The skin is not only the outer layer of our body. Without our skin, obvious things like breathing and moving would not be possible. In addition, the skin keeps all the inner organs in place and repels pathogens. Read on for more fascinating facts about the skin!
1. Your skin consists of three different layers.
The skin is considered to be an organ in itself. It consists of three layers: the waterproof top layer (epidermis), the middle layer of connective tissue, hair follicles and glands (dermis) and the inner layer consisting mainly of fat and connective tissue (hypodermis). The hypodermis supports the skin structure and ensures adhesion with the muscles.
2. The skin colour is determined by cells in the epidermis.
These cells are known as melanocytes, which secrete a pigmented substance called melanin; the more melanin in the cells, the darker the skin. Excess or insufficient melanin can lead to certain skin disorders. For example, a lack of melanin can lead to the condition vitiligo, which results in white spots on the skin. With albinism the melanocytes do not produce melanin at all. In the case of excess melanin, hyperpigmentation can occur, resulting in dark spots on the skin.
3. Your skin can weigh more than 10 kilos.
The skin is responsible for about 15 percent of the body weight. This makes the skin the largest organ of your body. An average woman of 75 kilos carries about 10 kilos of skin, while the body of an average man of 85 kilos contains about 12 kilos of skin.
4. Your skin renews itself every 28 to 30 days.
New cells are created in the deepest layer of the skin and it takes about four weeks for them to appear on the surface. This process, in which old skin is worn down and replaced by new skin, can occur more than 1000 times in an average lifetime.
5. Tattoos stick thanks to macrophages.
If your skin cells renew every month, how is it possible for tattoos to stick? It’s because of your immune system. The prick of a tattoo needle causes an inflammation in the dermis. In response, macrophages, a kind of white blood cells, are sent to the inflammation to heal the skin. These macrophages ‘eat’ the dye and pass it on to new macrophages when they die. By doing this, the dye is always transferred from cell to cell. Only lasers designed to remove tattoos are strong enough to kill these macrophages.
6. Your skin acts as a host for billions of creatures.
Your skin contains a microbioom in which more than 1000 types of bacteria can live, along with other microbes, viruses and pathogens. The small ecosystems consist mainly of good bacteria that support body processes such as wound healing.
7. The ancient Egyptians covered their wounds with mouldy bread.
Injuries to the dermis can expose the inner tissues to pathogens. To prevent infections from spreading, the ancient Egyptians treated their wounds with mouldy bread (really!). Although this may seem unhygienic, modern research has shown that the bread probably contained antibacterial properties, a kind of early form of penicillin.
8. Your moisture balance depends on your skin.
Your skin forms a waterproof barrier to maintain the body’s moisture balance. For example, people who have suffered burns often have problems with their fluid balance. Moisture loss through skin injuries can be very dangerous and can lead to dehydration and hypertension, among other things.
9. Your legs may be the driest part of your body.
Unless you live in the tropics, you probably notice that the skin on your legs gets drier in winter. There’s a biological reason for that. The skin here contains fewer sebaceous glands than any other part of the body. The low humidity in winter causes dehydration of the skin.
10. Scientists use ‘good’ bacteria to treat acne.
Acne is a hormonal disorder in which the pores of the skin become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. A 2015 study has shown that fighting the bad bacteria that stimulate acne outbreaks with good bacteria (probiotics) has a beneficial effect and can make the skin more resilient in the long term.