different leather



Who at least once in his life did not happen to think “but what is the difference between leather and skin?”. Florence Leather Market decided to dedicate a publication on our blog to address this question and dispel this myth once and for all.

You won’t believe it, but…there’s really no difference between leather and skin!

In the past, with the term leather, it was referred to a very rigid and vegetable tanned leather (mainly used for the creation of soles for shoes), nowadays, however, it is used to indicate any type of vegetable tanned leather.

As for the term “skin”, this is used to indicate all those materials that derive from the treatment of the dermis of an animal. 

Some generally argue that the use of leather leads to the creation of products with a thin and soft leather, while with the use of leather you get a stiffer and thicker leather. 

These two processes tend to stand out thanks to the tanning treatment to which they are subjected: chrome or vegetable.

To make a little ‘clarity we will know together the original definition of leather and skin and the relative processing of tanning, so that you can clarify any doubt about it.

difference leather


Defined as a chemical/physical process that can make the leather durable and suitable for processing. It represents one of the various steps that, starting from the raw skin (dermis of the animal flesh) lead to the finished work.

There are two main types of tanning:

  • VEGETABLE : is the most traditional processing and is able to attribute to leather versatility and uniqueness of the product, it involves the use of materials abundantly present in nature such as vegetable tannins, made from birch trees , quebracho , oak and chestnut (but also Mimosa , Noce di Galla , Sumac, etc.).
  •  CHROME : this process involves a preventive treatment of the leather that is called pickling that consists in working the skin with a solution of common salt and acid. This preventive treatment is carried out to facilitate the penetration of the tanning agent into the skin.
  • At the end of tanning the tanned leather is green-blue, with different shades depending on the products used in picalggio and basification. In this sense, in fact, tanned leather is called “wet-blue” with reference to the fact that it is wet and has a color in the field of blue.


To conclude, we will give a concrete definition of the terms “skin” and “leather” in order to be able to distinguish them definitively.

The term “leather” is used to refer to all types of leather processed with any type of tanning (chrome, vegetable, alum or synthetic tanning)

The term “skin” means a leather worked by the process of vegetable tanning, wanting to specify it is a very rigid leather, which is often used to create the sole of shoes.

Nowadays, however, the term leather is generally used to indicate any type of vegetable tanned leather.


Despite these small differences that distinguish the two materials, both have elements in common, especially with regard to some steps of the production phase:

  •  Chemical tanning preparation operations (called riviera works)
  •  Tanning, to give the dermis of the animal its stable characteristics
  •  Retanning and dyeing, according to the intended use of the finished product and market requirements
  •  Finishing, all the final touches made according to the product you want to get.