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The skin is our largest organ. In an adult, it covers an area of almost 2 m².

As our body's protective outer sheath, it performs a large number of functions: It stores nutrients and water, expels pollutants and metabolites via its pores, produces vitamin D with the help of sunlight, protects the body from outside influences (e.g. pathogens, sunlight, cold, heat, pressure, shock and friction), as well as from overheating and dehydration. And of course, it is a central sensory organ (pressure and temperature stimuli, pain and touch), and the 'mirror of our souls'.

The skin is made up of several layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutis (subcutaneous tissue or hypodermis).

The epidermis forms the outermost layer and protects the body against chemical, physical and microbiological factors. It consists of several layers of cells, which are constantly being renewed from below.

Beneath the epidermis lies the dermis, which is both tough and elastic. Its high elasticity is due to collagen fibres which run throughout the dermis like a mesh. In addition to a complex network of blood and lymph vessels, thousands of nerve fibres are located in the dermis. They are responsible for the perception of pressure, touch, pain, temperature and irritation.

The subcutis consists mainly of fatty tissue, an important protection against the cold and an energy storage. The fat cells are embedded in a loose mesh of connective tissue. In addition, large nerve fibres and blood vessels run through the subcutis. Depending on the layer of skin concerned, the skin has a pH of between 5 and 6.5, so it is slightly acidic. This pH range is known as 'skin-neutral' or 'skin-friendly'.

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Depending on our genetic make-up and hair colour, we have between 85,000 and 140,000 hairs on our heads (blondes have an average of 140,000, while brunettes have 100,000 and redheads just 85,000).

The hair on our head is, on average, between 0.04 and 0.1 mm thick. Each hair is composed of a hair shaft, a hair root and a hair bulb. The hair shaft is the part of the hair that protrudes from the skin. The hair root is anchored in the skin and ends in a thick, round hair bulb. This is attached to the skin's hair papillae, so that the hair can grip.

The hair root lives inside the root sheath (hair follicle), the real centre of life of each hair. This is where the rapidly dividing cells that are responsible for hair growth are located. These hair cells have an intense metabolism and therefore require many nutrients and oxygen.

The natural life cycle of a hair is about seven years. During this time, the hair grows around one centimetre per month. Over time, it ceases to grow and falls out. The life cycle of the hair is such that we lose 50 to 100 hairs on a normal day.

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The fingernails and toenails are made of hard, keratinised cells. The nail is composed of the nail root, which is embedded in the skin and therefore invisible, the nail plate, which rests on the nail bed, and the free end of the nail.

The visible body of the nail consists of a keratin plate, which is approx. 0.5 mm thick. There is a crescent-shaped, paler area (the lunula, or nail moon) at the lower end of the nail plate, and it is here that the nail constantly regenerates itself and pushes its way forward. Due to this continuous growth, the nails regularly require nutrients.

In addition to their mechanical protective function for the tips or our fingers and toes, the nails help in touching and grasping objects, and therefore assist the body's fine motor skills. Fingernails and toenails grow at different rates.

While fingernails increase in length at a rate of between 0.5 and 1 mm per week, toenails only grow at about 1 mm per month. Because of their slow growth, nails tell us a lot about the person's health, any deficiencies and other systemic diseases. They provide information on skin diseases that have already healed – even several weeks later.

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