What is the primary purpose of skin?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
While it seems like the main purpose of skin these days is to sell magazines and movie tickets, its primary purpose is, naturally, to protect your insides. More specifically, your skin performs four important jobs:
  1. Skin protects against infections. Infections from the outside world travel to our inside world in three ways-through our lungs, our intestines, and our skin. Since our skin has the most interface with the outside world, it has a protective quality to it in that the top layer of skin is a dead layer, which acts as a shield against outside invaders.

  2. Skin sends important signals to our brain. For example, if you burn yourself and it hurts, you're receiving the message to step away from the camp fire (that's good). If it's painless, it means you may have killed the part of the skin with pain fibers. (That's bad.) Not only wouldn't your brain get the message, but you also wouldn't be able to heal properly.

  3. Skin helps us develop. Of all the senses that we can be deprived of during development, the one that causes the most damage if it's missing is touch (we know this from baboon studies, but it also appears to be true in humans). Take this a step further, and we know the importance that touch can have therapeutically-such as from massage used as a healing mechanism, and even sexual touch for emotional well-being.

  4. Skin helps us heal. That's what scabs do-they provide a layer of protection and moisture to allow skin to fuse together over the wound. (Picking a scab interrupts and slows down that healing process because the healing cells are pulled off when you peel off the scab.)
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Skin serves many purposes. It's waterproof and protects your inner organs from the elements. Skin also helps keep you warm when it's cold outside (by shivering), and cool when it's hot (by sweating). Skin plays a key role in immunity, too, by keeping out potentially infectious microorganisms and fighting infection. Skin is a sense organ, relaying touch sensations to your brain. It transforms sunlight into vitamin D, and protects your body from excess ultraviolet light. A century ago, scientists thought skin was merely an external barrier, but we now know that skin is a complex organ with many functions. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.