The process of shaving can sometimes cause irritation to our skin. As such, it’s sometimes useful to know a bit about this important organ.

Skin is the body’s largest organ. Amongst other things, your skin keeps the rest of your organs protected, it regulates your body’s internal temperature (via sweating), and it provides sensory data to the brain.

It is usually thought of as having 3 layers. The epidermis is the outermost layer, the surface you see when you look at your body. Just beneath that is the thin basal layer. The bottom layer of skin is referred to as the dermis.

Cells develope on the inner layers of skin. As they mature, they produce keratin, a tough but flexible protein that allows skin to be the protective coating we require. As the levels of keratin increase, the skin cells begin to die, and eventually flake off. Keratin is also the substance that makes up hair.

Skin is kept flexible and waterproof by a substance called sebum[?]. Sebum is a thick, oily fluid produced by the sebaceous glands, which are generally located around the hair follicles. When your forehead is greasy, that’s sebum.


Generally speaking, the skin is a tough and self-regulating organ. It tends to function well without much interference on our part, and can usually take care of any problems on its own. Still, problems do arise from time to time.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as PFB, shaving bumps or razor bumps, generally appear as irritated red bumps. They usually appear along the throat or along the back of the neck. Razor bumps may look similar to acne, but they have different causes. PFB is directly due to shaving.

Acne, zits, or pimples are a common problem, especially during (but not limited to) the teenage years. They generally appear as white- or black-heads, and often include lots or irritated red bumps. They generally appear on the chin, cheeks, or forehead.



Balin, Arthur K., Loretta Pratt Balin, Marietta Whittlesey. The Life of the Skin: What it hides, what it reveals, and how it communicates. New York: Bantam Books, 1997.

Bark, Joseph P. Your Skin … An Owner’s Guide. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1995.

Buckman, Robert. Skin: an owner’s manual. New York: TV Books, 1999.

Skin-Related Links

American Academy of Dermatology – The official representative organization of Dermatologists in the United States.

New Zealand DermNet – DermNet, the award-winning Web site of the New Zealand Dermatological Society, aims to provide authoritative information about the skin for health professionals and patients with skin diseases.

Dermatology Image Atlas – A searchable database of images of various skin conditions, from John Hopkins University.

Dermatology Online Atlas (DermIS) – Another searchable image database of skin conditions.