As humans, we’re born with skin that is arguably the world’s most beautiful surface. A baby’s nose and cheeks (and arms! and toes!) are softer and lovelier than delicate rose petals or silky puppy ears.
Of course, the texture of our skin changes as we grow, but we never develop the hard shell of a tortoise or the tough hide of an elephant. For the most part, our skin stays pretty soft. In fact, we’re constantly being reminded by advertisers and health authorities how delicate our skin is. We need the right soap, or cream, or sunblock to keep it functioning. After all, you can cut it with a piece of paper!
With such a fragile outer coating, isn’t it curious that we’ve made it to the top of the food chain? Compared to an armadillo, we look like tender, vulnerable lion food.
But, in truth, skin is no wimp. It’s the largest organ in the body, making up roughly 15 percent of our total body weight. It creates a strong, flexible, waterproof barrier between the wide world and our warm and squishy insides. Skin, and the associated structures that make up our integumentary system, do a seriously tough job of protecting us.