How Long Does a Skin Cell Live?

How Long Does a Skin Cell Live?
How Long Does a Skin Cell Live? (Image: morguefile)

What Skin Cells Are

A very large number of epithelial cells combine to form a layer over the body, called skin. Skin is an organ, just like the heart or the liver is an organ. It is the largest organ of the body.

Purpose of Skin Cells

Skin cells form a protective layer around the body. The skin protects the body from germs, bacteria and viruses by not allowing them to enter. Skin cells also keep the blood and other organs safely tucked inside. In addition, skin cells regulate body temperature and house the sense of touch.

Skin Cell Layers

The lowest level is subcutaneous fat. The subcutaneous fat has large blood vessels and nerves. The dermis is the middle layer and has nerves, blood vessels, hair roots and sweat glands. The epidermis is the top layer and gets nutrients from other skin layers. At the base of the epidermis are basal cells. They continuously divide. These basal skin cells last forever. It is the deepest layer of the epidermis. This layer has cells that divide and push new cells up into the upper layers.

Skin Cell Life Span

An epithelial cell exists and is connected to a blood supply inside the body. Keratin, a protein found in skin, nails and hair, gathers in the skin cell. When the skin cell dies, the cell is packed with keratin. This epithelial skin cell moves its way upwards, through the layers of skin, towards the surface. The skin cell sheds, making way for a fresh, new skin cell to emerge and take its place.

Epidermal skin cells last 2 to 4 weeks. The factors that determine the exact amount of time a skin cell lives include how quickly the surface cells shed as well as skin thickness and where the skin cells are located on the body.

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