How does my skin protect me?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Covering an average of eighteen square feet, your skin is your body’s largest organ and, in addition to providing physical protection, has many other vital functions.

Skin also:

• Protects against infections - germs from the outside world travel to your inside world via three main systems--your lungs (through your nose and mouth), your intestines (through your mouth), and your skin (all over). Since your skin stops the outside world from getting in far more than the other two areas, it is your protective key.

• Sends important signals to your brain via touch - for example, if you burn yourself, and it hurts, your brain receives the message to get your fingers away from the lighter you’re holding up at the end of the rock concert. And that message comes courtesy of your skin. If your fingers are touching fire and you feel no pain, the flames may have already killed the part of the skin containing pain-sensing fibers. So what’s the big deal? If those nerve endings are dead, your brain won’t get the message, and you won’t remove your fingers from the flame, leading to more severe injury. Drugs that alter your brain function can prevent you from recognizing pain, potentially leading you to hold the lighter until your fingers are permanently damaged. Not good either.

• Helps you heal. That’s what scabs do. They provide a layer of protection and moisture to allow skin to fuse together over a wound. (By the way, picking a scab interrupts and slows down the healing process, because the healing cells are pulled off when you peel off the scab.)
YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life

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YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life

A few years ago, we wrote YOU: The Owner’s Manual, which taught people about the inner workings of their bodies—and how to keep them running strong. But you know what? There’s a big difference...
Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatology
Your skin protects you from physical and chemical assaults from the outside world. Two of the skin’s layers, the hypodermis and the dermis, absorb shock and help you keep from getting too cold. Your skin also has blood vessels that help oxygen and nutrition reach the upper layers of the skin, nerve endings that provide sensation, collagen, hyaluronic acid, and elastic tissue called elastin that give your skin resilience. Another more superficial layer of your skin, the epidermis, makes a pigment called melanin that gives your skin its color and tries to limit the damaging effects of the sun’s ultra violet rays. Finally, your skin is a barrier with its own personal  first-line immune defense that is designed to ward off bacterial, viral, fungal, and other infections that are a threat to your skin and your overall heath.

Continue Learning about Teen Perspective: Understanding Anatomy

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.