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Overview of the Integumentary (Skin) System

Author(s): Deanne Erdmann MS
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Human Integumentary System

The word integument is derived from a Latin word meaning "to cover." Skin, nails, hair and sweat and oil glands make up the integumentary system.

The skin serves as a first line of defense for the body, protecting against infection and UV radiation. It also helps to regulate temperature and remove wastes. The top layer of skin, known as the epidermis, is a layer of dead cells containing keratin, making the skin more waterproof. Cells in the epidermis also produce the pigment melanin. The dermis, which is below the epidermis, contains blood vessels, nerves, sense receptors, hair follicles and smooth muscle. The dermis contains two types of glands, sebaceous and sweat. Beneath both the epidermis and dermis, the subcutaneous layer is made of connective tissue (mostly fat) and helps to insulate, store energy and protect the body.

Hair and nails are made of keratin-filled cells.