Layers and functions of the skin

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It protects internal organs from external agents and bacteria. On a daily basis, we focus on the outer layer, the visible one. It is its healthy appearance that we care about. However, skin is not only what we see. The skin consists of many layers, and each layer has a different function.

Skin layers

We will start with the outermost layer, that is, the one we see and cherish.


The epidermis is the layer that directly protects the body from external factors. It consists of five specific layers:

Corneal layer

Outermost. It provides a protective barrier. It shields the deeper layers from external factors such as sun, wind, pollution and bacteria, and prevents water loss. However, the stratum corneum allows some drugs to pass deep into the skin.
It consists of 12-16 keratinized keratin cells. They are bound together by intercellular cement. From the outside, the stratum corneum is covered with a lipid mantle.

Intermediate layer

It provides additional reinforcement for the skin. It occurs only locally – where the skin is very thick, for example, on the heels.
The intermediate layer contains keratohyalins that strengthen keratin. They are responsible for skin hydration and elasticity.

Granular layer

It protects the deeper layers of the skin from water. It consists of spindle cells involved in the synthesis of keratin proteins.

Spiked layer

It is responsible for regeneration when the skin is damaged.

Basal layer

That is, the deepest layer of the epidermis. It is responsible for the production of substances responsible for skin color, the synthesis of keratin precursors, and the production of immune cells.

What are skin appendages?

The appendages of the skin are the products of the work of the epidermis. They consist mainly of keratin. These include sebaceous glands, sweat glands, mammary glands, hair and nails.


The dermis is the thickest layer of the skin – it is about 1 to 3mm thick. It is strong, yet very flexible. It consists of collagen, elastin and reticulin fibers. It contains receptors, blood vessels, nerves and glands and hair follicles.

The dermis is a combination of two layers:

  • papillary, connecting to the epidermis. Its function is to nourish and transport metabolic by-products in the epidermis,
  • reticular, whose function is to protect the deeper layers of the skin.

Subcutaneous tissue

A layer made up of loose connective tissue. It contains fatty tissue and lower hair roots, as well as deep arteriovenous plexuses. Subcutaneous tissue is not literally a layer of skin, but rather a “mulch” under the skin. It has an insulating function, protecting the body from sudden temperature changes.


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