Understanding the skin requires understanding of the accessory structures. This article, 2nd in a two-part series, looks in ~ the duty of hair, nails, sweat and also sebaceous glands


Understanding the skin requires knowledge of that is accessory structures. These originate embryologically native the epidermis and also include hair, nails, sweat glands and sebaceous glands. Every are crucial in the skin’s crucial functions, consisting of protection, thermoregulation and its sensory roles. This article, the second in a two-part series, looks at the structure and duty of the main accessory frameworks of the skin.

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Citation: Lawton S (2020) Skin 2: accessory structures of the skin and also their functions. Nursing Times ; 116; 1, 44-46.

Author: Sandra Lawton is Queen’s Nurse, nurse consultant and clinical command dermatology, The Rotherham NHS structure Trust.

This write-up has been double-blind peer reviewed


Accessory frameworks of the skin include the hair, nails, sweat glands and sebaceous glands. These structures embryologically originate native the epidermis and also are often termed “appendages”; castle can prolong down with the dermis into the hypodermis.


The hair is a keratin structure farming out the the epidermis. That is discovered on all locations of the body except the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and also the lips, and has numerous functions:

Protection – hair top top the head protects the skull native the sun, while the in the nose and ears and around the eye (eyelashes) traps and also excludes dust particles, which may contain allergens and microbes. Eyebrows avoid sweat and other particles from dripping right into the eyes;Sensory reception – the hair is far more sensitive than the skin surface to air activity or various other disturbances in the environment, because that example, head-lice infestation;Thermoregulation;Distribution the sweat-gland products;

The hair largely comprises dead keratinised cells. Strands the hair originate from the hair follicle, i beg your pardon is one epidermal penetration that the dermis. Hair follicles are collection at an angle into the dermis, with the bulb (germinal matrix) sit deep down, just above or in the hypodermis (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006). The structure of the dermal papilla (bulb), germinal matrix and also root.

The visible hair obelisk is the only component that is not anchored to the hair follicle and the form plays a function in determining hair texture. The remainder of the hair (hair root) is anchored in the follicle and lies listed below the surface of the skin (Fig 1). The hair root end deep in the dermis at the hair bulb, and includes a layer of mitotically active basal cells called the hair matrix.


Cells of the hair procession divide and also differentiate to type the 3 layers that the hair:

Medulla – the central core of the hair;Cortex – this surrounds the medulla;Cuticle – an outer layer of an extremely hard, keratinised cells.

Hair texture is figured out by the shape and structure the the cortex and also by the shape of the hair follicle:

Round hair follicle – hair will certainly be straight and coarse;Oval hair follicle – hair will be wavy;Flat hair follicle – hair will be curly.

The hair bulb surrounds the hair papilla, i m sorry is make of connective tissue and also contains blood capillaries and nerve endings from the dermis. Additionally attached to each follicle is a small bundle that smooth muscle, the arrector pili, i m sorry contracts through cold, fear and emotion to erect the hairs and also produce goosebumps (Gawkrodger and also Ardern-Jones, 2016).

There room three types of hair in humans:

Terminal – scalp, eyebrows/lashes, beard, axillae, pubic areas;Vellus – finer downy hair extending the body;Lanugo – current in utero and also shed before, or at, bear (Gawkrodger and also Ardern-Jones, 2016; Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006).Hair growth

Hair growth is identified by genetic and also hormonal factors, and also begins v the manufacturing of keratinocytes by the basal cell in the matrix of the hair bulb. Keratinisation is finish when these cells are propelled through the follicle to the skin surface, creating the visible shaft of hair; this obelisk is dead and also composed entirely of keratin.

Each bike of hair expansion is predetermined and goes through 3 phases:

Anagen or expansion phase – cell divide swiftly at the hair root, pushing the hair column up and also out. Hair generally grows in ~ the price of 0.3mm every day in this phase, which typically lasts from 2 to seven years;Catagen or resting phase – lasting only two or three weeks, this point out a shift from the hair follicle’s energetic growth;Telogen or shedding step – strands that hair space released, no new growth occurs and also the follicle is at rest. This lasts for about two to 4 months before one more anagen phase begins. ~ above averageHair colour

Hair is similar to the skin in that it gets its colour indigenous the colors melanin, which is developed by melanocytes in the hair papilla. Hair colour is genetically determined but, together we age, melanin production decreases and the hair loser its colour, coming to be grey and/or white.

