Understanding the skin requires expertise of the accessory structures. This article, 2nd in a two-part series, looks at the function of hair, nails, sweat and also sebaceous glands


Understanding the skin requires expertise of the accessory structures. This originate embryologically indigenous the epidermis and also include hair, nails, sweat glands and also sebaceous glands. Every are important in the skin’s crucial functions, including protection, thermoregulation and its sensory roles. This article, the second in a two-part series, looks at the framework and duty of the main accessory frameworks of the skin.

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Citation: Lawton S (2020) Skin 2: accessory structures of the skin and also their functions. Nursing Times ; 116; 1, 44-46.

Author: Sandra Lawton is Queen’s Nurse, nurse consultant and also clinical command dermatology, The Rotherham NHS structure Trust.

This write-up has been double-blind peer reviewed


Accessory frameworks of the skin incorporate the hair, nails, sweat glands and sebaceous glands. These structures embryologically originate indigenous the epidermis and also are frequently termed “appendages”; lock can extend down with the dermis right into the hypodermis.


The hair is a keratin structure growing out of the epidermis. The is found on all locations of the body other than the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and also the lips, and also has number of functions:

Protection – hair ~ above the head protects the skull from the sun, while the in the nose and ears and around the eye (eyelashes) traps and excludes dust particles, which might contain allergens and microbes. Eyebrows stop sweat and also other particles from dripping right into the eyes;Sensory reception – the hair is far more sensitive 보다 the skin surface to air movement or various other disturbances in the environment, because that example, head-lice infestation;Thermoregulation;Distribution of sweat-gland products;

The hair largely comprises dead keratinised cells. Strands that hair originate native the hair follicle, i m sorry is one epidermal penetration of the dermis. Hair follicles are set at one angle right into the dermis, with the pear (germinal matrix) sit deep down, just above or in the hypodermis (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006). The framework of the dermal papilla (bulb), germinal matrix and root.

The clearly shows hair shaft is the only component that is not anchored come the hair follicle and the form plays a role in identify hair texture. The rest of the hair (hair root) is anchored in the follicle and also lies listed below the surface of the skin (Fig 1). The hair root end deep in the dermis in ~ the hair bulb, and includes a class of mitotically energetic basal cells referred to as the hair matrix.


Cells of the hair matrix divide and also differentiate to type the 3 layers of the hair:

Medulla – the central core the the hair;Cortex – this surrounding the medulla;Cuticle – an outer layer of an extremely hard, keratinised cells.

Hair structure is identified by the shape and also structure of the cortex and by the shape of the hair follicle:

Round hair follicle – hair will certainly be straight and coarse;Oval hair follicle – hair will certainly be wavy;Flat hair follicle – hair will certainly be curly.

The hair bulb surrounds the hair papilla, i beg your pardon is do of connective tissue and contains blood capillaries and nerve end from the dermis. Also attached to each follicle is a tiny bundle of smooth muscle, the arrector pili, which contracts through cold, fear and emotion come erect the hairs and also produce goosebumps (Gawkrodger and also Ardern-Jones, 2016).

There are three varieties of hair in humans:

Terminal – scalp, eyebrows/lashes, beard, axillae, pubic areas;Vellus – finer downy hair covering the body;Lanugo – existing in utero and shed before, or at, bear (Gawkrodger and also Ardern-Jones, 2016; Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006).Hair growth

Hair expansion is identified by genetic and hormonal factors, and begins through the production of keratinocytes by the basal cells in the matrix of the hair bulb. Keratinisation is finish when this cells are thrust through the follicle come the skin surface, creating the visible obelisk of hair; this pillar is dead and composed totally of keratin.

Each bike of hair development is predetermined and also goes through 3 phases:

Anagen or growth phase – cells divide promptly at the hair root, advertise the hair column up and out. Hair typically grows in ~ the price of 0.3mm every day in this phase, which generally lasts from 2 to seven years;Catagen or relaxing phase – lasting only two or three weeks, this marks a transition from the hair follicle’s active growth;Telogen or shedding phase – strands that hair room released, no new growth occurs and the follicle is at rest. This big for about two to 4 months before an additional anagen phase begins. ~ above averageHair colour

Hair is similar to the skin in that it it s okay its colour indigenous the pigment melanin, which is produced by melanocytes in the hair papilla. Hair colour is genetically determined but, as we age, melanin manufacturing decreases and the hair loser its colour, ending up being grey and/or white.

