What is the Function of the Integumentary System?

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  • 0:00 The Integumentary System
  • 0:40 Function of the Skin
  • 3:05 Function of the…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

In this lesson, we'll explore the function of the different parts of the integumentary system, which protects the body. We will look at how the skin and its accessory organs work together.

The Integumentary System

You have just spent a fun day at the beach going jet skiing, maybe doing a little sunbathing, playing in the water, and just enjoying the good life. You are now back inside and looking at yourself in the mirror.

You notice that you are glowing and look happy and relaxed. You may notice any weight you have gained or lost lately. You then notice your new skin tone after being outside all day. You also check out your hair and glance at your nails. What you just assessed are the different parts of your integumentary system, or the skin and its accessory organs.

While you were out playing, your integumentary system was busy carrying out some very important functions to help ensure your day of fun in the sun didn't turn into a day of gloom and doom. We're going to look at the functions of each major part of your integumentary system separately.

Function of the Skin

Let's start with the largest organ of the body. That's the skin, in case you didn't already know. Your skin is one large membrane that covers the body. Did you know the skin weighs about 20 lbs in a full adult? Now you do! Your skin may look very simple, but it has a very tough job to do. There are four main functions of your skin.

The first function of the skin is protection. This massive membrane acts as a barrier to enter the body. This is the reason why you don't have sand all inside of your organs after your day at the beach. The skin keeps outside items out and keeps your internal organs inside. Other living organisms or objects are not just able to go across your skin and enter your body.

Aren't you happy about that? I bet you wouldn't enjoy that crab you saw on the beach poking on your stomach!

Another function of the skin is insulation. There are many layers of your skin, and the innermost layer is a layer of fat. The very thing we all do our best to keep down is actually needed in the body. Fat helps to insulate the body by holding in heat. Your body functions best when it is at 98.6 degrees F.

If your day at the beach had been a day in the mountains during winter, then you would greatly appreciate the fat on the inside of your skin. It would help to keep the heat inside the body and not let it escape through the other layers of the skin. Luckily, this insulation works in both directions. It also helped to keep the heat of the sun from getting to the internal organs while you were on the beach.

The many layers of the skin and that layer of fat also work to give cushioning to your internal organs. Think for a minute about everything that happened on that jet ski. That was a pretty rough ride, but none of your internal organs are damaged. That's because the layer of fat acts as a shock-absorber.

Can you imagine the trouble we would be in if our organs hit the inside walls of our body every time we walk and stop, or drive and slam on the breaks? We wouldn't last very long.

The last of the functions of the skin is sensation. This makes sense. You feel everything through your skin. There are nerve-ending receptors that reach the inner layers of your skin and detect information about your outside environment. This sensation lets you know when air was blowing against your skin. It let you know when water was against your skin. It even let you know when you were almost out in the sun a little too long when you got a burning and painful sensation.

Function of the Accessory Organs

Now, your skin doesn't work alone to meet these functions. There are other accessory organs that work along with the skin.

Your nails are hardened plates of keratin that extend over the ends of your fingers and toes. Their main function is protection. They are there to make sure that nothing damages the sensitive ends of your fingers and toes. Think about what happened the last time your nail was accidentally ripped off or cut too short. You knew everything that was in your immediate environment until the nail grew back. You may have even ended up with an infection because that part of the skin is so thin.

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