Skin and skin appendage

Last updated: August 21, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

The skin is the largest organ of the body, covering an area of approximately 2 m2. The skin is composed of the cutis (including the dermis and epidermis), subcutaneous tissue, and skin appendages. The epidermis, which is derived from ectoderm, is the outermost layer of the skin and is mainly composed of keratinocytes. The dermis, which is derived from mesoderm, is located underneath the epidermis and is mainly composed of elastic fibers, type I collagen, and connective tissue. It is formed by the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis. The subcutaneous tissue, which is derived from the mesoderm, is the innermost layer of the skin and is mainly composed of fat and connective tissue. Skin appendages are derived from the skin and include hair, nails, and glands. The main functions of the skin are protection (barrier against ultraviolet radiation, microorganisms, and water loss), the synthesis of vitamin D, detection of sensation (e.g., touch, temperature, pain), and the regulation of body temperature.

Structure of the skintoggle arrow icon

The skin is composed of several layers, which are categorized as follows (from superficial to deep):



  • Derived from ectoderm
  • Primarily composed of keratinocytes, which constantly regenerate approximately every 30 days
  • The outermost and nonvascularized layer of the skin that maintains the skin's barrier function
  • There are 5 layers of the epidermis, which are categorized as follows (from superficial to deep):
    • Stratum corneum: outer layer of the epidermis
      • Consists of dead (anuclear; ), keratin-filled cells
      • This layer is constantly being sloughed off.
    • Stratum lucidum: thin, translucent layer
      • Located only on thick skin (palms and soles)
      • Composed of a homogeneous layer of keratinocytes with no nuclei or organelles
    • Stratum granulosum: also called the granular layer
      • Contains keratohyalin
      • This layer has waterproof properties.
    • Stratum spinosum
    • Stratum basale (also called the basal cell layer of the epidermis)

Come on, Let's Get Some Beers”: Corneum, Lucidum, Granulosum, Spinosum, and Basalis are the 5 layers of the epidermis.

Dermal-epidermal junction


Derived from mesoderm; contains blood vessels and provides structural integrity to the skin

Subcutis (also called hypodermis)

Skin appendages


Cells of the skintoggle arrow icon

Cells of the epidermis [1]

The epidermis is mainly composed of four different types of cells.



Vitiligo is an acquired condition characterized by loss of melanocytes. Albinism is an inherited condition characterized by impaired melanin production.

Langerhans cells

Merkel cells

Skin appendagetoggle arrow icon

Overview [1]

Skin appendage includes:


  • Perionychium: epidermal tissue surrounding the root and base of the nail
  • Eponychium: proximal layer of epidermis extending over the nail base
  • Hyponychium: epidermal tissue immediately underlying the free distal edge of the nail
  • Nail plate (nail body)
    • Covers the nail bed
    • Proximally: consists of the matrix unguis or onychostroma (responsible for new nail growth) and the lunula (the white, crescent-shaped, poorly vascularized portion of the nail)
    • Distally: sterile matrix (provides the nail with bulk and strength)
  • Nail fold: depression proximal to the nail plate from which the nail grows
  • Vascular supply
  • Innervation: trifurcation of the dorsal volar digital nerve (supplying the nail fold, pulp, and distal tip of the finger)

Hair follicles


Sebaceous glands Sweat glands
Eccrine sweat glands Apocrine sweat glands
  • Exocrine (holocrine) branched glands
  • Exocrine glands with a spiral duct (acrosyringium) and secretory ducts that open into sweat pores
Location and distribution
  • Dermis
  • Predominantly located on the face and scalp
  • Absent on palms and soles
  • Secretion of sebum
    • An oily, waxy substance which is a lubricant and a waterproof layer for the skin and hair
    • Has photoprotective, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties
Regulation of secretion

Functions of the skintoggle arrow icon

The main functions of the skin include: [1]

Embryologytoggle arrow icon

Clinical significancetoggle arrow icon

Common skin disorders

Vascular tumors of the skin

Viral infections of the skin

Bacterial infections of the skin

Fungal infections of the skin

Bullous skin disorders

Malignant and premalignant skin lesions

Disorders of pigmentation

Other skin disorders

Nail disorders

Hair disorders

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Fuchs E. Scratching the surface of skin development. Nature. 2007; 445 (7130): p.834-842.doi: 10.1038/nature05659 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  2. Marks JG Jr, Miller JJ . Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier ; 2013
  3. Layers of the Skin. Updated: May 15, 2017. Accessed: May 15, 2017.
  4. Zhang S-X. An Atlas of Histology. Springer Science & Business Media ; 2013

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 Evidence-based content, created and peer-reviewed by physicians. Read the disclaimer