The Human Body


Skin, outer body covering of an animal. The term skin is commonly used to describe the body covering of any animal but technically refers only to the body covering of vertebrates (animals that have a backbone). The skin has the same basic structure in all vertebrates, including fish, reptiles, birds, and humans and other mammals. This article focuses primarily on human skin.

The skin is made up of two layers, the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, the upper or outer layer of the skin, is a tough, waterproof, protective layer. The dermis, or inner layer, is thicker than the epidermis and gives the skin its strength and elasticity. The two layers of the skin are anchored to one another by a thin but complex layer of tissue, known as the basement membrane. This tissue is composed of a series of elaborately interconnecting molecules that act as ropes and grappling hooks to hold the skin together. Below the dermis is the subcutaneous layer, a layer of tissue composed of protein fibers and adipose tissue (fat). Although not part of the skin itself, the subcutaneous layer contains glands and other skin structures, as well as sensory receptors involved in the sense of touch.

See also: Diseases and Disorders of the Skin