Our Amazing Skin

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skin2We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.

                  ~ Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat, seventh secretary-general of the United Nations, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize


Our skin – strong enough to withstand everyday knocks and bruises, yet it is supple enough to allow movement. Our skin is the largest organ of the human body. Think of your skin as your body’s coat!skin3

The skin has many functions, such as controlling body temperature and acting as a barrier or screen against damaging radiation from the sun. It helps to protect our internal body systems from the outside world.

Your skin varies in thickness, from the soles of our feet (approximately 1/16 of an inch) to the skin on eyelids (approximately less than 1/32 of an inch)!

Doctors who are experts in skin care are called dermatologists. They have been medically trained to identify and treat problems with our skin, nails, hair and mucous membranes (the lining inside our mouth, nose and eyelids). Skin problems are common for people of all ages. Dermatologists diagnose and treat more than 3,000 different diseases, such as skin cancer, eczema, acne, psoriasis, nail infections and others.

N996434_NIH_C1tifAs we know, skin changes over time: age spots, fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging that make our skin weak or vulnerable. Because of this, it is important to know how to take proper care of our skin.

Most importantly, we need to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful rays to prevent the development of skin cancer. However, it is not just the sun that can cause skin cancer! As of August 2013, Illinois became the sixth state to ban the use of indoor tanning beds by minors under the age of 18, and the law will go into effect on January 1, 2014.


In this month’s Internet Challenge™, we will get to explore and learn more details and current stories about our skin and some skin issues. Are you ready to begin our online activity?skin4

Our first Web site is the “Kids Health: Your Skin” that is located at

Read the information on this page. When you get to the bottom of the page, click the next pages: 2, 3, 4 and then answer the following questions.

1. Where is the epidermis layer of our skin?





2. How do we lose skin cells from our epidermis?




3. The more melanin that you have in your skin, the lighter the color of your skin.

(a) True

(b) False


4. Describe the dermis layer.




5. Explain what happens to the dermis in older people.






6. What can you point out about the subcutaneous layer?






7. What is the connection between goosebumps and pilomotor reflex?




Woman with Hand on FaceGreat!


Zoom back over to “Kids Health: Eek! It is Eczema!” It is located at

Read the information on this page. When you get to the bottom of the page, click the next pages: 2, 3 and then answer the following questions.

8. (a) How would you describe eczema? (b) Why do some children develop eczema?








Go to “Kids Health – Taking Care of Your Skin” that can be found at

Read the information on this page. When you get to the bottom of the page, click the next pages: 2, 3 and then complete the following item.

9. The correct procedure for washing your hands is (1) wet your hands with warm water, (2) lather up with a harsh soap, (3) dry with a towel.

(a) True

(b) False


Very good!


Zoom over to the “American Academy of Dermatology – Skin Dictionary” that can be found at


10. Learn the meaning of these words and write their definitions below.


(a)    biotin



(b)   alopecia



(c)    subcutaneous fat



(d)   sun protection factor/SPF



(e)    hangnail



(f)    cuticle



(g)   melanocytes



(h)   keloid



(i)     pores



(j)     nerve endings



Good work!


Extension Activities – Complete one or more of the activities listed below. Use any or all of the Web sites noted in our online activity.

* Using the Skin Dictionary from the American Academy of Dermatology – create a skin quiz or crossword puzzle with words and their definitions.

Use paper, pencil and art tools or appropriate computer software or other tools for your design. Use the words already mentioned in item #10 or choose new words for your puzzle. After you have completed your original creation, share the quiz or puzzle with your teacher and classmates. Be ready to share it with your teacher and classmates. Talk about it!


* Go to “How Stuff Works- Anatomy of the Skin.” (Click the arrow to proceed to the next page.)


“Skin and Your Sense of Touch”

Explore either Web site and read through their information. Take notes as you review the information. Be sure not to click any of the advertisements!

Your assignment: create a presentation on skin for a group of school-age students (either elementary, middle or high school). Introduce the skin to your audience and then go into various ways to help take care of it.

