Anatomy of Skin – The Epidermis

22 Mar

The skin is comprised of 3 layers:
  • Epidermis
  • Dermis
  • Subcutaneous tissue (fatty layer)


The epidermis is the outer-most layer of the skin.  It is tough, and about as thick as a piece of paper.  The cells of the epidermis are constantly flaking off and being renewed. Most cells in this layer are dead. (This is the layer where over the counter products like Oil of Olay work, and that’s why… they don’t work).

The epidermis is comprised of approximately 15 – 100 layers, depending on where they are on the body (eyelids have the thinnest layers and the palms of the hand and soles of the feet have the thickest).  People with fair hair and eyes, typically have fewer layers of epidermal cells which can leave the skin more prone to damage and the effects of aging.  Those with darker hair and darker eyes, have more layers in the epidermis and are more prone to resist damage and the more advanced signs of aging.

The number of cell layers always remains constant.  When you lose a layer of dead surface cells, your body knows to produce a new layer of cells.  Healthy, young skin has the ability to turn-over naturally, where older skin requires a little help to stimulate the rate that old skin cells are lost and new skin cells are developed.

There are two special types of cells within the epidermis:
  • Melanocytes – produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.  All people have roughly the same number of melanocytes.  Those who are dark skinned produce more melanin, but do not have more melanocytes.  Exposure to sunlight increases the production of melanin, which is why people get suntanned or freckled.  Melanin is the skin’s natural cell protection or defense system.
  • Keratinocytes – produce keratin, a type of protein that is a basic component of hair and nails.

I know. I do amazing artwork. I would also like to point out I scanned this picture… and the numbers are backwards.

Microdermabrasion and chemical peels remove the stratum corneum and promote cell turnover. Like I said, we always have the same amount of cells, so once that layer is removed the cells from the top of the dermal layer die and each layer pushes up to the next. It’s a cycle.

Dermal/Epidermal Junction

The dermal /epidermal junction is the deepest layer that cosmetic products can penetrate to. The FDA distinguishes between drugs and cosmetics by the product’s ability to enter the blood or the brain.  Only drugs can pass the blood/brain barrier – NOT COSMETICS. Any product that is over the counter, IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW MUCH IT COSTS cannot do anything but work on cells that are in the process of dying and/or are already dead.

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