Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Illustration of human skin layers

Illustration of human skin layers
beginning of content

Skin

Although you may not have realised it, your skin is an organ too, and in fact it's your largest organ. Learn more about its parts, how it functions and how to keep it healthy.

Parts of the skin

Skin covers your body and has three layers:

  • the epidermis (outer layer), which provides a waterproof barrier and contains cells (melanocytes) that gives your skin colour
  • the dermis (middle layer), which contains tough connective tissue, hair follicles and sweat glands
  • the hypodermis or subcutis (deeper layer), which has fat and connective tissue.

Functions of skin

Skin protects you from the weather. It also protects you against infections, and is part of the body's immune system.

Skin helps control your body temperature. The blood flow to your skin increases to release heat from your body, and decreases to keep warmth in. This also affects how much moisture evaporates from your skin, which affects your body's temperature.

Skin allows you to feel things - heat, cold, touch, pain and vibration.

Skin is water-resistant, stopping nutrients from leaching out of your body.

Skin absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun, which is needed to make vitamin D.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by too much ultraviolet light from the sun.

Common skin cancers include:

  • melanoma
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma.

You should protect your skin from the sun, and see your doctor if you have any suspicious skin lesions.

Read more about skin cancer prevention.

Tips for healthy skin

To keep your skin healthy:

Last reviewed: September 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 630 results

Skin biology and structure - myDr.com.au

View this anatomical image of the structure of your skin layer by layer. See the epidermis, stratum corneum, sebaceous glands, collagen, elastin and dermis.

Read more on myDr website

Lentigo maligna - ACD

Lentigo maligna is an early form of melanoma. In lentigo maligna the cancer cells are confined to the upper layer of the skin (epidermis). When the cancer cells spread deeper into the skin (to dermis) it is called lentigo maligna melanoma.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Epidermal naevus - ACD

epidermal naevus is a term for a group of birthmarks made from cells from the outer portion of the skin (the epidermis), which appear in one or many lines or in a swirled pattern.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Naevus of Ota (NOO) and Ito (NOI) - ACD

Naevus of Ota is a pigmented birthmark that is slate-brown or blue/grey in colour. When examined under a microscope, the pigmented naevus cells are found in the deep layer of the skin (dermis).

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Nails - ACD

Nails are specialised protective plates of hard keratin (protein that helps form the nail plate) that develop from the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) overlying the small bones at the ends of the fingers and toes.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Skin Coloured Skin lesions

Skin Coloured Skin lesions include neurofibroma & cysts

Read more on My Skin Check website

Neurofibroma - Skin Cancer Clinic

Neurofibroma commonly occur as a solitary mobile soft skin-coloured lump. Multiple neurofibromas may be part of the genetic condition Neurofibromatosis.

Read more on My Skin Check website

Skin Check - Skin Cancer Clinic

The aim of the skin check is to make an early diagnosis of skin cancer & melanoma whilst keeping biopsy rate as low as possible. A full skin check is a head ...

Read more on My Skin Check website

Kids' Health - Topics - Eczema - a problem with skin

Try to avoid scratching as much as possible, as you could scrape off the top layers of your skin and let germs get in.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Skin Tags - Skin Cancer Clinic

Skin tags are usually easily to recognise. It's easy to understand why people don't always like them & they may be removed "en masse"

Read more on My Skin Check website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback