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Holly SmaleDr Monty Lyman is a junior Doctor at Oxford University. He studied at the universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Imperial College London and has worked in a world-leading dermatology laboratory. He has also been the national head of undergraduate and junior doctor dermatology in the UK, has won several national prizes in dermatology and medical writing and has given many talks at national conferences.


In 2017 he won the Wilfred Thesiger Travel Writing Award for his report on a dermatological research trip to Tanzania, presented by Colin Thubron, President of the Royal Society of Literature.


He lives in Oxford, England.

The first popular science book to address the skin in its physical, psychological and social glory.

Very rarely do any of us pay any attention to the role the skin plays in our lives. It is the body’s most underrated organ, despite us seeing and touching it – indeed, living in it – every moment of our lives. And yet what covers us also defines us as humans, and provides us as individuals with social significance and psychological meaning. Perched on the exterior of our delicate and intricate body, the skin has to deal with, and make sense of, the joys and terrors of the outside world. Everything that hits us strikes our skin first.  Likewise, everyone who sees us, views our skin first. Its physical functions are extremely important to our health and survival, but the skin is also a door to the psychology of individuals and the culture of a society. Our skin defines and confines and impacts on us all.

Skin is the physical border delineating our inner being from the other, bringing pleasure (it is the body’s largest sexual organ) and pain. It is also a waste removal plant, a warning system for underlying disease, and a dynamic immune barrier to infection. In recent years we have discovered that, whether we like it or not, the skin is a habitat for a mesmerizingly complex world of micro-organisms, ranging from the helpful to the downright devious. Whether male or female, old or young, we all have unanswered questions about our skin.  Does our diet affect our skin? What makes the skin age? Is it possible to prevent hair loss? Grounded in rigorous research and composed with clear, engaging writing The Remarkable Life of the Skin explores the latest scientific evidence in an accessible and entertaining manner.

The skin and the mind are intimate friends, and no other organ carries such psychological weight. How our skin is perceived by others – or more specifically – how we think others perceive our skin, affects the health of our minds. The skin is itself a book, a parchment upon which scars, wrinkles, and tattoos tell our story, but it is not all written in indelible ink. The skin also communicates as a palimpsest, a wax tablet on which we, the scribe, scrape away the old writings to use again and again. Our outer covering is a shifting visual display of our internal emotion, whether subtle facial twitches, blushing or the unwanted eruptions of an underlying physical or psychological condition. Our skin is also outstandingly social, and its role in human society and identity is implicit but rarely discussed. The Remarkable Life of the Skin explores the social skin, including beauty, body art, the skin of religion, the gender role of skin and the emotive, pertinent subject of skin colour.

Through the lenses of science, sociology, history and narrative Dr Lyman travels through the comedy, tragedy and exquisite humanity of the skin. By means of touching stories of the real lives of individuals the author has met across the world - from a young Tanzanian man with albinism running away from witch-doctors, to those bearing the stigma of AIDS in north east India - the reader not only learns about the skin, but also to feel and respect it.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:The Remarkable Life of the Skin (Bantam Press, 2018: Grove Atlantic, US, 2018).