The innermost and much thicker of the two main layers of
the skin of a vertebrate,
the outer being the epidermis. The dermis
(also known as the corium) is 1.5 to 4 mm thick and makes
up approximately 90 percent of the thickness of the skin. Below the dermis
lies the hypodermis.
The dermis is responsible for the tensile strength of skin. Its main functions
are to regulate temperature and to supply the epidermis with nutrient-saturated
blood. Much of the body's water supply is stored within the dermis.
The dermis contains most of the skin's specialized cells and structures,
- Blood vessels, which supply nutrients
and oxygen to the skin and take away cell waste and cell products. The
blood vessels also transport the vitamin
D produced in the skin back to the rest of the body.
- Lymph vessels, which bathe
the tissues of the skin with lymph, a
milky substance that contains the infection-fighting cells of the immune
system. These cells work to destroy any infection or invading organisms
as the lymph circulates to the lymph nodes.
- Hair follicles, each of which is a tube-shaped
sheath that surrounds the part of the hair that is under the skin and
nourishes the hair.
- Sweat glands, of which the average
person has about 3 million. Sweat glands are classified according to
- Apocrine glands are specialized
sweat glands that can be found only in the armpits and pubic region.
These glands secrete a milky sweat that encourages the growth of
the bacteria responsible for body odor.
- Eccrine glands are the true
sweat glands. Found over the entire body, these glands regulate
body temperature by bringing water via the pores to the surface
of the skin, where it evaporates and reduces skin temperature. These
glands can produce up to two liters of sweat an hour, however, they
secrete mostly water, which doesn't encourage the growth of odor-producing
- Sebaceous, or oil, glands,
which are attached to hair follicles and can be found everywhere on
the body except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
These glands secrete oil that helps keep the skin smooth and supple.
The oil also helps keep skin waterproof and protects against an overgrowth
of bacteria and fungi on the skin.
- Nerve endings. The dermis layer also contains pain and touch receptors
that transmit sensations of pain, itch, pressure and information regarding
temperature to the brain for interpretation. If necessary, shivering
(involuntary contraction and relaxation of muscles) is triggered, generating
- Collagen and elastin.
The dermis is held together by a protein called collagen, made by fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts are skin cells that give the skin its strength and resilience.
Collagen is a tough, insoluble protein found throughout the body in
the connective tissues that hold muscles and organs in place. In the
skin, collagen supports the epidermis, lending it its durability. Elastin,
a similar protein, is the substance that allows the skin to spring back
into place when stretched and keeps the skin flexible.
The dermis layer is made up of two sublayers:
The papillary layer
The upper, papillary layer, contains a thin arrangement of collagen fibers.
The papillary layer supplies nutrients to select layers of the epidermis
and regulates temperature. Both of these functions are accomplished with
a thin, extensive vascular system that operates similarly to other vascular
systems in the body. Constriction and expansion control the amount of blood
that flows through the skin and dictate whether body heat is dispelled when
the skin is hot or conserved when it is cold.
The reticular layer
The lower, reticular layer, is thicker and made of thick collagen fibers
that are arranged in parallel to the surface of the skin. The reticular
layer is denser than the papillary dermis, and it strengthens the skin,
providing structure and elasticity. It also supports other components of
the skin, such as hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.