the color, and additionally helps protect the living cells of the epidermis indigenous ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage.

In a farming fetus, fingerprints kind where the cell of the stratum basale fulfill the papillae that the basic dermal layer (papillary layer), resulting in the formation of the ridges on your fingers the you acknowledge as fingerprints. Fingerprints are distinct to each individual and are supplied for forensic analyses due to the fact that the patterns carry out not change with the growth and also aging processes.

Stratum Spinosum

As the name suggests, the stratum spinosum is spiny in appearance due to the protruding cell processes that sign up with the cell via a structure called a desmosome. The desmosomes interlock with each other and strengthen the bond in between the cells. The is interesting to note that the “spiny” nature that this layer is an artifact of the staining process. Unstained epidermis samples execute not exhibit this characteristic appearance. The stratum spinosum is created of eight come 10 class of keratinocytes, developed as a an outcome of cell department in the stratum basale (Figure 5). Interspersed amongst the keratinocytes of this class is a form of dendritic cell referred to as the Langerhans cell, which attributes as a macrophage by engulfing bacteria, foreign particles, and damaged cells that happen in this layer.

Practice Question

Cells the the epidermis derive from stem cell of the stratum basale. Describe how the cells readjust as they end up being integrated right into the different layers of the epidermis.

As the cell move into the stratum spinosum, they start the synthesis of keratin and also extend cabinet processes, desmosomes, which link the cells. Together the stratum basale proceeds to produce brand-new cells, the keratinocytes the the stratum spinosum are pushed into the stratum granulosum. The cells become flatter, your cell membranes thicken, and also they generate big amounts the the protein keratin and also keratohyalin. The nuclei and also other cabinet organelles disintegrate together the cells die, leaving behind the keratin, keratohyalin, and cell membranes that type the stratum lucidum and also the stratum corneum. The keratinocytes in this layers are mostly dead and also flattened. Cell in the stratum corneum room periodically shed.

The keratinocytes in the stratum spinosum start the synthetic of keratin and release a water-repelling glycolipid that helps avoid water loss indigenous the body, making the skin fairly waterproof. As brand-new keratinocytes are developed atop the stratum basale, the keratinocytes that the stratum spinosum space pushed into the stratum granulosum.

Stratum Granulosum

The stratum granulosum has actually a grainy appearance because of further changes to the keratinocytes as they are driven from the stratum spinosum. The cells (three to five layers deep) come to be flatter, your cell membranes thicken, and they generate huge amounts the the proteins keratin, which is fibrous, and keratohyalin, i beg your pardon accumulates together lamellar granules in ~ the cells (see Figure 4). These two proteins consist of the bulk of the keratinocyte massive in the stratum granulosum and also give the class its grainy appearance. The nuclei and other cell organelles disintegrate as the cell die, leaving behind the keratin, keratohyalin, and cell membranes the will type the stratum lucidum, the stratum corneum, and the accessory frameworks of hair and also nails.

Stratum Lucidum

The stratum lucidum is a smooth, look at translucent class of the epidermis situated just over the stratum granulosum and below the stratum corneum. This thin layer of cells is uncovered only in the special skin that the palms, soles, and also digits. The keratinocytes that compose the stratum lucidum are dead and also flattened (see Figure 4). These cells room densely packed v eleiden, a clear protein wealthy in lipids, acquired from keratohyalin, which offers these cells your transparent (i.e., lucid) appearance and also provides a obstacle to water.

Stratum Corneum

The stratum corneum is the most superficial layer of the epidermis and is the great exposed to the outside setting (see Figure 4). The raised keratinization (also dubbed cornification) that the cells in this layer offers it that name. There room usually 15 to 30 class of cells in the stratum corneum. This dry, dead class helps avoid the penetration that microbes and also the dehydration of underlying tissues, and provides a mechanical protection against abrasion because that the more delicate, basic layers. Cells in this layer are burned periodically and also are replaced by cells driven up indigenous the stratum granulosum (or stratum lucidum in the case of the palms and also soles of feet). The entire layer is replaced throughout a duration of around 4 weeks. Cosmetics procedures, such together microdermabrasion, aid remove some of the dry, top layer and aim to save the skin feather “fresh” and healthy.


