Last week after the hurried chaos ushered in a calm wave of silence, I was flooded with questions from patients and friends about transmission through the skin. As I thought through their questions and understood their concerns, I was struck by a familiar feeling - a deep respect and admiration for the skin. A fascination that has been with me for years.
The skin is often recognized as a shield of armor protecting us from the environment, daily damage caused by everyday life and invisible micro-organisms that both help and harm us. A hard barrier that separates us from the world.
And then last week, in advising new mothers afraid of touching their babies, seeing adults scared of comforting their elderly loved ones and couples asking me if they can hold hands, it reminded me of the skin’s softest, most gentle function - connection through touch.
As a dermatologist, I recognize skin is a marvelous protective shield. But we often forget the skin’s quiet role in detoxing impurities, it’s constant surveillance for outside aggressors and mutations, the vast vascular rivers that flow just beneath the surface to help with temperature regulation, it’s waterproof nature that keeps us from melting away, the elastic fibers that allow us to bend and stretch and try to extend our triangle pose a few more inches. And of course, our sense of touch - which not only connects us to others, but helps us understand the world around us.
Amazing, right? The tough shield of armor that can sense the movement of a feather.