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What Are the 5 Parts of the Integumentary System?

The 5 parts of the integumentary system—skin, hair, nails, glands, and nerves—protect the body from environmental elements

The integumentary system is made up of organs and structures that protect the inside of the body from environmental elements. The 5 parts of the integumentary system include:

  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Glands
  • Nerves
  • Skin

    The skin is the largest organ of the body, functioning as a protective barrier for the entire body. It is made up of three layers:

    • Epidermis: Outer layer of the skin that is a strong protective covering.
    • Dermis: Located under the epidermis and contains most structures of the skin (such as various types of glands and hair follicles).
    • Hypodermis: Fatty layer of the skin that forms the subcutaneous tissue.


    Hair not only enhances appearance but also helps:

    • Protect the skin
    • Regulate body temperature
    • Produce sweat


    The functions of the nails are to protect the fingers and toes from injury and to hope with touch.


    There are three types of glands in the human skin:

    • Eccrine glands are distributed throughout the body, and their function is to regulate body temperature through the secretion of fluids. 
    • Apocrine glands are found in the axilla and pubic area. 
    • Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum, which prevents fluid loss and protects the skin from damaging microorganisms.

    9 functions of the integumentary system

  • Protection against injury: Keratin in the skin offers protection from injuries, such as cuts and abrasions.
  • Protection against shock: The fats in the skin protect against shock received from blunt force.
  • Protection against infection: A set pH level maintained by the skin creates an environment that prevents microorganisms from penetrating and causing infection.
  • Protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays: The skin produces melanin (pigment that darkens the skin) in response to the UV rays, which are known to cause cancer. Melanin in darkened skin further protects the skin from the damaging effects of UV rays.
  • Maintenance of body temperature: The hypothalamus in the brain sends a signal to the skin to increase or decrease body temperature according to the changes in the atmospheric temperature.
  • Absorption: The skin acts as a medium that delivers certain medications to the body. These medications include:
  • Hormones
  • Glyceryl trinitrate (medication to treat angina)
  • Topical preparations and creams
  • Secretion: The body excretes substances through the skin, such as:
  • Small amounts of carbon dioxide
  • Sweat
  • Waste products (such as excess sodium chloride and urea)
  • Vitamin D synthesis: The skin is one of the two ways through which the body obtains its vitamin D supply. Upon exposure to the UV rays, 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin gets converted to vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Cholecalciferol changes in the liver and kidneys, where it is converted to 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D (calcitriol) and leads to increased calcium absorption in the gut. These processes are crucial for bone health.
  • Sensation: Sensory nerve endings in the skin help you distinguish between sensations of pain, temperature, touch, and vibration.

    What percentage of the human body is water?
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    Medically Reviewed on 1/18/2022


    Image Source: iStock Images

    Kim JY, Dao H. Physiology, Integument. [Updated 2021 May 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021.

    Zouboulis CC. Skin Glands: Sebaceous, Eccrine, and Apocrine Glands. In: Kang S, Amagai M, Bruckner AL, Enk AH, Margolis DJ, McMichael AJ, Orringer JS. eds. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology, 9e. McGraw Hill; 2019. Accessed January 11, 2022.

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