Many people wonder whether the skin is an organ or a tissue. This confusion stems from the fact that organs are generally thought of as vital structures located within the body. But despite its more exposed state, make no mistake about it…the skin is not only an organ, it is the largest organ of the human body and it performs many very important functions.
Made up of several layers, including the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis, the skin is, of course, the outer covering of the human body. As such it provides important protection for all of the other organs as well as the bones, ligaments, muscles and nerves. It provides both a barrier to keep toxins and other foreign substances out of the body as well as a pathway to allow the body to secrete toxins that build up inside it.
All mammals have skin, but human skin tends to have less hair than that of other mammals. Even so, the greater percentage of human skin is covered with hair follicles. The outermost layer of skin is the epidermis. This layer serves as a protective wrapper of sorts, keeping infection from reaching the rest of the body. Because it is most exposed to the elements, it is the epidermis that tends to show the most signs of damage, including wrinkles, sagging, bruises and dry patches.
The dermis is the layer just below the epidermis and this is the operations center of the skin, containing the hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands and lymphatic and blood vessels. These are the structures that work to remove waste from the body, provide natural moisturizing and allow for proper circulation of the blood to the various systems within the body.
The hypodermis is actually a layer of connective tissue that attaches the two upper layers of skin to the body. It also contains adipose tissue and elastin, allowing for the skin to remain flexible and giving it room to grow. This is a particularly important function as the skin is continually growing throughout your life cycle. As new skin grows the outer most layer of the epidermis is shed to make room for it.
Like most organs, the skin serves a number of important functions that are vital to overall good health. It provides protection, as a barrier between the external and internal environments; regulates heat; controls evaporation to prevent excess fluid loss; allows for the excretion of waist through sweating; and can help with the transmission of medications through absorption. At the same time, the skin contains many nerve endings that react to heat, cold, touch, vibration and tissue injury.
The skin also plays an important role in our aesthetic makeup as it is a large part of the physical image others have of us. Skin color, or pigmentation, elasticity and moisture all combine to give an appearance of youth and health. The skin can also work to store water and synthesize Vitamin D absorbed through UV exposure, all of which can improve overall health.
As skin ages, it becomes thinner and less pliable, so it is more prone to injury. For this reason, we need to take good care of our skin throughout our lives. Without healthy skin, the rest of the body would be much more vulnerable to disease and infection. The more you can do to care for your skin, through proper cleansing, using sunblocks with UV protection and eating well, the better off you’ll be. The skin is indeed an organ and it needs to be treated with TLC.