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Yes, skin is the body’s largest organ, shedding some 50,000 cells a minute

“Skin is the human body's largest organ and is constantly renewing itself,” reads a graphic circulating on Facebook in South Africa. “Your skin sheds 50,000 cells every minute. Over a lifetime, that piles up to 40 pounds (18.1 kilograms) of skin.”

Our skin is made up of three layers of tissue, and both protects our bodies and receives sensory stimulus.

The graphic has been viewed more than 3 million times, but Facebook’s fact-checking system has flagged it as possibly false. How accurate are its claims?


The integumentary system

The three layers of the skin – the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis – and their “associated glands, hair, and nails” make up the integumentary system, according to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information. The skin is the body’s largest organ.

Apart from protecting the body from bacteria and chemicals, the skin also helps regulate its temperature.

National Geographic gives a sense of the size of human skin: adults have about 3.6 kilograms (8 pounds) and 2 square metres (22 square feet) of it.

Melanin, a pigment that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, is what causes people to have different skin colours.

The skin is also thinner or thicker according to where it is on the body. The skin on the lips and eyelids is thin and delicate, and the skin on the soles of the feet thicker and tougher.

About 47 kilograms of skin lost in 70 years

According to the University of California San Diego in the US, every minute we shed roughly 50,000 skin cells. 

This means that by the age of 70, “the average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin” – about 47 kilograms. Other sources also back up the claim that we lose around 50,000 skin cells a minute.

KidsHealth, created by the Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, puts it at 30,000 to 40,000 cells a minute, which works out to almost 4 kilograms of skin lost in a year. 

Yes, experts say the skin is the body’s largest organ, and we shed around 50,000 skin cells a minute. This can add up to around 47 kilograms of skin over a 70-year lifetime – much more than the claimed 18.1 kilograms.

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