Sebaceous glands

The pilosebaceous unit comprises the hair follicle, hair shaft, arrector pili and sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands are found along the hair follicles and secrete a fluid substance referred to as sebum (a mix of lipids) in solution to hormone stimulation. The glands differ in size and also number, however are greatly on the scalp, face, upper torso and also anogenital areas. They are relatively inactive throughout childhood, however become an extremely active throughout puberty.

Sebum help lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair, keeping them pliable; the fat acids the sebum also have antibacterial properties and prevent water loss indigenous the skin in low-humidity environments.

Sweat glands

Also known as sudoriferous glands (from the Latin sudor, definition sweat), these create sweat come cool the body once it i do not care warm. Sweat glands build from epidermal projections right into the dermis and also are classified together eccrine glands, together the secretions room excreted through exocytosis through a duct there is no affecting the cell of the gland. There are two species of sweat glands – eccrine and also apocrine – every of which secretes slightly different products.

Eccrine sweat glands

Eccrine sweat glands are part of the body thermoregulatory mechanism and assist to maintain homeostasis. There are much more than two million of these and, although castle are found over the whole body, lock are more numerous in the forehead, axillae, palms the the hands and also soles that the feet. This coiled structures are usually at the junction between the dermis and the subcutaneous layer, through a duct leading v the dermis and also epidermis to a sharp on the skin surface, where the sweat is exit (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006; Fig 2).


The sweat, exit by exocytosis, is hypotonic and also mostly water, with some salt, antibodies, traces the metabolic waste and dermcidin, an antimicrobial peptide.

Apocrine sweat glands

Apocrine sweat glands become active during puberty, and are also coiled structures; their ducts open right into hair follicles (Fig 2). Castle are larger than eccrine sweat glands, lie depths in the dermis and also are sometimes discovered in the hypodermis. Less countless than eccrine glands, they are found in the axillae as well as in more-localised sites – specific the nipples, perineum and scalp.

Apocrine sweat, and containing water and also salts, includes organic compounds that make it thicker 보다 eccrine sweat and subject to bacter decomposition and subsequent smell. The release of this sweat is under nervous and also hormonal control. Apocrine sweat dram a function in the poorly construed human pheromone solution and regulating human body temperature (Graham-Brown and Bourke, 2006).


Nails consist of hardened and densely packed keratin, and protect the extremities of our fingers and toes from mechanical damage. Offering defense for the fingertips, castle facilitate grasping and also tactile sensitivity in the finger. The fingertip has numerous nerve endings and receives information about objects we touch; the nail acts as a counterforce, giving even more sensory input.

The components making up the structure of the nail are shown in Fig 3 and also described below:

Nail matrix – the growing component of the nail, quiet under the skin at the nail’s proximal end, include cells the divide, mature, keratinise and move front to the nail plate;Nail bowl – this hard and translucent portion is written of keratin, and also varies in thickness native 0.3mm to 0.5mm ;Cuticle (eponychium) – the cuticle is the fold of skin in ~ the proximal finish of the nail;Paronychium – the lateral fold of skin ~ above the sides of the nail;Nail bed – this is adherent connective tissue underlying the nail; it is wealthy in blood vessels, do it show up pink, except at the base, wherein a special layer of epithelium over the pond matrix develops a crescent-shaped region called the lunula (“little moon”);
Nail growth

The price of nail expansion varies from person to person: fingernails average between 0.5mm and 1.2mm per week, however toenails grow more slowly (Weller et al, 2013). The expansion of pond is a complex process and, in humans, is genetically regulated to ensure the nail is flat; this is uneven the process in other animals and primates that have actually claws. Nail growth can likewise be negatively affected by trauma and inflammation (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006).

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The accessory frameworks of the skin, consisting of the hair, nails, sweat glands and sebaceous glands, play critical role in the skin’s vital functions.