The skin is the body’s largest organ. But how much do you know about it? Knowing about how your skin works and the nutrients it needs allows you to age with grace. Here's the inside scoop on how your skin works — from the inside out.

Your skin's 3 layers

The skin is made up of a number of layers, but the deeper layers are not visible. While wrinkles and acne are common visible skin problems, they actually result from problems that occur below your skin's top layer. A cross-section of your skin reveals that it is made of three main layers: the hypodermis, dermis, and epidermis.

1. Epidermis

The epidermis is the skin layer that is visible. It covers your entire body. The epidermis is in itself made up of three separate layers, which are all comprised of millions of connecting tissues of different thickness woven together. The epidermis under your eyes is very thin; it’s thicker on your heel.

The epidermis acts as a barrier and is constantly being shed. Peppered with pores and shafts that contain hairs, it also holds melanin, which is what gives your skin its color or pigmentation to protect from the sun's UV rays.

2. Dermis

The dermis is the hub of all operations in the skin. The dermis is tucked away between the epidermis and hypodermis. It is the layer that holds all the blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, collagen, and sweat glands. Capillaries supply nutrients to the skin and the nerves give our sense of touch, while tiny muscle fibers control the raising and lowering of hairs and goose pimples. The dermis is also responsible for catching, trapping, and dealing with any stray bacteria that has been able to get through the epidermis.

3. Hypodermis

Temperature control is the main job hypodermis, the deepest layer of skin, the hypodermis. This is because fatty deposits and collagen are found here. They insulate our body and make sure we stay warm. The hypodermis is also where connective tissues are found

How skin ages

Skin aging can happen in the matrix between cells, within the dermis or on the surface. Skin aging most commonly happens when collagen is damaged and loses its tight weave. Your elastin then loses its zing.

After the age of 20, a person produces about 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year.

Intrinsic skin aging is the natural aging process that takes place over the years regardless of outside influences. After the age of 20, a person produces about 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year. As a result, the skin becomes thinner and more fragile with age. There is also diminished functioning of the sweat and oil glands, less elastin production, and less GAG formation. Wrinkle formation from intrinsic aging is inevitable. But it will always be slight.

Extrinsic skin aging occurs in addition to intrinsic skin aging. It results from sun and environmental damage, such as tobacco use, sun exposure, and exposure to pollution. Extrinsic aging shows up as precancerous lesions, skin cancer, freckles and sun spots, as well as exaggerated loss of collagen, elastin, and GAGs. Alone or in concert, these processes give the skin appearance of roughness, uneven tone, brown patches, thin skin, and deep wrinkles.

The proper care and feeding of your skin

What’s the best way to care for your skin? Ensuring that it gets plenty of nutrients! Some important vitamins for your skin include:

clear + brilliant

• Vitamins C and E

These vitamins help by reducing the damage caused by free radicals, a harmful byproduct of sunlight, smoke, and pollution. Free radicals destroy collagen and elastin, the fibers that support skin structure, causing wrinkles and other signs of aging. Foods rich in vitamin C include cauliflower, citrus, broccoli, and bell peppers. Almonds and avocados are full of vitamin E.

• Vitamin A

This vitamin is necessary for maintenance and repair of skin tissue. Topical vitamin A is the form that makes a real difference in your skin, which reduces lines and wrinkles, good acne control, and some psoriasis relief. "It exists naturally in liver, butter and eggs," HuffPost reports, "and its precursor, beta-carotene, is in colorful vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach."

• Biotin

Otherwise known as vitamin B7, biotin forms the basis of skin, nail, and hair cells. "Besides facilitating carbon dioxide transfer," StyleCraze reports, "it helps in the release of essential biochemical energy required during aerobic respiration." Biotin is found in many foods, including bananas, eggs, oatmeal, and rice.

• Manganese

Together with vitamin C and zinc, manganese helps to develop elastin, the fibers that support skin structure from beneath. "Manganese is a required co-factor for an enzyme called prolidase," The World's Healthiest Foods reports, "which is in turn necessary to make collagen as a structural component of skin."

• Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

"If you're not getting enough EFAs in your diet," WebMD reports, "your skin may be dry, inflamed, and prone to whiteheads and blackheads." They're crucial to the production of skin’s natural oil barrier.

4 treatments your skin will love

In addition to protecting yourself against the sun’s harmful rays and eating a diet rich in nutrients, there are several treatments that’ll help your skin stay young. Among these are:

1. Botox

A prescription medication that improves moderate to severe frown lines, forehead furrows, smoker’s lines and crow’s feet. Botox works by attaching itself to nerve endings. Once this happens, the neurotransmitter responsible for triggering muscle contractions can’t be released. Botox injections essentially temporarily relax the facial muscles that underlie and cause wrinkles. Since Botox works by weakening facial muscles, full results are generally seen within five to seven days. You’ll see deep dynamic wrinkles gradually improve over time, in addition to the early effects seen shortly after treatment. Your results will continue to improve until about two weeks after the procedure. At that time, you’ll be looking your best. The effects of Botox will gradually wear off over the next four to six months. The wrinkles will then need to be retreated.

2. Clear + Brilliant

Clear + Brilliant uses fractional laser technology to fight the early signs of aging, leaving skin with a more youthful appearance. Clear + Brilliant works its magic by revitalizing skin from the inside out. Its noninvasive laser technology gently resurfaces the top layer of the dermis by creating millions of microscopic treatment zones in the skin. Sounds complicated, right? But it’s really just about replacing damaged skin with healthy, younger-looking tissue. The result? Smoother, softer and more youthful-looking skin.

3. Thermage

Get ready to wow your friends with Thermage, a clinically-proven, unique radiofrequency treatment that dramatically tightens skin. Thermage works from the inside out. It transfers heat to the epidermis, which not only encourages collagen production, but also tightens existing collagen. Thermage effects this partly through radiofrequency technology, which produces electrical currents that causes collagen within the skin to contract and gradually reform. This is why most individuals experience dramatic tightening and smoothing of the skin over the six months following treatment. Since the outer layers of the skin are unaffected, there is almost no recovery time involved. The most amazing thing of all? Results from a single Thermage treatment tend to last up to ten years!

4. Intense pulsed light (IPL) photo facials

IPL photo facials beautify sun-damaged and aged skin. IPL photo facials work by using a broad-spectrum light source that penetrates multiple layers of skin. This type of photo facial primarily targets the lower layers of skin (dermis) while leaving the top layers of skin (epidermis) unaffected. The heat generated from the light promotes healing of the skin within, treating a number of different dermatological issues.

Your skin's got you covered

Skin takes up a lot of space! If you were to stretch out the skin of an average adult, it would cover 22 square feet. Besides keeping us nicely packaged, skin performs a host of important functions that are crucial for overall bodily health.

The skin is essentially a protective covering that shields your body from germs. It’s filled with white blood cells that are rigged to attack any invading harmful bacteria. Signals sent from your skin sound the alarm for your body’s immune system to launch into action when germs have made entry. Skin also helps regulate your body temperature.

anatomy | integumentary system | physiology | skin care | stratum basale | tissues