Understanding the skin requires knowledge of that accessory structures. This article, second in a two-part series, looks at the role of hair, nails, sweat and sebaceous glands


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

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

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

This post has to be double-blind peer reviewed


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


The hair is a keratin structure growing out that the epidermis. The is discovered on all areas of the body other than the palms that the hands, soles that the feet and also the lips, and has numerous functions:

Protection – hair ~ above the head protects the skull native the sun, while that in the nose and ears and also around the eyes (eyelashes) traps and excludes dust particles, which may contain allergens and microbes. Eyebrows protect against sweat and also other corpuscle from dripping into the eyes;Sensory agree – the hair is far much more sensitive 보다 the skin surface ar to air motion or various other disturbances in the environment, because that example, head-lice infestation;Thermoregulation;Distribution of sweat-gland products;

The hair largely comprises dead keratinised cells. Strands the hair originate from the hair follicle, which is an epidermal penetration that the dermis. Hair follicles are set at one angle right into the dermis, through the pear (germinal matrix) sit deep down, just above or in the hypodermis (Graham-Brown and Bourke, 2006). The framework of the dermal papilla (bulb), germinal matrix and also root.

The clearly shows hair shaft is the only component that is not anchored to the hair follicle and the shape plays a duty in identify hair texture. The remainder of the hair (hair root) is anchored in the follicle and also lies below the surface of the skin (Fig 1). The hair root end deep in the dermis in ~ the hair bulb, and also includes a great of mitotically energetic basal cells called the hair matrix.


Cells that the hair procession divide and differentiate to type the three layers that the hair:

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

Hair texture is determined by the shape and structure of the cortex and by the shape of the hair follicle:

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

The hair bulb surrounds the hair papilla, which is make of connective tissue and contains blood capillaries and nerve end from the dermis. Likewise attached to each follicle is a little bundle that smooth muscle, the arrector pili, i beg your pardon contracts with cold, fear and emotion to erect the hairs and produce goosebumps (Gawkrodger and Ardern-Jones, 2016).

There space three varieties 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, birth (Gawkrodger and also Ardern-Jones, 2016; Graham-Brown and Bourke, 2006).Hair growth

Hair development is determined by genetic and also hormonal factors, and also begins with the manufacturing of keratinocytes by the basal cells in the matrix of the hair bulb. Keratinisation is finish when these cells are driven through the follicle to the skin surface, forming the visible tower of hair; this shaft is dead and also composed totally of keratin.

Each bike of hair growth is predetermined and goes through three phases:

Anagen or expansion phase – cells divide promptly at the hair root, pushing the hair pillar up and also out. Hair generally grows in ~ the price of 0.3mm every day in this phase, which normally lasts from 2 to 7 years;Catagen or relaxing phase – lasting just two or 3 weeks, this marks a shift from the hair follicle’s active growth;Telogen or shedding step – strands the hair are released, no brand-new growth occurs and the follicle is in ~ rest. This large for roughly two to 4 months before one more anagen step begins. On averageHair colour

Hair is comparable to the skin in that it it s okay its colour indigenous the pigment melanin, i beg your pardon is created by melanocytes in the hair papilla. Hair colour is genetically figured out but, as we age, melanin manufacturing decreases and also the hair loser its colour, becoming 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 uncovered along the hair follicles and also secrete a liquid substance referred to as sebum (a mix of lipids) in solution to hormone stimulation. The glands differ in size and number, yet are largely on the scalp, face, upper torso and also anogenital areas. They are fairly inactive during childhood, but become very active during puberty.

Sebum helps lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair, keeping them pliable; the fat acids the sebum additionally have antibacterial properties and also prevent water loss native the skin in low-humidity environments.

Sweat glands

Also recognized as sudoriferous glands (from the Latin sudor, an interpretation sweat), these produce sweat to cool the body when it i do not care warm. Sweat glands construct from epidermal projections right into the dermis and are classified together eccrine glands, as the secretions room excreted through exocytosis v a duct there is no affecting the cell of the gland. There are two types of sweat glands – eccrine and apocrine – each of i beg your pardon secretes slightly various products.

Eccrine sweat glands

Eccrine sweat glands are component of the body thermoregulatory system and aid to keep homeostasis. There are much more than two million of these and, although castle are uncovered over the entirety body, castle are an ext numerous in the forehead, axillae, palms the the hands and soles that the feet. These coiled structures space usually at the junction in between the dermis and also the subcutaneous layer, with a duct leading through the dermis and epidermis to a spicy on the skin surface, whereby the sweat is released (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006; Fig 2).


The sweat, exit by exocytosis, is hypotonic and mostly water, v some salt, antibodies, traces of metabolic waste and also dermcidin, an antimicrobial peptide.

Apocrine sweat glands

Apocrine sweat glands become active during puberty, and are additionally coiled structures; your ducts open right into hair follicles (Fig 2). They are larger than eccrine sweat glands, lie depths in the dermis and also are sometimes discovered in the hypodermis. Less numerous than eccrine glands, they are discovered in the axillae and in more-localised web page – namely the nipples, perineum and scalp.

Apocrine sweat, and containing water and salts, has organic compounds that make the thicker 보다 eccrine sweat and also subject to bacter decomposition and also subsequent smell. The release of this sweat is under nervous and hormonal control. Apocrine sweat plays a duty in the poorly construed human pheromone an answer and regulating body temperature (Graham-Brown and also Bourke, 2006).


Nails covers hardened and also densely pack keratin, and protect the extremities of our fingers and toes from mechanically damage. Offering defense for the fingertips, they facilitate grasping and also tactile sensitivity in the finger. The fingertip has many nerve endings and receives information around objects us touch; the nail acts as a counterforce, offering even more sensory input.

The components consisting of the framework of the pond are displayed in Fig 3 and described below:

Nail procession – the growing part of the nail, tho under the skin at the nail’s proximal end, include cells the divide, mature, keratinise and move front to the nail plate;Nail plate – this hard and also translucent portion is created of keratin, and also varies in thickness indigenous 0.3mm come 0.5mm ;Cuticle (eponychium) – the cuticle is the wrinkles of skin at the proximal end of the nail;Paronychium – the lateral fold of skin on the political parties of the nail;Nail bed – this is adherent connective organization underlying the nail; it is rich in blood vessels, making it show up pink, other than at the base, wherein a thick layer of epithelium end the pond matrix develops a crescent-shaped region called the lunula (“little moon”);
Nail growth

The rate of nail expansion varies from person to person: fingernails average in between 0.5mm and also 1.2mm per week, yet toenails grow an ext slowly (Weller et al, 2013). The growth of pond is a complex process and, in humans, is genetically controlled to for sure the nail is flat; this is uneven the process in various other animals and primates that have claws. Nail development can additionally be negatively impacted by trauma and inflammation (Graham-Brown and Bourke, 2006).

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The accessory frameworks of the skin, including the hair, nails, sweat glands and sebaceous glands, play crucial role in the skin’s key functions.