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What is the Dermis?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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The dermis is the second, or middle, layer of a person's skin. It contains fibers of collagen and elastin, which are important proteins. The collagen and elastin in this layer of skin form a durable mesh-like layer. The dermis also contains fibroblasts, which are cells important to the overall health of skin, small blood vessels called capillaries, and lymph nodes. Additionally, the dermis contains sebaceous glands, hair follicles, sweat glands, and nerves.

People cannot see the dermis because it is below the epidermis, the top layer of skin, and hidden from view. The fact that the dermis is hidden from view doesn't make it any less important, however. This layer of skin is thicker than the outermost layer and has the job of giving the skin its pliability and firmness. It also helps the body maintain its temperature and even sends nutrients to part of the epidermis. Since the dermis contains nerves, it also helps a person to recognize a range of sensations, including pain, touch, and warmth or cold.

The various parts of this layer of skin have important jobs to do. For example the proteins collagen and elastin help the skin to be resilient and stretchy yet, at the same time, firm. The fibroblasts in this layer of skin have an important role to play in the synthesizing of both collagen and elastin. In fact, this type of cell helps with the synthesizing of other molecules that support the structure of the skin as well. The tiny blood vessels that are present in this layer of skin help nourish it and provide necessary oxygen while the lymph nodes help to keep the skin protected from microorganisms.

The sebaceous glands in the dermis have an important job to do as well. They serve to produce an oily substance called sebum that helps to lubricate not only the skin, but also the hair that protrudes from it. The substance also helps make the skin somewhat waterproof. Sweat glands are important as well, as they help the body to regulate its temperature. In fact, some people call the perspiration the sweat glands produce air conditioning for the body; its very presence on the surface of the skin helps the body to cool itself down.

Interestingly, people often attempt to use anti-wrinkle creams on the surface of their skin and are disappointed with the results. This is due to the fact that wrinkles develop in the dermis, and most creams cannot penetrate that far into the skin. As such, collagen creams that are often sold for fixing or preventing wrinkles are unlikely to be effective.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon989966 — On Mar 29, 2015

@discographer: The reason we lose collagen and elastin in our dermis as we age is the the cell regeneration is slowing down at the same time as our collagen etc is being damaged by inside and outside forces. free radicals, sun damage and the like. Photo-aging is hugely responsible for this. wear your sunscreen folks. @stoneMason: Another treatment that does work is collagen therapy (excuse me if i got that term wrong) essentially its a series of tiny needles being pushed into the skin and as the wounds heal, collagen surrounds the area and hey presto new collagen.

By discographer — On Sep 25, 2013

What makes the dermis thinner as we age? And why does the amount of collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin decrease? Where does it go?

By SarahGen — On Sep 24, 2013

@MikeMason-- Unfortunately, ingredients in creams cannot pass through the epidermis and enter the dermis structure. No matter what skin care companies claim, this is the reality.

It is true that some creams can cause a temporary effect on the epidermis that may make skin look plumper and make wrinkles less apparent. It's a kind of trickery that makes you think that the cream is working.

I think the only treatments that can actually have an effect on wrinkles are things like collagen fillers which are injected straight into the dermis. The dermis will absorb the collagen after some time, so the results of fillers are not permanent either but they actually work.

By stoneMason — On Sep 23, 2013

There must be some creams that can get to the dermis tissue right?

It's kind of shocking to hear that all anti-wrinkle products are useless because they never reach the dermis. I don't expect a miracle from my anti-wrinkle cream, but I think that it can help prevent new wrinkles from forming and lessen the appearance of wrinkles I have now. I hope I'm right because I've been spending a lot of money on skin care products for the past ten years.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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