Anatomy of the Skin

The largest organ in the body is the skin. It is constantly changing and contains many specific structures and cells. Your skin acts as a protective cover, shielding you from light, heat, infection, toxins and injury. The skin also has many other important features. To help you better understand the important role the skin plays on our overall well being, Dermatologist Dr. Robert M. Miller of Long Beach, California has complied the following information to serve as your resource.

Your skin helps:

Different areas on the body have very different skin characteristics including thickness, color and texture. For example, the head clearly contains the most hair follicles on the body. Other areas, like the soles of your feet, have no hair follicles at all. On the soles of your feet and on the palm of your hands, the skin is much thicker. The skin is composed of 3 layers that work together to carry out all of the skin’s necessary functions: Epidermis, Dermis and Subcutaneous Fat Layer.



The epidermis is the thin outermost layer of the skin. Thickness in this layer varies by different skin types and location of the skin on the body. Mentioned earlier, the skin on the bottom of feet and on the palms of your hands is the thickest, which is on average 1.5mm thick. The thinnest skin on the body is found on the eyelids, which is on average 0.05mm thick. Male skin is generally thicker in all areas compared to female skin.

The epidermis is composed of 3 parts. Several processes happen in these sub-layers. The outer layer of the epidermis, called the stratum corneum, is responsible for protecting the skin from foreign objects and also for waterproofing the skin. These cells also help protect us from heat and toxins and are constantly shed.

Just beneath the stratum corneum is where the squamous cells are formed. These cells will mature and help form the stratum corneum.

The deepest layer of the epidermis is the basal layer. The basal layer contains basal cells which are constantly dividing. The cells then push already formed cells into higher layers. Thus, the epidermis is a constant process of cells dying and the production of new cells. Another characteristic of the epidermis is it contains melanocytes, which are the cells that manufacture melanin. Melanin is the chemical responsible for the skin’s pigment.



The dermis is the middle layer of the skin. Its primary focus is to maintain and support the epidermis. It contains several components:

These components of the dermis are distributed between two sub-layers: the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis. The papillary dermis is the thinner of the two, which contains elastic fibers, capillaries and some collagen. The reticular dermis is a thicker layer of very dense tissue. It contains large blood vessels, coarse collagen fibers, fibroblasts, nerve endings (including pain and touch receptors) and epidermal appendages. Epidermal appendages are responsible for the repair of severe damage to the skin. The components of the dermis help give the skin strength and the ability to return to its normal shape when movement or injury occurs.


Subcutaneous Tissue

The deepest, fatty layer of the skin is called subcutaneous tissue. The average thickness of this layer will vary from person to person. This subcutaneous tissue is a layer of fat and connective tissue that helps conserve the body’s heat. It is also responsible for protecting your body from injury, acting as a shock absorber.

For a list of dermatological services and procedures offered by Dr. Robert M. Miller of Long Beach, CA, please click here.

For a list of patient resources regarding your skin and dermatology services in Long Beach, CA by Dr. Robert M. Miller, please click here.