The skin is often regarded mostly for its aesthetic purposes. It represents part of our ancestral and cultural identity, and is like a canvas for our external, social selves.
But the skin plays a far greater purpose than our physical, aesthetic identity. For starters, our skin is the largest organ of the body in terms of surface area, and as an organ plays key roles in our body's mechanics. Here are some nifty actions that the skin carries out:
Skin provides a physical barrier that protects our internal structures from toxins, pathogens, physical stress and fluid loss. It also serves as a first line of immune defense, and prevents UV damage by producing melanin (the same substance that gives our skin colour) to protect underlying tissue.
Via exposure to the suns UV rays our skin synthesis vitamin D, an important vitamin for calcium absorption and immunity. In the deepest layer of the skin, lipids and lipid soluble vitamins are stored (vitamins A, D, E, K)
Skin helps us interact with the world around us via the presence of nerve endings, which help us detect stimuli such as touch, vibration, pressure, temperature and texture, and therefore pleasure and pain.
Our skin helps us maintain a regular body temperature. To cool us down we perspire, which facilitates the evaporation of excess heat, and alternatively warms us up via a process called piloerection (goosebumps) together with the presence of adipose (fat) tissue in the deepest layer of skin to provide insulation.
These actions only scratch the surface of the intricate network of events that occur within these functions, but it reminds us of how important the skin as an organ is for health and wellbeing, and not just an exterior part of our being.