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How does skin work?

Your skin is your body's largest organ. It protects your body from the outside world, including sunlight, heat, injury and infection.

It also helps regulate your body's temperature, stores fat and water, and produces Vitamin D.

How does it work?

Your skin is made up of two layers:

  • Dermis—the innermost layer, containing the blood and lymph vessels, hair follicles and glands (for instance those that produce sweat).
  • Epidermis—the outermost layer, which is made up of flat, scale-like cells called squamous cells.

What is melanin?

Melanin is what gives your skin its natural colour—the colour you were born with. It's the distribution of melanin in the skin which results in different skin types, giving us either lighter or darker skin tones or skin with freckles or moles.

Melanocytes, found in the lower part of the epidermis, are the cells that produce melanin. These are the cells where the most serious type of skin cancer melanoma occurs.

Personal traits such as how much melanin is produced and how it is distributed in response to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) influences whether we are likely to develop a skin cancer or melanoma. Our environment and what we do also play a large role.