4 out of 5 stars
If you were asked to name your own bodies largest organ you would almost certainly think of one of the ones inside like the liver or the heart, but it is actually the part of you that holds it all together, your skin. It is also an organ that most people think nothing of, day in and day out, but if you know what you are looking for you can see right into a person’s soul through their skin. Most doctors have an interest in all the bits inside, but Lyman is different, his fascination is the outside of us.
Unlike most other mammals we don’t have a significant amount of hair to protect us and keep us warm, rather what we have is a flexible and dynamic substance that can regulate temperature, is waterproof, resilient and is our frontline defence for all manner of nasty things. Flakes of skin are being shed continually, and it constantly regrows. It can be resistant to the sun, but too much exposure can lead to burning and even skin cancers. One of the amazing facts in here is just how sensitive the skin is. Every single square inch can relay back to the brain the fact that it has been touched.
There are some parts in here that are not for the squeamish, he begins with the story of a child who had a disease called harlequin ichthyosis, a horrid condition where the skin is dry cracked and scaly. He goes on to write about how we age and the inevitable wrinkles if moisturisers are any good and methods of keeping your skin in good condition. His skin safari provides details of all the countless bugs and microbes that we all carry, there are some really weird things that live in your belly button, as well of details of some really nasty things that occasionally appear.
I thought that this was a really good science book, he knows his subject thoroughly and has the skills to make the story of our skin very readable without becoming like a scientific paper. Well worth reading.