We expose it, cover it, paint it, tattoo it, scar it, and pierce it. Our intimate connection with the world, skin protects us while advertising our health, our identity, and our individuality. This dazzling synthetic overview, Skin: A Natural History, written with a poetic touch and taking many intriguing side excursions, is a complete guidebook to the pliable covering that makes us who we are.
Skin: A Natural History celebrates the evolution of three unique attributes of human skin: its naked sweatiness, its distinctive sepia rainbow of colors, and its remarkable range of decorations. Jablonski begins with a look at skin's structure and functions and then tours its three-hundred-million-year evolution, delving into such topics as the importance of touch and how the skin reflects and affects emotions.
She examines the modern human obsession with age-related changes in skin, especially wrinkles. She then turns to skin as a canvas for self-expression, exploring our use of cosmetics, body paint, tattooing, and scarification.
Skin: A Natural History places the rich cultural canvas of skin within its broader biological context for the first time, and the result is a tremendously engaging look at ourselves.
List of Illustrations
1 Skin Laid Bare
4 Skin and Sun
5 Skin's Dark Secret
8 Emotions, Sex, and Skin
9 Wear and Tear
11 Future Skin
Nina G. Jablonski is Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University. She edited The First Americans: The Pleistocene Colonization of the New World and The Origin and Diversification of Language (both UC Press), among other books. Her research on human skin has been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, and other publications.
“A rich mix of just about everything you would want to know about the necessary and complex covering of your body. Nina Jablonski writes not only as an anthropologist but also as an ethologist, comparative biologist, and psychologist. She weaves a vivid, compelling history, which at times is intertwined with social discourse (skin color and racism) and advice (skin and sun protection).”
- New England Journal of Medicine
"Jablonski shows us that skin, be it thick or thin, is the true mirror of the soul."
“Biology is a historical science. Ask a 'why?' question about biology, as Nina Jablonski keeps doing in her book Skin, and you invite an evolutionary answer. She also tells us everything we might want to know about skin; perhaps more than some people want to know.”