Figure 6. This stained slide reflects the two contents of the dermis—the papillary layer and the reticular layer. Both space made that connective tissue v fibers of collagen prolonging from one to the other, making the border between the two rather indistinct. The dermal papillae extending into the epidermis belong come the papillary layer, vice versa, the dense collagen fiber bundles below belong to the reticular layer. LM × 10. (credit: modification of work-related by “kilbad”/Wikimedia Commons)

The dermis can be thought about the “core” of the integumentary system (derma- = “skin”), as unique from the epidermis (epi– = “upon” or “over”) and hypodermis (hypo– = “below”). It consists of blood and also lymph vessels, nerves, and also other structures, such as hair follicles and also sweat glands. The dermis is made of two layers the connective tissue that compose an interconnected mesh of elastin and also collagenous fibers, created by fibroblasts (Figure 6).

Papillary Layer

The papillary layer is made of loose, areolar connective tissue, which method the collagen and elastin yarn of this layer form a loosened mesh. This superficial class of the dermis projects into the stratum basale of the epidermis to type finger-like dermal papillae (see Figure 6). In ~ the papillary layer are fibroblasts, a small variety of fat cell (adipocytes), and wealth of little blood vessels. In addition, the papillary layer includes phagocytes, defensive cells that aid fight bacteria or various other infections that have breached the skin. This layer also contains lymphatic capillaries, nerve fibers, and also touch receptors dubbed the Meissner corpuscles.

Reticular Layer

Underlying the papillary great is the much thicker reticular layer, written of dense, irregular connective tissue. This layer is fine vascularized and has a rich sensory and sympathetic nerve supply. The reticular layer appears reticulated (net-like) because of a chop meshwork the fibers. Elastin fibers carry out some elasticity to the skin, allowing movement. Collagen fibers carry out structure and also tensile strength, v strands the collagen expanding into both the papillary layer and also the hypodermis. In addition, collagen binds water to keep the skin hydrated. Collagen injections and also Retin-A creams assist restore skin turgor through either introducing collagen externally or stimulating blood flow and also repair of the dermis, respectively.


The hypodermis (also called the subcutaneous great or superficial fascia) is a class directly below the dermis and also serves to connect the skin come the underlying fascia (fibrous tissue) that the bones and muscles. The is not strictly a component of the skin, back the border in between the hypodermis and also dermis have the right to be difficult to distinguish. The hypodermis is composed of well-vascularized, loose, areolar connective tissue and adipose tissue, which features as a setting of fat storage and also provides insulation and also cushioning for the integument.

Lipid Storage

The hypodermis is residence to most of the fat that concerns people when they are trying to save their load under control. Adipose tissue current in the hypodermis consists of fat-storing cells dubbed adipocytes. This stored fat deserve to serve together an power reserve, insulate the body to prevent warmth loss, and act together a cushion to protect underlying frameworks from trauma.

Where the fat is deposited and also accumulates in ~ the hypodermis relies on hormone (testosterone, estrogen, insulin, glucagon, leptin, and also others), and genetic factors. Fat distribution transforms as our bodies mature and also age. Men tend to accumulate fat in different locations (neck, arms, lower back, and also abdomen) than perform women (breasts, hips, thighs, and buttocks). The body mass index (BMI) is frequently used as a measure up of fat, although this measure up is, in fact, obtained from a math formula that compares body load (mass) to height. Therefore, that is accuracy together a health indicator deserve to be dubbed into inquiry in individuals who are very physically fit.

In countless animals, there is a sample of storing overabundance calories together fat to be offered in times once food is not readily available. In much of the arisen world, insufficient exercise coupled v the ready access and usage of high-calorie foodstuffs have resulted in unwanted accumulations of adipose tissue in many people. Although periodic buildup of overfill fat may have listed an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors, who proficient unpredictable bouts that famine, the is now ending up being chronic and considered a major health threat. Recent studies show that a distressing portion of our populace is overweight and/or clinically obese. Not only is this a problem for the individuals affected, yet it likewise has a severe impact on our health care system. Alters in lifestyle, specifically in diet and also exercise, space the ideal ways to regulate body fat accumulation, especially when the reaches levels that rise the threat of heart disease and diabetes.


The shade of skin is influenced by a number of pigments, consisting of melanin, carotene, and hemoglobin. Recall that melanin is produced by cells dubbed melanocytes, i m sorry are discovered scattered throughout the stratum basale that the epidermis. The melanin is transferred right into the keratinocytes via a moving vesicle dubbed a melanosome (Figure 7).

Figure 7. The family member coloration that the skin relies of the amount of melanin produced by melanocytes in the stratum basale and taken increase by keratinocytes.

