Most of us are familiar with calluses.
These extra-tough patches of skin are generally quite useful-we might even say handy-because they act like a kind of natural armor, protecting areas of skin that get an unusual amount of wear and tear. Have you ever wondered exactly what a callus is, or how it forms on your skin?
What Exactly Is A Callus?
Callus formation is triggered by pressure or abrasion. The heel of your foot as it rubs inside your shoe, or the palm of your hand if you're doing a lot of manual labor are good examples of this.
While it might feel like a callus is something extra, added to your skin, it's actually just a build-up of what's already there.
Here's How It Works
Your skin has a number of layers of different types of cells.
The outermost is a layer of hardened, dead cells. This top layer is usually about twenty-five cells thick, and it constantly replaces itself as the outermost cells flake off to be replaced by new hardened, dead cells underneath.
All About Friction
If your skin is subject to an unusual amount of friction, this layer of dead cells increases. New dead cells are added faster than the old ones slough away. This can build up the outer layer from twenty-five cells thick to over a hundred cells thick. You've grown a callus.
While calluses are generally useful, if the process continues unchecked a callus can thicken into a cone-shaped structure called a corn. These super calluses can be quite painful, and may require the attention of a doctor.