SKIN matters (Part 1)

Let’s face it, we are all guilty of neglecting our skin. But our outer covering can really benefit from a little TLC from time to time.

But before we talk about skin care, let me tell you about a few skin facts:

  • Did you know the average human skin can cover an area of 2 square metres & can weigh as much as 5 kilograms?
  • Did you know that the thickness of the skin on the eyelid is 0.5 millimetres, whereas on the heels it is almost 5 millimetres?
  • Did you know that the bulk of household dust is actually the remnants of our dead skin cells?

what does our skin do

  1. Firstly our skin is a barrier which protects us from UV light, mechanical, thermal & chemical stresses, & alien invasion, sorry I mean, microbial invasion (bugs, bacteria, viruses, that sort of thing).
  2. Secondly it houses a mass of sensors that allow us to perceive the world around us & adjust accordingly, for example temperature, touch, pressure & pain.
  3. Thirdly our skin helps us keep our body temperature at a safe level.
  4. Finally fourthly our skin plays an important role in producing Vitamin D & other cellular bits & pieces.

A bit about the anatomy of the skin

The Epidermis

The outer layer of skin is classed as ‘Keratinised (Keratin – a substance that basically kills the base layer of living skin cells), Stratified (basically meaning layered), Squamous (the name given to the shedding dead skin cells), Epithelium (skin tissue).

The best way to imagine the epidermis is a tiled roof whereby the old tiles are constantly pushed off by new tiles popping up underneath.

The Dermis

Under the Epidermis is the Dermis – a layer that is full of blood vessels, sensory nerve endings & the ducts of sweat glands (it also contains hair follicles & associated oil (sebaceous) glands in non-thick skin).

The Hypodermis

This layer connects the skin to the rest of the body & contains fat cells & houses the body of the sweat glands.

Thick skin

Just to confuse matters further, the skin on the bottom of the feet (& also the palms) is composed of thick skin. The obvious difference between thick & non-thick is the pronounced ‘dermal papillae’ (the swirls & whirls that form our fingerprints) which are caused by excessive folds in the join between the dermis & epidermis. The next difference is that there are no hair follicles in thick skin & interestingly, no oil glands.


Our skin colour is dictated by three different things:

  • The amount of Carotene in our fat cells (Yellowy-orange)
  • The amount of blood & attached oxygen in our blood stream (Red)
  • The amount of Melanin pigment produced in our epidermis (Brown)

A few words about MELANIN

Melanin is a pigment that is secreted by cells in the epidermis called Melanocytes, when the skin is exposed to Ultra Violet light. Ordinarily this is protective measure, but for those with fair coloured skin, this melanin production can trigger serious skin problems.

Most of us are familiar with ‘moles’ (not the ones that dig holes in your garden, but the ones on your skin). A mole is simply a collection of Melanin producing cells that have nested together. As children & young adults moles are relatively common, but as older adults ‘new moles’ should always be viewed with suspicion.

Coming up….SKIN matters (Part 2) – All about Feet