Your dermis is the middle layer of skin in your body. It has many different purposes, including protecting your body from harm, supporting your epidermis, feeling different sensations and producing sweat and hair.


Cross section illustration of skin highlighting the dermis (middle layer) and its components, the papillary and reticular dermis.
The dermis is the middle layer of your skin.

What is the dermis layer?

Your skin has three main layers, and the dermis (corium) is the middle layer of skin in your body. The other two layers of skin are your epidermis and hypodermis. Your dermis layer consists of two layers of its own.

Corium is another name for the dermis. Corium is a Latin word that means “leather” or “skin.”


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What are the two layers of the dermis?

Your dermis consists of two layers:

  • Reticular dermis: The reticular layer is the bottom layer of your dermis. It’s thick, and it contains blood vessels, glands, hair follicles, lymphatics, nerves and fat cells. A net-like structure of elastin fibers and collagen fibers surrounds the reticular dermis. These fibers support your skin’s overall structure, as well as allow it to move and stretch.
  • Papillary dermis: The papillary layer is the top layer of your dermis. It’s much thinner than the reticular dermis. It consists of collagen fibers, fibroblast cells, fat cells, blood vessels (capillary loops), nerve fibers, touch receptors (Meissner corpuscles) and cells that fight bacteria (phagocytes). The papillary dermis extends to the basement layer of the epidermis layer. They form a strong bond that connects like interlocking fingers.

What is the difference between the dermis and the epidermis?

Your dermis and your epidermis are the top two layers of skin in your body. Your epidermis is the top layer, and your dermis is the middle layer. Your dermis exists between your epidermis and hypodermis.

Your epidermis is the thinnest layer of skin. It helps hydrate your body, produces new skin cells, protects your body from damage and makes melanin, which provides skin color.

While your epidermis is the thinnest layer of skin, your dermis is the thickest layer of skin. Your dermis contains collagen and elastin, which help make your dermis thick and supportive of your skin’s overall structure.

All of your connective tissues, nerve endings, sweat glands, oil glands and hair follicles exist in your dermis.



What are the functions of the dermis?

Each layer of your skin works together to protect your body. Your dermis has many additional functions, including:

  • Supporting your epidermis: Your dermis’s structure provides strength and flexibility, and blood vessels help maintain your epidermis by transporting nutrients.
  • Feeling different sensations: Nerve endings in your dermis allow you to feel different sensations, like pressure, pain, heat, cold and itchiness.
  • Producing sweat: Your dermis contains sweat glands, which produce sweat when you’re hot or experience stress. Sweat helps control your body temperature (thermoregulation).
  • Keeping your skin moist: Your dermis contains sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily lubricant (sebum) that helps keep your skin and hair hydrated and shiny.
  • Producing hair: Your dermis contains hair follicles, which produce hair all over your skin, except the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

How does the dermis help with other organs?

Together with your other layers of skin, your dermis protects your skeletal system, organs, muscles and tissues from harm.



Where is the dermis located?

Your dermis is the middle layer of your skin, located between your epidermis (top layer) and hypodermis (bottom layer) in your skin.

What is the dermis’s structure?

Your dermis consists of two layers — the reticular dermis and the papillary dermis.

How big is the dermis?

Your dermis varies in thickness across your body. It’s thinnest over your eyelids, where it’s 0.6 millimeters thick, and it’s thickest over your back, where it’s 4 millimeters thick.

What is the dermis made of?

Your dermis contains tissues with a lot of blood vessels that also include:

  • Collagen.
  • Elastin.
  • A clear, gel-like fluid that fills the space between your cells and your fibers (ground substance).
  • Various glands, including sweat glands and sebaceous glands.
  • Hair follicles.

Conditions and Disorders

What are conditions and disorders that affect the dermis?

Some conditions and disorders that affect your dermis include:

What are common signs or symptoms of dermis conditions?

Some common signs or symptoms of conditions that can affect your dermis include:

  • Blood or another fluid leaking into your tissue from your arteries, arterioles, capillaries, tubes, venules or veins (extravasation).
  • Changes in your bones, eyes, lungs, skin, heart and blood vessels.
  • Dark, itchy patches of skin.
  • Excessive bruising.
  • Overly flexible joints (hypermobility).
  • Soft skin that’s thinner and stretches more than normal.
  • Swollen tissue.
  • Welts.

What are some common tests to check the health of the dermis?

  • Genetic testing: The most common way to identify some conditions is to look for a faulty gene.
  • Biopsy: Your healthcare provider will remove a sample of skin from your body and examine it under a microscope to look for diseases, infections or cancer.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan:An MRI can scan check for melanoma tumors in your brain or spinal cord.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A PET scan can check for melanoma in lymph nodes and other parts of your body that are farther from the original melanoma spot in your skin.

What are common treatments for the dermis?

Some common treatments for conditions that affect your dermis include:

  • Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and tissue damage.
  • Skin grafts. Skin grafts treat damaged or missing skin that can’t heal on its own. Skin grafts help people with deep skin damage or loss from burns, infections and ulcers.
  • Skin substitutes. Skin substitutes include cells or tissue taken from another person (allograft), cells or tissue taken from an animal (xenograft) or skin made from nonbiological molecules and polymers (synthetic skin). Skin substitutes help people with deep skin wounds or conditions, including burns and infections.


Simple lifestyle tips to keep the dermis healthy.

The following lifestyle tips help keep your dermis healthy:

  • Establish a skincare routine. Drink at least eight glasses of water each day, use mild soaps and cleansers, and moisturize your skin. Follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations for keeping your dermis healthy.
  • Properly treat your wounds. Wash small open wounds with clean running water and soap to prevent infections. Then, use a cotton swab to apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (Vaseline™) or skincare ointment (Aquaphor™) over the wound, and cover it with an adhesive bandage to prevent dirt or bacteria from entering the area.
  • Avoid sun damage. Long exposure to the sun damages your skin. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and wear protective clothing.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your dermis is the middle layer of skin in your body. It has many important functions, including protecting your body from the outside world, supporting your epidermis, feeling different sensations and producing sweat. It’s important to take care of your dermis. You can help take care of your dermis by drinking plenty of water, properly treating your wounds and avoiding sun damage.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/07/2022.

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