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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the different functions of the skin and the structures that enable them
  • Explain how the skin helps maintain body temperature

The skin and accessory structures perform a variety of essential functions, such as protecting the body from invasion by microorganisms, chemicals, and other environmental factors; preventing dehydration; acting as a sensory organ; modulating body temperature and electrolyte balance; and synthesizing vitamin D. The underlying hypodermis has important roles in storing fats, forming a “cushion” over underlying structures, and providing insulation from cold temperatures.


The skin protects the rest of the body from the basic elements of nature such as wind, water, and UV sunlight. It acts as a protective barrier against water loss, due to the presence of layers of keratin and glycolipids in the stratum corneum. It also is the first line of defense against abrasive activity due to contact with grit, microbes, or harmful chemicals. Sweat excreted from sweat glands deters microbes from over-colonizing the skin surface by generating dermicidin, which has antibiotic properties.

Everyday connection

Tattoos and piercings

The word “armor” evokes several images. You might think of a Roman centurion or a medieval knight in a suit of armor. The skin, in its own way, functions as a form of armor—body armor. It provides a barrier between your vital, life-sustaining organs and the influence of outside elements that could potentially damage them.

For any form of armor, a breach in the protective barrier poses a danger. The skin can be breached when a child skins a knee or an adult has blood drawn—one is accidental and the other medically necessary. However, you also breach this barrier when you choose to “accessorize” your skin with a tattoo or body piercing. Because the needles involved in producing body art and piercings must penetrate the skin, there are dangers associated with the practice. These include allergic reactions; skin infections; blood-borne diseases, such as tetanus, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D; and the growth of scar tissue. Despite the risk, the practice of piercing the skin for decorative purposes has become increasingly popular. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 24 percent of people from ages 18 to 50 have a tattoo.

Tattooing has a long history, dating back thousands of years ago. The dyes used in tattooing typically derive from metals. A person with tattoos should be cautious when having a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan because an MRI machine uses powerful magnets to create images of the soft tissues of the body, which could react with the metals contained in the tattoo dyes. Watch this video to learn more about tattooing.

Sensory function

The fact that you can feel an ant crawling on your skin, allowing you to flick it off before it bites, is because the skin, and especially the hairs projecting from hair follicles in the skin, can sense changes in the environment. The hair root plexus surrounding the base of the hair follicle senses a disturbance, and then transmits the information to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), which can then respond by activating the skeletal muscles of your eyes to see the ant and the skeletal muscles of the body to act against the ant.

Questions & Answers

difference between axial and appendicular skeleton
Asia Reply
function of appendicular skeleton
function of appendicular skeleton
what are the two basic study's of anatomy?
Jonathan Reply
structure and function
Gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy
importants of studying anatomy
shanzy Reply
the response of living thing to any stimulus is called Homeostasis
defanssive Reply
Homeostasis explanation
Benedicta Reply
is the state of steady internal physical and chemical conditions maintained by living systems
the auto regulatory mechanism of body which maintain the internal environment of body equal to external environment
Homeostasis yes tell us
is the state of steady internal organs that maintain its function
it's a who studies the structure and functions of the human body
Allpha Reply
who is an anatomist
Yaa Reply
anatomist is a person who is specialised in the sturdy of body structures
an anatomist is someone who studies the structure and parts of an organism
is the person who studies the structure and functions of the human body
anatomist is a specialist who studies de human body structure
why is it good for someone to study anatomy and physiology
Kwabena Reply
to know how and what the body structures are made,and the functions they play in human formation
to know how and what the body structures are made of
to know the function of the structures in humans
it helps the healthcare giver to detect improvement and worsening of a patient's condition
what are the reason why anatomy is studied
Esther Reply
To know the structures of the body system, their various functions and how they are formed.
to know the human body structure
who is an anatomist
Maame Reply
a person who studies parts and functions of the human body
is a person who studies the structure of the human body
a specialist in anatomy.
One who studies teaches, writes on or does research on anatomy and anatomical structures.
physiology lends meaning to anatomy and conversely, anatomy is what makes physiology . discuss
Deborah Reply
hello...I need some guide on how to fix all concept once
what are Lifting techniques in nursing
stanley Reply
I learned that anatomy is the study of the human structure. the smaller ones can be observed by the assistance of a microscope
Hawa Reply
what are the disciplines of anatomy
Bint Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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