The Remarkable Life of the Skin
An intimate journey across our surface
- Shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2019
- A Sunday Times 'MUST READ'
- 'An exciting introduction to a little-known microscopic universe.' Sunday Times
- 'A seriously entertaining book.' Melanie Reid, The Times
- As read on RADIO 4's BOOK OF THE WEEK
How does our diet affect our skin? What makes the skin age? And why can't we tickle ourselves?
Providing a cover for our delicate and intricate bodies, the skin is our largest, fastest growing and yet least understood organ. We see it, touch it and live in it every day. It's a habitat for a mesmerizingly complex world of micro-organisms and physical functions that are vital to our health and our survival. It's also one of the first things people see about us and is crucial to our sense of identity. Our skin plays a central role in our lives. And yet how much do we really know about it?
Through the lenses of science, sociology and history, Dr Monty Lyman leads us on a journey across our most underrated and unexplored organ. Examining our microbiome, our love of tattoos and whether or not beauty products really work, he reveals how the skin is far stranger and more complex than you've ever imagined.
Lyman, a doctor of acute general medicine, presents a panoramic view of human skin in his excellent debut. Lyman discusses a plethora of skin ailments, from acne to leprosy, and describes the ideal skin care regimen (using sunscreen, abstaining from smoking, and eating a balanced diet high in fruits and veggies that contain the carotenoid pigment). To illustrate that skin is, as one chapter's title has it, "The Swiss Army Organ," Lyman shares fascinating information about its intricate workings, describing how the four kinds of "mechanoreceptors," highly sensitive and specialized cells, work together to create the ability to touch and feel. He goes beyond medicine and biology, however, to discuss how skin shapes and defines identity. In addition to touching on race, in terms of how naturally occurring variations in human pigmentation have taken on outsize significance, Lyman examines the marks that people make on themselves, such as the T moko tattoos of the Maori, which encode detailed familial and personal histories. Whether one's interests are in science and medicine, or in sociology and anthropology, there is something for a wide range of readers in Lyman's skillful work. Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly referred to the author as a dermatologist.
Definitely worth a read, fascinating!