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The Dermis, your one true skin

Your skin is unique; it’s the largest organ in the body.

It plays a crucial role in providing an airtight, watertight and protective barrier between the outside world and the highly regulated systems within your body.

It also helps with temperature regulation, immune defence, vitamin production, and sensation.

Today, there is a huge focus on skin health, with fierce competition to have glowing, healthier and younger skin, which is why it is important to understand it.

What is the dermis?

Your dermis is referred to in the industry, as the one true skin, this is because the vital functions of your skin and the structures found in the skin are located in the dermis.

Your skin is divided into three layers known as the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous. These layers are well defined, but together they allow your skin to function effectively. The dermis layer is the middle layer of skin, found between the epidermis on the surface and the subcutaneous layer next to the muscle of your body.

The epidermis is the layer of skin we see while the subcutaneous layer is a layer of protective fat between the dermis and the muscle; the dermis which is referred to as your one true skin, simply, because so much happens in this layer, the dermis really does take centre stage in creating healthy skin.

The major structures of the dermis

Collagen: Protein that adds strength
Reticular fibres: Protein fibres that add support
Elastic fibres: The protein that adds flexibility.

The dermis gives your skin its integrity, strength and elasticity; and houses blood vessels, glands and hair follicles, as well as nerves and their receptors.

The dermal layers

The dermis actually consists of two layers: the papillary layer, which has loose connective tissue, and the reticular layer, which has dense, thick connective tissue. Both these layers are so closely associated, they are difficult to differentiate:

The papillary layer lies beneath the epidermis and connects to it via papillae, which contain capillaries that nourish the epidermis; it also contains Meissner’s corpuscles – your skins sensory touch receptors. This papillae also produces the ridged fingerprints on your fingertips. Similar patterns in the ridged fingerprints on fingertips are on palms of our hands and soles of your feet. Interestingly our fingerprints and footprints help to keep our skin from tearing and aid in gripping objects.

The reticular layer of the dermis contains collagen fibres that criss-cross to form a strong elastic network, that gives us our internal scaffolding. This layer also contains Pacinian corpuscles – the sensory receptors required for deep pressure. The reticular. the layer also contains sweat glands, lymph vessels, smooth muscle, and hair follicles.

The subcutaneous layer lays beneath the dermis, this loose connective tissue insulates the body, helping to conserve heat. It also contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, the base of all hair follicles and sweat glands

The biology of your dermis

  • contains 60% water
  • contains protective defence cells
  • it is home to sebaceous glands, which produce sebum to keep our skin lubricated
  • it contains sudoriferous glands that produce sweat, preventing the body from overheating
  • it contains a gel mix of molecules that are designed to nourish and lock in moisture
  • the dermis is infused with tiny blood vessels, bringing important nutrients to the surface, keeping our skin nourished and healthy
  • collagen and elastin fibres can be found in the dermis. These are the struts and beams of our skin
  • the dermis houses specialised cells and proteins, known as proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycan’s (GAGS). They are vital for healing, growth and repair
  • these fibroblasts are bathed in hyaluronic acid, a lubricant that keeps our skin plump and moist. A water-loving ingredient, it is often found in products for dry skin because it restores moisture
  • the dermis is a powerhouse of nerves, that give us our delicate sensation receptors, so that we are sensitive to touch, pain, hot and cold


As you can see, the dermis is where so many of the functions of your skin take place; it is a constant hive of activity that supports several structures, such as defence cells and blood vessels.

Hair, oil and sweat glands are all anchored deep within the dermis, they wind their way to the surface, organising the skins immune and repair system; they feed the epidermis with nutrients, vitamins and chemicals, all of which are all required for healthy skin.

Here at The Naked Chemist, we often liken it to a mini Eco centre; an environment, where every part is dependent on works of synergy, with another part of the same system.

No wonder it is referred to as our one true skin.

The following article is an interesting read on the dermis and the structures of ageing.

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