Sebaceous glands

The pilosebaceous unit comprises the hair follicle, hair shaft, arrector pili and also sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands are discovered along the hair follicles and also secrete a fluid substance called sebum (a mix the lipids) in an answer to hormone stimulation. The glands differ in size and also number, but are mostly on the scalp, face, upper torso and also anogenital areas. They are reasonably inactive throughout childhood, but become very active throughout puberty.

Sebum help lubricate and also waterproof the skin and hair, maintaining them pliable; the fatty acids that sebum likewise have antibacterial properties and also prevent water loss indigenous the skin in low-humidity environments.

Sweat glands

Also well-known as sudoriferous glands (from the Latin sudor, an interpretation sweat), these produce sweat come cool the body once it becomes warm. Sweat glands build from epidermal projections right into the dermis and also are classified as eccrine glands, together the secretions room excreted by exocytosis with a duct there is no affecting the cell of the gland. There space two varieties of sweat glands – eccrine and apocrine – each of which secretes slightly various products.

Eccrine sweat glands

Eccrine sweat glands are component of the body thermoregulatory system and assist to keep homeostasis. Over there are an ext than two million of these and, although they are found over the totality body, lock are more numerous in the forehead, axillae, palms that the hands and also soles that the feet. This coiled structures room usually at the junction between the dermis and the subcutaneous layer, with a duct leading v the dermis and also epidermis to a pore on the skin surface, whereby the sweat is exit (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006; Fig 2).


The sweat, released by exocytosis, is hypotonic and also mostly water, with some salt, antibodies, traces that metabolic waste and also dermcidin, an antimicrobial peptide.

Apocrine sweat glands

Apocrine sweat glands become active during puberty, and also are also coiled structures; your ducts open right into hair follicles (Fig 2). Castle are bigger than eccrine sweat glands, lie depth in the dermis and also are sometimes uncovered in the hypodermis. Less many than eccrine glands, they are uncovered in the axillae and also in more-localised website – namely the nipples, perineum and scalp.

Apocrine sweat, and also containing water and also salts, contains organic compounds that make it thicker than eccrine sweat and also subject to bacter decomposition and subsequent smell. The relax of this sweat is under nervous and also hormonal control. Apocrine sweat plays a role in the poorly understood human pheromone solution and regulating body temperature (Graham-Brown and Bourke, 2006).


Nails consist of hardened and densely pack keratin, and also protect the extremities of our fingers and also toes from mechanical damage. Offering security for the fingertips, castle facilitate grasping and tactile sensitivity in the finger. The fingertip has numerous nerve endings and receives information about objects we touch; the nail acts together a counterforce, providing even an ext sensory input.

The components comprising the framework of the pond are shown in Fig 3 and also described below:

Nail matrix – the growing part of the nail, tho under the skin in ~ the nail’s proximal end, include cells the divide, mature, keratinise and also move forward to the pond plate;Nail bowl – this hard and translucent portion is created of keratin, and also varies in thickness indigenous 0.3mm to 0.5mm ;Cuticle (eponychium) – the cuticle is the wrinkles of skin at the proximal finish of the nail;Paronychium – the lateral fold of skin top top the sides of the nail;Nail bed – this is adherent connective tissue underlying the nail; that is affluent in blood vessels, do it show up pink, except at the base, where a thick layer that epithelium over the nail matrix develops a crescent-shaped region called the lunula (“little moon”);
Nail growth

The price of nail development varies from human being to person: fingernails average in between 0.5mm and also 1.2mm every week, yet toenails grow more slowly (Weller et al, 2013). The expansion of pond is a facility process and, in humans, is genetically regulated to ensure the nail is flat; this is unequal the procedure in other animals and also primates that have claws. Nail growth can additionally be negatively impacted by trauma and also inflammation (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006).

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The accessory frameworks of the skin, consisting of the hair, nails, sweat glands and also sebaceous glands, play an essential role in the skin’s vital functions.