Melanin occurs in two primary forms. Eumelanin, the many common kind of melanin, exists as black and also brown, vice versa, pheomelanin offers a red color. Dark-skinned people produce more melanin than those v pale skin. Exposure come the UV light ray of the sunlight or a tan salon causes melanin come be made and collected in keratinocytes, as sun exposure stimulates keratinocytes come secrete chemicals the stimulate melanocytes. The build-up of melanin in keratinocytes results in the darkening of the skin, or a tan. This raised melanin buildup protects the DNA of epidermal cell from UV ray damage and the failure of folic acid, a nutrient necessary for our health and also well-being. In contrast, too lot melanin have the right to interfere through the production of vitamin D, critical nutrient affiliated in calcium absorption. Thus, the amount of melanin current in ours skin is dependent on a balance between obtainable sunlight and also folic mountain destruction, and also protection from UV radiation and also vitamin D production.

It requires about 10 job after initial sunlight exposure because that melanin synthesis to peak, i m sorry is why pale-skinned people tend to endure sunburns that the epidermis initially. Dark-skinned individuals can likewise get sunburns, but are much more protected than are pale-skinned individuals. Melanosomes are temporary frameworks that room eventually destroyed by fusion with lysosomes; this fact, in addition to melanin-filled keratinocytes in the stratum corneum sloughing off, renders tanning impermanent.

Too lot sun exposure can eventually lead come wrinkling as result of the destruction of the cellular framework of the skin, and in significant cases, can reason sufficient DNA damages to result in skin cancer. As soon as there is an irregular build-up of melanocytes in the skin, freckles appear. Moles are bigger masses the melanocytes, and although many are benign, they need to be monitored for alters that might indicate the existence of cancer (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Moles range from bright accumulations of melanocytes to melanomas. These structures populate the see of ours skin. (credit: the national Cancer Institute)

Practice Question

What determines the shade of skin, and what is the process that darkens skin when it is exposed to UV light?

The colors melanin, created by melanocytes, is mainly responsible for skin color. Melanin come in various shades that brown and black. Individuals with darker skin have actually darker, more abundant melanin, whereas fair-skinned individuals have a lighter the shade of skin and less melanin. Exposure to UV irradiation stimulates the melanocytes to produce and secrete more melanin.

Figure 9. Individuals with vitiligo suffer depigmentation that results in lighter colored patches of skin. The problem is specifically noticeable ~ above darker skin. (credit: Klaus D. Peter)

Albinism is a hereditary disorder that affects (completely or partially) the colour of skin, hair, and also eyes. The defect is primarily due to the inability of melanocytes to create melanin. Individuals with albinism tend to show up white or very pale because of the absence of melanin in your skin and also hair. Recall that melanin helps safeguard the skin native the harmful results of UV radiation. People with albinism often tend to need more protection from UV radiation, as they are more prone come sunburns and also skin cancer. They additionally tend to be an ext sensitive come light and also have vision difficulties due come the lack of pigmentation ~ above the retinal wall. Treatment of this disorder usually entails addressing the symptoms, such together limiting UV irradiate exposure to the skin and also eyes. In vitiligo, the melanocytes in details areas lose their capability to produce melanin, possibly as result of an autoimmune reaction. This leader to a lose of shade in spot (Figure 9). No albinism no one vitiligo directly affects the expectancy of an individual.

Other transforms in the figure of skin coloration deserve to be indicative the diseases connected with other body systems. Liver condition or liver cancer can cause the accumulation of bile and the yellow colours bilirubin, resulting in the skin appearing yellow or jaundiced (jaune is the French word for “yellow”). Tumors that the pituitary gland can an outcome in the secretion of large amounts the melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), which results in a darkening the the skin. Similarly, Addison’s condition can wake up the release of excess quantities of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), i beg your pardon can offer the skin a deep bronze color. A suddenly drop in oxygenation can influence skin color, causing the skin to initially turn ashen (white). With a lengthy reduction in oxygen levels, dark red deoxyhemoglobin becomes dominant in the blood, make the skin show up blue, a problem referred to together cyanosis (kyanos is the Greek word because that “blue”). This happens as soon as the oxygen supply is restricted, as as soon as someone is experiencing difficulty in breathing due to the fact that of asthma or a heart attack. However, in these situations the effect on skin shade has nothing perform with the skin’s pigmentation.

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