What is the epidermis?

In our articles about skincare and skincare products certain terms continually are mentioned. One of those terms that we continually mention is the epidermis. Due to its importance when it comes to skincare it is time to talk more about the epidermis and define what it exactly is.

A general overview of the epidermis

The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin barrier. This most external layer of the skin has a fundamental role to play when it comes to protection of our skin. Its role can be defined as a barrier of defence. It is there to protect us from harmful external pollutants that our skin comes into contact with on a daily basis.

The epidermis responsibilities extend beyond the protection of our skin against harmful external elements. In addition, it has other essential roles to play. The epidermis is also responsible for maintaining moisture within our body. It can fulfil this function since the epidermis is a semi-penetrable layer of the skin that enables it to maintain moisture within our body.

When we compare the human epidermis to other mammals on earth, we can see it is stronger and thicker. The reason the human epidermis is stronger than other mammals on earth has to due with small quantity of hair on the human skin in comparison to other mammals. It is believed that the epidermis has evolved with time. The evolution of the epidermis is linked to it adopting to the surrounding environment that humans endure on earth.

As part of its evolution the epidermis has become more dynamic. In Its evolution to become a dynamic structure the epidermis has become capable of creating balance amongst all the body systems. This balance enables humans to survive and function correctly. This has enabled the epidermis to be able to cope and handle the continuous changing conditions and environment on earth. Once the state of balance of the epidermis is disrupted it is more likely for us to suffer from damaged skin.

The composition of the epidermis

Keratinocyte is a key cell that is found in the epidermis and is a major part of its composition. Below the epidermis you can find blood capillaries. The epidermis itself has no blood supply. The epidermis is nourished solely by the diffused oxygen that comes from the surrounding air. Epidermis also has certain mechanisms as part of its composition. These mechanisms are there to control the levels of water and sodium found in the epidermis.

Roles of the epidermis

Let’s now look closer to roles and functions the epidermis fulfils. The primary function of the epidermis is as a barrier. The epidermis serves as a barrier against numerous pathogens that can damage the skin. These pathogens include stress from pollution, UV rays and chemical compounds to mention a few. The epidermis role as a protective barrier is fulfilled in a variety of forms such as being a physical barrier, chemical barrier and also an immunologically barrier all at the same time.

The epidermis also plays a key role when it comes to keeping our skin hydrated. The primary role of keeping the skin hydrated and moisturized is played by the stratum corneum which is the outer most layer of the epidermis. Hydration is an essential part of a healthy skin.

Also, the epidermis plays a key role when it comes to the skin colour. The varying amounts of melanin pigments and its distribution in the epidermis is the primary reason for the different skin colours found in humans. Melanin can be found in small amounts in Melanosome particles. These particles are then shifted to the surrounding keratinocytes.

The epidermis also plays a role when it comes to touch. In our skin there are specialized epidermal touch receptors. These specialized touch receptors are referred to as Merkel cells. The role of Merkel cells when it comes to touch is an indirect one. This indirect role is due to their close links with nerve endings. But in some recent studies in mice some new findings have been shown. These finding have shown that Merkel cells are responsible alone and by themselves for the transformation of touch into electrical signals. These electrical signals transformed by Merkel cells are later transmitted to the nervous system.

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