Function of the Integumentary System

Amanda Robb, Adrianne Baron
  • Author
    Amanda Robb

    Amanda has taught high school science for over 10 years. They have a Master's Degree in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Tufts Medical School and a Master's of Teaching from Simmons College. They also are certified in secondary special education, biology, and physics in Massachusetts.

  • Instructor
    Adrianne Baron

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

What is the function of the integumentary system? Learn about the integumentary system, including integumentary system organs and the integumentary system's parts. Updated: 09/12/2021

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What is the Function of the Integumentary System?

The integumentary system is the organ system of the body that includes the hair, nails and skin. If you've ever had a cut or watched your hair or nails grow, you've been able to observe your integumentary system in action. There are four major structures of the integumentary system:

  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Exocrine glands

The next section covers each of these structures in more detail.

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Integumentary System Organs and Structures

What are the three parts of the integumentary system? There are actually four main structures in the integumentary system, the skin, hair, nails and exocrine glands. Each plays a vital role in supporting the integumentary system's function of protecting the body.

Skin

The skin is the largest organ in the body and the largest part of the integumentary system. The skin has three main layers:

  • Epidermis
  • Dermis
  • Hypodermis

The epidermis is the outer, thinnest layer of the skin. It is composed of dead cells that face the extracellular environment and layers of additional cells underneath. One of the main types of cells in the epidermis is keratinocytes, which are dead at functional maturity and help form a barrier of the skin. The epidermis also contains melanocytes, which produce melanin for protection from ultraviolet rays from the Sun. There are also sensory cells and immune cells in the epidermis.

The dermis is the thick, middle layer of the skin. It contains two main layers, the papillary and reticular layers. The papillary layer is the thin upper layer made of loose connective tissue. The reticular layer is the deeper, denser layer filled with collagen fibers. Within the dermis are the sweat glands, muscles, hair follicles, nerves, and blood vessels.

The deepest layer of the skin is the hypodermis. The hypodermis is also called the subcutaneous fascia. It houses the adipose tissue of the skin and helps regulte temperature in the body. The hypodermis can also contain blood vessels and nerve endings as well.

Hair

Hair is an extension of the epidermis but originates from hair follicles in the dermis. A hair follicle is the tunnel extending through the epidermis and into the dermis where hairs grow from. Hair is made from dead skin cells that are immobilized with the protein keratin and are pushed upward from the hair follicle.

The availability of nutrients and hormones dictate the hair growing cycle, which switches through anagen, or growth, and telogen, or resting phases.

Nails

Nails are also made of keratin arranged in flat layers. Nail growth begins at the nail matrix under the nail bed. As new cells grow, older, keratinized cells are pushed out to form the nail. Nails grow relatively slowly, about 2.5mm per month.

Exocrine Glands

There are two types of exocrine glands in the integumentary system:

  • Sebaceous glands
  • Sweat glands

Sebaceous glands produce oil in our skin. Sweat glands release water and salt in the form of sweat. These glands are found in the dermis of the skin.

Integumentary System Function

The main purpose of the integumentary system is to help protect the body. However, the different organs in the integumentary system have different functions, which are described in detail below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main functions of integumentary system?

The main functions of the integumentary system are to protect the body from the environment. The integumentary system also helps with temperature homeostasis and sensing the environment.

What is the major organ of the integumentary?

The major organ of the integumentary system is the skin. The skin is made of three main layers, the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis.

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