What is the function of skin?

Skin Function: Sensing

The dermis serves an important role in regulating body temperature. But it also performs another critical function: It contains the nerve endings that give you your sense of touch [source: The Merck Manuals].

The nerve endings in the dermis identify five different kinds of sensations: heat, cold, pressure, pain and contact. This is because there are millions of nerve endings in the dermis, with higher concentrations in certain areas of the body [source: Medindia]. Places where skin is thinner often have either a greater concentration of nerve endings or less protection, making them more sensitive.


Injuries to the skin can adversely affect your experience of touch. For example, even a minor burn can be quite painful, because it affects the nerve endings in your skin. Usually a first- or second-degree burn can continue to hurt even after it has developed scar tissue, because the nerve endings are continuing to react to the injury. What's even more dangerous, however, is when you don't feel any pain from a burn -- that means that you've suffered from a third-degree burn, which penetrates the dermis. The reason you don't feel pain with a third-degree burn is because the nerve endings in the dermis have actually been destroyed [source: Wolfe].

For lots more information about the function of skin, see the links below.

Related HowStuffworks Articles


  • BBC. "Organs - Skin." (Sept. 22, 2009)
  • Kids Health. "Your Skin. (Sept. 22, 2009)
  • Grande, Donald. "Skin Grafting." WebMD. (Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Medindia. "Know Your Skin." (Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Mapes, Diane. "Suffering for beauty has ancient roots." MSNBC. (Sept. 22, 2009)
  • The Merck Manuals. "Structure and Function." (Sept. 22, 2009)
  • P&G Beauty and Grooming. "Functions of the Dermis." (Sept. 23, 2009)
  • P&G Beauty and Grooming. "Functions of the Epidermis." (Sept. 22, 2009)
  • P&G Beauty and Grooming. "The Subcutaneous Fat Layer." (Sept. 23, 2009)
  • The Merck Manuals. "Structure and Function." (Sept. 22, 2009)
  • Wolfe, Steven E., M.D. "Burns." The Merck Manual of Medical Information -- Second Home Edition. (Sept. 23, 2009)