Examining your skin

January 14, 2022 BY

The three layers of skin are, from top to bottom, the epidermis, dermis and subcutis.


The skin is the largest organ of the human body, with an area of about 2 square metres for most adults.

More than just a fleshy surface for pimples and wrinkles, the skin plays a crucial role in providing an airtight, watertight and flexible barrier. It protects us from microorganisms, helps control body temperature, and allows the sensation of touch, heat and cold. Let’s delve a little closer and see what our skin is made up of.

Our skin is divided into three layers known as the epidermis, dermis and subcutis layer.

Epidermis – The epidermis is the thin outer layer of skin that is visible to the eye. This outermost cellular layer, provides a waterproof barrier made up of keratinocytes (which include basal cells and squamous cells) and contains pigment producing cells known as melanocytes.

Dermis – Beneath the epidermis is the dermis, which is made up of a dense layer of collagen and elastin tissue. This layer contains tough connective tissue, nerve endings, oil and sweat glands and hair follicles.

Subcutis – Also known as hypodermis, is the deepest layer, made up of fat, connective tissue and larger blood vessels. This layer helps to cushion the body from external trauma, insulate from the cold and stores energy (fat).

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, usually from too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The rapid growth of skin cells leads to tumours in the skin, which can either be benign (non-cancerous), or malignant (cancerous tumours that spread through the body, causing damage). Most skin cancers start in the epidermis. When a skin cancer becomes more advanced, it generally grows through this layer and into the deeper layers of skin.

There are three main types of skin cancer.