Skin is your body’s largest organ, with specialist care for the skin called dermatology. The skin is made up of multiple layers, which contain differing compounds, from water, proteins and fats, to the various nutrients like minerals and chemicals.
The skin has a few jobs: keep the world out, keep you tucked in, cool you down, warm you up, and act as a transporter of information like temperature, pressure and pain.
Our skin changes all the time to adapt to our circumstances and environment, renewing itself constantly. Old skin cells are shed, and new ones are grown.
Dermatology: understanding the skin’s layers
There is the thin outside layer (epidermis), then the middle layer which is thicker (dermis), followed by the inner layer (subcutaneous tissue, hypodermis).
The epidermis is actually translucent, being mostly a layer of dead skin cells that protect us, and are constantly shed. The inner core of the epidermis contains the cells that keep the skin cells replenished, continually growing, with all epidermal cells containing a substance known as keratin. This keratin is a protein that helps protect us from bacteria, chemicals, and harmful substances. Keratin is what makes hair and nails tough.
This epidermal layer also contains our melanin-producing cells, the melanocytes, which are responsible for giving us darker skin when exposed to UV rays.
Your skin’s health is very much part of the epidermis’s job – it holds water, keeping skin supple. This capacity to store water decreases as we age, which means we are more prone to dry skin as we age.
The dermis has two types of fibres – collagen and elastin. With many cosmetic treatments, we are targeting the dermis, to stimulate collagen and elastin production. The dermis is also rich in blood and lymph vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, and oil glands. We also have a lot of nerves in the dermis that allow us to experience many sensations.
The hypodermis is the fatty layer, or subcutaneous fatty tissue, that sits between the dermis and your muscles, ligaments and bones. Part of this layer of fat is what is taken out in fat removal treatments like liposuction or fat freezing.
The hypodermis is responsible for helping regulate your body temperature, as large blood vessels contained in this fatty layer expand or contact, depending on how much heat needs to be released.
This layer also acts as a protective coating over your muscles and bones. Without it, you can directly feel your muscles and bones. This means that any damage to the skin (like a cut) has a greater risk of damaging a more important structure like a muscle or tendon if there is less fat.
Sebaceous glands produce the oil that keeps your skin supple and hydrated. These oils reduce evaporation of water from your skin, while also protecting your skin from infections by blocking access to cells directly by microbes. These oil glands are also responsible for producing body odour, which acts as a chemical messenger.
Your sweat glands produce salty water to help keep you cool, via evaporation. We have sweat glands all over our body, but they are very concentrated around the armpits, feet, hands and forehead.
Dermatology at our Melbourne clinic
Dermatology is the study of the skin, hair and nails, with a dermatologist the specialised doctor who applies the science and art of dermatology to his or her patients. A dermatologist has medical training as a doctor, with specialist dermatology training on top of that. It takes many years to become a dermatologist, and a special interest in this area of medicine.
We are expert dermatologists.
Contact our Melbourne clinic