SKIN

September 16, 2003
 
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Skin is the largest organ of your body. If you could peel off and weigh the average adult's skin, it would weigh between 6 and 8 pounds and would cover about 20 square feet - about the size of a twin size blanket. Now, that's a lot of skin!

Your skin has many important jobs. This super organ is waterproof, helps keep germs out, helps regulate your temperature, protects your inner organs, and helps you "feel" things. In fact, you couldn't live without it!

skin clipartThe real "Skinny"
Skin is made up of three layers. The two main layers are the epidermis and the dermis.

The part of skin you see when you look at your body or in a mirror is called the epidermis.
It is made up of several layers of cells. The cells in the epidermis form a protein called keratin, forming a tough layer. These cells on the upper layer are constantly dying and flaking off. You will lose between 5 and 10 pounds of dead skin flakes in a year! But, don't worry, there are plenty more where they came from! New cells are constantly being made and pushing their way up to the top.

Freckles clipart

Freckles are clumps of melanocytes or as some people call them - angel kisses!

Color of your Skin
Your epidermis also has cells called melanocytes. These cells produce a pigment called melanin. The amount of melanin in your skin helps determine the color of your skin. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin color.

When you go out in the sun, your body makes more melanin to try and protect you from getting sunburned. Melanin is where your suntan comes from! But, melanin alone isn't enough protection for your skin. You need to help protect your skin by protecting it with sunscreen, covering up with clothing or just chilling in the shade.

The Dermis
The second layer of your skin is called the dermis. It is a lot thicker than the epidermis. This layer of skin contains the pits, or follicles where hairs grow. This layer also has the sweat and oil glands, blood vessels, nerve endings and fat, all of which help keep your skin healthy. There are also flexible fibers called collagen running through the dermis, which give your skin its strength and elasticity. As you get older, the collagen in your dermis gets tougher, and the skin is less flexible. That's why older people have lines or wrinkles on their bodies. It's because their dermis is getting tougher!

What about Pimples?
Zits, pimples, lumps, bumps, a.k.a. acne. What is it? And more importantly how do you get rid of it? Well, anyone can have pimples but it usually happens to teenagers more often than the rest of us. About 85% of teenagers have some form of acne. Acne happens when your body produces too much oil, also known as sebum.

Sebum, produced in the sebaceous glands located in the dermis layer of your skin helps keep your skin lubricated and protected. But, like many things, too much of a good thing can turn into problems. The "extra" oil combined with bacteria and those dead skin cells that your body is always shedding can clog up your pores, which leads to a pimple, otherwise known as a "zit."

Experts say the best thing you can do for a pimple is to leave it alone. Don't pop it or pick at it. You could make it a lot worse by causing an infection or a scar. The pimple will only last for a little while - but a scar is with you for a lot longer! The best way to reduce your chances of getting pimples is to simply wash your face twice a day with mild soap and water. If you have a bad case of acne you might check out the creams available at your local pharmacy or talk to your family doctor.

body clipartThe Nerve!
Your dermis also contains nerve endings that send signals to your brain telling it how things feel when you touch them. These nerve endings tell your brain when something is soft or prickly, smooth or rough. Your nerve endings in the dermis also help you from getting hurt. If you touch something hot, the nerve endings send a message to your brain to say "Hey, that's hot!" So, your skin is always working to keep you safe.

thermometer clipartIts Getting Hot in Here!
Your body works best at 98° Fahrenheit. Your skin helps keep your body at the right temperature by helping it cool down and protecting you when it is cold.

When we get overheated, our bodies need to lose heat. Our skin helps us lose heat by expanding the blood vessels in the skin to let heat escape and also by pouring on the sweat. When your hot, your body produces more sweat. Sweat helps take the heat away from the skin as it evaporates helping our bodies cool down. Just think of it as your own personal air conditioning unit!

When our bodies are cold, our skin stops heat from escaping by constricting the blood vessels and using the muscles in the hair follicle to make the hair stand up straight to form goose pimples. The goose pimples help trap a layer of warm air over our body. Our muscles also shiver to help make extra heat to warm us up.

The third layer of skin
The third and bottom layer of the skin is called the subcutaneous layer. It is made mostly of fat and helps your body stay warm and provides you with a bit of padding to help you from gettting hurt. The subcutaneous layer also helps hold your skin to all the tissues underneath it, to protect your body.

The Skin Wins!
When it comes to being one amazing organ, the skin wins! It covers us up, lets us feel the world around us, and helps keep us from getting hurt. The skin even provides some cushioning and temperature control for our bodies. Return the favor to your skin and protect it by playing it safe in the sun and always wearing sunscreen when you're outdoors. No matter what color skin you have, the UV rays can burn you or do damage that you might not even see or feel until you're older.

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