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Skin functions in homeostasis include protection, regulation of body temperature, sensory reception, water balance, synthesis of vitamins and hormones, and absorption of materials. The skin's primary functions are to serve as a barrier to the entry of microbes and viruses, and to prevent water and extracellular fluid loss. Acidic secretions from skin glands also retard the growth of fungi. Melanocytes form a second barrier: protection from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. When a microbe penetrates the skin (or when the skin is breached by a cut) the inflammatory response occurs.

Heat and cold receptors are located in the skin. When the body temperature rises, the hypothalamus sends a nerve signal to the sweat-producing skin glands, causing them to release about 1-2 liters of water per hour, cooling the body. The hypothalamus also causes dilation of the blood vessels of the skin, allowing more blood to flow into those areas, causing heat to be convected away from the skin surface. When body temperature falls, the sweat glands constrict and sweat production decreases. If the body temperature continues to fall, the body will engage in thermiogenesis, or heat generation, by raising the body's metabolic rate and by shivering.

Skin cells synthesize melanin and carotenes, which give the skin its color. The skin also assists in the synthesis of vitamin D. Children lacking sufficient vitamin D develop bone abnormalities known as rickets.

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