The skin is the body’s largest organ; an average person’s skin weighs 4kgs (9lbs) and covers an area of 2 square metres (22 sq feet). These figures are not so surprising when we enumerate the skin’s many functions. Some are fairly obvious: protection against chemicals, radiation, microbes etc; preserving a balanced internal environment by keeping us warm, preventing us from drying out; and the sensation of touch in all its variety. But the skin has less obvious functions: subcutaneous fat is a major reserve of energy, vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when exposed to ultra-violet light. The skin also has important social and sexual functions: it secretes pheromones which play an important role in sexual attraction, while the hair and lips play a more conscious social and sexual role.
The skin has two main parts: the superficial epidermis whose thickness ranges from 0.1mm on the eyelids to 1mm on the soles of the feet. The epidermis contains no blood vessels, its most superficial layer is the dead, dry horny layer which is constantly shed, contributing to the dust in our homes. The dermis lies beneath the epidermis supporting and nourishing it and providing immunity and other functions.
What’s more, skin problems are common: surveys suggest that 20-30 per cent of us have a skin problem which deserves medical attention, but that most of us do not see doctors about them, preferring to treat them ourselves. Skin problems are among the commonest reasons for which people, especially children, seek homeopathic treatment. Of course, as always with homeopathy, it is important to be sure that homeopathic treatment is appropriate – it is for many forms of skin disease, but there are important exceptions. The most conspicuous is MALIGNANT MELANOMA. This is an aggressive form of skin cancer whose incidence is increasing (although fortunately it remains rare) because of greater sun exposure and thinning of the ozone layer. The warning signs are a “mole”, which grows, bleeds or is irregular in shape or colour. It is better to be safe than sorry, and have any such skin lesion removed surgically.