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Why You Should Love Your Skin (Even When It's Breaking Out)

Understanding Skin Anatomy

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Updated November 19, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

There was a time when I definitely did not love my skin. In fact, it annoyed me most of the time. I felt like I was constantly fighting against my skin (or rather, it was fighting against me), and it was either too oily and shiny, or too dry, peeling and flaking. And it was always, always breaking out.

But once I understood my skin, I came to realize that, even with its blemishes and imperfections, it was actually pretty amazing. And knowing how the skin works gave me a deeper understanding of how acne forms, and why acne happens in the first place.

Maybe getting to know your skin more intimately will help you to love it, too (or at least appreciate it a bit more). Following are a few reasons you should love your skin, even when it's breaking out.

Your skin is the largest organ of the body.

Yes, your skin is in fact an organ, just like your lungs, heart, and liver. The skin makes a good covering for you, keeping all of the outside stuff out, and the inside stuff in. And you'd probably look pretty scary without it (ever see the Bodies Revealed exhibit?).

But your skin is much more than just a wrapper for your body—it actually has many jobs. Your skin helps regulate your body temperature by either releasing or retaining heat as needed, and it's also an organ of protection. Your skin also guards your muscles, nerves, and other internal organs from injury, and it defends the body against invading bacteria as well.

Of course, the skin also helps us experience the world. Through our skin we feel the sensations of heat, cold, pain, and pressure (touch). The skin has thousands of sensory nerve fibers specialized just for these purposes.

All of this occurs in an organ that covers nearly 20 square feet, and weighs about 6 pounds.

Your skin is very complex.

Although you may not be able to tell just by looking at the outside, the skin is a complex organ.

Your skin isn't just one static layer—it varies in thickness depending on where it's found on the body. The thickest skin is found on the bottoms of the feet, while the thinnest is found around the eyes.

If you look even deeper at the skin, you'll find a complicated network of blood vessels and nerves. In just a square inch of skin, you have 65 hairs, 100 sebaceous glands, 650 sweat glands, and millions of cells.

Your skin even contains tiny muscles, called arrector pili muscles. These muscles pull on the hair follicles, raising the hair and causing goosebumps.

Your skin has many layers.

The skin is often described as being similar to onion. The top layer, which is the layer we see every day, is the epidermis. (To make things even more complicated, the epidermis itself is actually made up of layers as well.)

The epidermis is constantly creating new skin cells, which are "born" in the deepest layer of the epidermis, and then slowly travel up to the surface of the skin, where they are shed. This process takes about four weeks.

The dermis, which sits below the epidermis, is the layer of skin where you'll find the sebaceous glands, sweat glands, blood and lymph vessels, nerves, and hair follicles. The dermis is also the layer where pimples form.

Beneath the dermis lies the subcutaneous tissue: the fatty tissue that acts as a cushion and gives our skin its contour and shape. The subcutaneous tissue is the deepest layer of the skin.

Your skin has the ability to heal itself.

When you have a wound, your skin coordinates an intricate chain of events. The blood clots and bleeding stops, a scab is formed, and white blood cells rush in to fight infection. Over the course of just a few days, the skin starts to repair and rebuild tissue.

Your skin has the amazing ability to heal itself from all kinds of wounds and damage—even from acne.

Although it doesn't sound fabulous, most cases of acne spontaneously resolve on their own (granted, this can take several years). But you don't have to wait that long. By starting with a good acne treatment routine, you can get results much, much sooner.

So even though it can feel like you're fighting it a lot of the time, your skin is still an amazing organ. If you do need help with your skin--whether for acne, scarring or any other problem--a dermatologist is a great resource who can help you develop a truce (and maybe even a loving relationship) with your skin.

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