Use paper and pencil (and art tools) or appropriate computer software to design your facility. After you are done, be sure to share it with your teacher and classmates. Talk about it!


*Have a roundtable discussion!

Topic: “The best medicine in fighting skin cancer is prevention, as sun protective behavior — such as using sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding tanning beds — has been proven to reduce the risk of all skin cancers, even in those patients with a history of prior skin cancer,” said Dr. Zwald, board-certified dermatologist.

The Website further states that . . . However, dermatologists are concerned that patients are not taking a non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis as seriously as they should and point out that there are common misconceptions among the public that these types of skin cancer do not spread and do not require surgical treatment.

How can we bring about public awareness about this important health situation? What ideas or comments do you have?

Choose a group of students and ask your teacher to be the moderator. Brainstorm with your classmates and then get ready to share your opinions with one another. Talk about it!

Read, Write and give your View!


* Go to “American Academy of Dermatology” and read the news release, “Illinois becomes the sixth state to ban indoor tanning for minors under 18.”

This law is based on significant scientific evidence that links indoor tanning to increased risk of developing melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. Give your point of view in a one-page report or summary for ways to make the public aware of the dangers of indoor tanning, especially for minors under 18 years of age. In addition, do you feel that other states should join in on this and support the ban?

After you are done gathering your thoughts and ideas, be prepared to share them with your teacher and classmates. Talk about it!




Congratulations! You have done an excellent job completing this Internet Challenge™.

Geri Ruane



1. The epidermis is the outside layer of our skin.

2. At the bottom of the epidermis, new skin cells are forming. When the cells are ready, they start moving toward the top of your epidermis. This trip takes about 2 weeks to a month. As newer cells continue to move up, older cells near the top die and rise to the surface of your skin. What you see on your body are really dead skin cells. These old cells are tough and strong, just right for covering your body and protecting it. But they only stick around for a little while. Soon, they'll flake off. Every minute of the day we lose about 30,000 - 40,000 dead skin cells off the surface of our skin. Your epidermis is always making new skin cells that rise to the top to replace the old ones. Most of the cells in your epidermis (95%) work to make new skin cells.

3. (b) False. Melanin gives skin its color. The darker your skin is, the more melanin you have.

4. The dermis is hidden under your epidermis. The dermis contains nerve endings, blood vessels, oil glands, and sweat glands. It also contains collagen and elastin, both of which are tough and stretchy.

5. As the dermis gets older, it gets thinner and easier to see through.

6. The third and bottom layer of the skin is called the subcutaneous layer, which is made mostly of fat. It helps your body stay warm and absorb shocks (such as falls) and it holds your skin to all the tissues underneath it. The start of hair begins in this layer. Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny tube in the skin called a follicle. Every follicle has its roots way down in the subcutaneous layer and continues up through the dermis.

7. The common name is “goosebumps,” but the fancy name for them is the “pilomotor reflex.” The reflex makes special tiny muscles called the erector pili muscles pull on your hairs so the hairs stand up very straight.

8. (a) Eczema is also called atopic dermatitis. It makes your skin dry, red, itchy, sometimes a rash develops; however, it is not contagious. The skin has special cells that react when they come in contact with anything that irritates them. They make the skin inflamed to protect it. If you have eczema, you have more of these special cells than other people do. These cells overreact when something triggers them and they start to work overtime. That is what makes your skin red, sore, and itchy. (b) About 1 out of every ten children develops eczema (either before or after age five). Children who get eczema often have family members with hay fever, asthma, or other allergic conditions. Some scientists think these children may be genetically predisposed to get eczema, which means characteristics have been passed on from parents through genes that make a child more likely to get it. More than half of the children who have eczema today will be over it by the time they are teenagers.

9. (b) False. When washing your hands, use water that is comfortably warm. Wet your hands, and then lather up with a mild soap. You should lather and rub everywhere, including the palms, the wrists, between the fingers, and under the nails. Rinse well and dry thoroughly with a clean towel.

10. Student’s own work.

Extension Activities – Students’ own work.


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