A Guide to the Physiology of the Skin Layers

This is my skin. This is not your skin
Yet you are still under it!

You’re skin is amazing.

It’s your protection and armour.

It’s also the first thing you notice about someone.

Think about it: A glowing vibrant skin suggests vitality, whilst sallow dry skin indicates poor health.

This is why having a basic understanding of how your skin functions on a cellular level is key.

If you want to keep it healthy that is.


  • The Epidermis
  • The Dermis
  • The Subcutaneous


This makes up the skin layers that are visible to the naked eye.

The epidermis offers protection and provides us with a water proof covering.

It is also where melanocytes are housed, the pigmented skin cells that give our skin colour.

There are five skin layers within the epidermis; Cells go on a 28 day migration towards the surface and are continually being pushed up through these layers until they are shed.

This is referred to as desquamation, a natural exfoliating process that your skin goes through.

But this process does slow down as we age, which is why exfoliation is an important step in your home care routine.


This layer sits just below our epidermis.

The dermis is known as the living or true layer, because there is a lot going on here.

It is a constant hive of activity, lymph vessels and nerve endings are found in this layer, which give us our sensitivity to touch, pain, pressure, hot and cold sensations.


The dermis is also where our all-important collagen and elastin is found, our internal scaffolding.

  • Elastin gives skin its snap back and elasticity
  • Collagen which is not quite as flexible as elastin, helps to give the skin its firmness, keeping everything taut and in place

Next to water collagen is one of the most abundant substances found within the skin.

Both elastin and collagen are encased in glycosaminoglycan’s (GAGS), a jelly like fluid which keeps our skin soft and supple.

One of the components we use in cosmetic chemistry to mimic this valuable ingredient is hyaluronic acid, an important anti ageing ingredient.

It’s a humectant that has an amazing ability to bind water to the skins layers, keeping skin plump and supple.


Within the dermis there are also sebaceous glands, which secrete sebum on the skins surface.

Sebum is an oily mixture, that is secreted up through the hair follicle to deliver oil to the skin, this keeps our outer layer of skin the epidermis well lubricated, which helps to prevent dryness and dehydration.


This is also referred to as the hypo-dermis or subcutaneous.

Subcutaneous means beneath the tissue, it is the most internal layer of the skin layers, which lies below the dermis.

This subcutaneous layer, gives our skin its fatty cushioning and insulation, helping to keep everything encased whilst also protecting our internal organs.

It plays an important role, drawing nutrients from the blood supply to feed our skin, keeping it nice and healthy.