What is dermis?
If you’ve read our article on the epidermis you know that it is the outer layer of the skin, what then is the dermis?
If you look at a skin diagram, the dermis is the middle layer of skin that is sandwiched in between the epidermis and the subcutaneous fat. If you’ve ever peeled the skin off an apple, the outer skin would be the epidermis, the juicy part would be the dermis, and the core with the seeds would be the subcutaneous fat.
Here’s another example of the dermis.
Think of a baseball. The leather cover would be the epidermis. The wound portion would be the dermis and the core would be the subcutaneous fat.
So using those examples it’s easy to see that the dermis is about 10 to 40 times thicker than the epidermis. In fact, it is loaded with dermal papillae which are thick fibrous, vascular and nerve filled nipple like projections that protrude from the dermis into the epidermis.
The dermal papillae perform a very important task for your skin. They’re responsible for keeping the lower layers of the epidermal cells healthy.
How do they accomplish this? Because this dermal tissue is located toward the top of the dermis that means they are very close to the epidermis. They’ve formed a relationship with the hair follicles to transfer food and oxygen to the lower layers of the epidermal cells.
What’s interesting about this relationship is that most of this is being developed before you are born! So, the hereditary features of your hands and feet are a direct result of the dermal papillae doing its job.
Here’s another interesting fact about the dermis!
Ever watch a television show about the FBI and the use of fingerprinting. Your fingerprints are the result of the dermal papillae working to form distinctive ridges on your fingers. You’ve got them for life! As you grow with age the size increase but the individual characteristics of each print remains the same.
Next in line are the fibroblasts. They are the most important cells in the dermis. You can think of them as long strands of fibrous materials similar to a long rubber band.
Where do you find the fibroblasts? In the dermal papillae which mean they are fairly close to the epidermis. You can also spot fibroblasts in the lower layers of the dermis but just not as many. They perform a very important task for your skin, the productions of protein fibers.
Why are protein fibers important to the skin?
Collagen fibers which account for 70% of the proteins in the dermis provide protection against strain and traction. Elastin provides your skin its rubber band like properties.
Fibroblasts also have one other important role they play, can you guess what that is?
They’re some of the first cells on the scene to begin the wound healing process. Through the use of cells known as fibrocytes, fibroblasts take a path right to the site of the wound. Once there, they immediately start the healing routine by making consistent collagen deposits.
While collagen fibers account for 70% of the protein in the dermis, the reticular dermis is responsible for the largest physical portion of the dermis. Located near the bottom or lower layer of the dermis, you can spot it under the papillary dermis.
Think of the reticular dermis as spaghetti like pieces of connective tissues. If you’ve ever boiled a pack of spaghetti and then emptied it into a bowl it becomes seriously packed. Now you identified the reticular dermis. The tissue features multidirectional fibers composed of collagen running perpendicular to the skin surface.
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