Your Epidermis Is Showing!

by Joy Keller on Oct 23, 2017

Body Lab

What is the integumentary system?

Some anatomy geeks get a kick out of asking unsuspecting people to name the largest system or external organ in the body. The answer: The integumentary system, of course, which includes the skin, hair, nails, and sebaceous and sweat glands (Springhouse 2002). Its main function is to protect the body from “the outside world” (bacteria, for example), but it also eliminates waste products, regulates body temperature and retains body fluids (AAAS 2017).

The skin produces vitamin D in the presence of sunlight and is also a sense organ, with nerve endings that detect pain, touch, heat, cold and pressure (Krapp 2006). The integumentary system helps clients “sweat it all out” with you while sensing the world around them in a way that most of us take for granted. Read on to find out more.

  • The skin is a “dynamic, multilayered organ” that accounts for 15%–20% of total body weight. If you were to lay it flat, the skin would cover a surface of 1.5–2 meters (Hamm 2015).
  • In 1 year, humans shed over 8 pounds of dead skin (Smith 2015).
  • Goose bumps are a special feature of the integumentary system. Arrector pili muscles extend from the skin and attach to each hair follicle. These muscles contract in response to touch, emotion and changes in temperature (Smith 2015).
  • Everyone has a unique sweat “fingerprint,” a blend of 373 volatile compounds. However, the two types of sweat glands—apocrine and eccrine—are universal. Eccrine glands cover most of the body, but apocrine glands occur only in the armpits and genital region (Festa 2015).
  • A “properly balanced diet” is a prime way to keep the integumentary system healthy, but if supplementation is needed, targeting any deficiencies in micro- or macronutrients may help; vitamins C, E and A, the B vitamins, and fatty acids are good options to consider (Szyszkowska et al. 2014).

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Krapp, K.M. (Ed.) 2006. Integumentary system. In Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. Accessed Aug. 28, 2017:

Hamm, R.L. 2015. Text and Atlas of Wound Diagnosis and Treatment. China: McGraw-Hill Education.

Springhouse. 2002. Lippincott Professional Guides: Anatomy & Physiology (2nd ed.). Ambler, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Smith, C. 2015. Anatomy and physiology: Five things about the integumentary system. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017:

Szyszkowska, et al. 2014. The influence of selected ingredients of dietary supplements on skin condition. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology (3), 174–81.

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About the Author

Joy Keller

Joy Keller IDEA Author/Presenter

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master. Joy joined IDEA Health & Fitness Association in 2002, and brought with her a wealth of information about how to fine-tune communication channels, after having spent her formative career years specializing in business-to-business journalism. Before she even graduated with honors from the respected University of Georgia journalism school, Joy was offered a job at one of the most successful trade publishing companies in the southeast, Shore Varrone, Inc. She made her mark in the automotive aftermarket industry as a creative thinker and journalist with an intuitive knack for researching and understanding niche audiences. Joy has worked on several titles, including Auto Trim & Restyling News, Truck Accessory News, Digital Output Magazine, Retail & Construction News, Miata magazine, Ford Racing, and many more. Her passion, however, lies with health and fitness. She was the associate editor of ACE Certified News while working at the American Council on Exercise, and transitioned that publication from a newsletter to a magazine. She has enjoyed 16 years at IDEA, where she has launched several publications, including the award-winning Inner IDEA Body-Mind Spirit Review, IDEA Pilates Today and IDEA Fit Business Success. Joy is a content creator and media 2.0 advocate who takes pride in discovering the unique information needs of qualified audiences, and she is dedicated to serving those needs while following the highest available standards.