Doctors think and talk of the skin as another of the body's organs. Isn't this overstating things a bit?
Not at all. Thw skin is indeed as vital to the functioning of the body as the heart, the liver or any other organ. In fact, it is probably more important than some. In structure it consists of two layers - the outer, visible surface, which is called the epidermis, and a thick layer beneath, called the dermis. Beneath both is a layer of fat called subcutaneous fat. Weighing about 4 kilograms and covering an area of approximately 2 square metres, the skin also contains such important structures as the hair, nails and sweat and oil glands.
The skin performs numerous crucial tasks: it protects the body from penetration by bacteria and other harmful organisms; it shields the internal organs from injury and helps the body to retain moisture and heat; it contains what are known as sebaceous glands, which secrete sebum ( oil ) to keep the skin supple and moist; and it contains sweat glands which release perspiration when the body is hot and prevent it from overheating. The skin also houses a network of tiny blood vessels that help to regulate body temperature by expanding when it is high and contracting when it is low. Finally, the skin contains nerve endings that transmit to the brain information about the world we live in.