Anatomy of the Integumentary System

Basic Anatomy of the System

The skin and its accessory structures make up the integumentary system, which provides the body with overall protection. The skin is made of multiple layers of cells and tissues, which are held to underlying structures by connective tissue (Figure 7.1). The deeper layer of skin is well vascularized. It also has numerous sensory and autonomic nerve fibers ensuring communication to and from the brain.

The skin is composed of two main layers:

  1. The epidermis
  2. The dermis
    • Beneath the dermis lies the hypodermis (subcutaneous).


Layers of the skin. Image description available.
Figure 7.1 Layers of Skin. From Betts, et al., 2013. Licensed under CC BY 4.0. [Image description.]


The outer layer, the epidermis, is composed of keratinized, stratified squamous epithelium. It is made of four or five layers of epithelial cells, depending on its location in the body. It is avascular.


The dermis contains blood and lymph vessels, nerves, and other structures, such as hair follicles and sweat glands. The dermis is made of two layers (papillary layer and reticular layer) of connective tissue that compose an interconnected mesh of elastin and collagenous fibers, produced by fibroblasts.


The hypodermis serves to connect the skin to the underlying fascia of the bones and muscles. It is not strictly a part of the skin, although the border between the hypodermis and dermis can be difficult to distinguish. The hypodermis consists of well-vascularized, loose, areolar connective tissue and adipose tissue, which functions as a mode of fat storage and provides insulation and cushioning for the integument.

Image Descriptions

Figure 7.1 image description: This illustration shows a cross section of skin tissue. The outermost layer is called the epidermis and occupies one-fifth of the cross section. Several hairs are emerging from the surface. The epidermis dives around one of the hairs, forming a follicle. The middle layer is called the dermis, which occupies four-fifths of the cross section. The dermis contains an erector pili muscle connected to one of the follicles. The dermis also contains an eccrine sweat gland, composed of a bunch of tubules. One tubule travels up from the bunch, through the epidermis, opening onto the surface a pore. There are two string-like nerves traveling vertically through the dermis. The right nerve is attached to a Pacinian corpuscle, a yellow structure consisting of concentric ovals similar to an onion. The lowest level of the skin, the hypodermis, contains fatty tissue, arteries, and veins. Blood vessels travel from the hypodermis and connect to hair follicles and erector pili muscle in the dermis. [Return to Figure 7.1].


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Medical Terminology: An Interactive Approach Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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