Skin: What a Marvelous Sense Organ

You can read in many different places that our skin is the largest organ of our body. Some parts of our skin we know quite well, such as the skin of our face. We identify with that skin a lot. Other parts of our skin we may hardly notice, like the skin on our elbows, lower back, or maybe the tops of our feet. Our skin has social roles; it defines certain aspects of our social identity. We usually want it to look good and so as a society we spend a lot of time and money on things that smooth and nourish the skin with things like facials, chemical peels, sliced cucumbers and botox injections. Our skin simultaneously leaves us open to superficial judgements and prejudices, related to the color and pigment of the skin as well as the number of wrinkles it holds. Our skin protects us from the outside world with its barrier function. And yet it allows us to feel all barriers melt away, like the comfort of skin to skin contact. Think of the total warmth and security of a nursing infant, or the beauty (and complexity) of intimate contact between two beloveds. A lot happens at this threshold of inside and outside.

Those are only the most obvious.

The skin is also a light-sensing organ. We sense light not just through our eyes, but through our skin as well. This was discovered scientifically in 2015. So whether you sleep in a dark room, or with the lights on, makes a difference. But that is just the beginning. Skin also has pain receptors, pressure receptors, temperature receptors, touch receptors; dynamic stretch receptors and hair follicle receptors; as well as more recently discovered sounds wave receptors (you hear through your skin), olfactory receptors (smell), and bitter taste receptors (taste). These facts were all shared at the International Anthroposophic Medical Conference in Switzerland last month, by Dr. Christoph M. Schempp, dermatologist at the University of Freiburg. Amazing!

The implications of this are very exciting, but at a minimum we could say:
We are exquisitely sensitive beings and are actually sensing the world around us, at our whole periphery, all the time
Our interactions and environment make a difference
Movement, encounter and awareness of inside and outside are important pathways for self-regulation. This opens up many pathways for therapeutic support. Therapeutic eurythmy (see below) is one of those potential pathways. It is a uniquely anthroposophic therapy and a potent way to participate more deeply in your own health.
So, appreciate your skin for the marvelous helper it is! Maybe it’s time to take nice warm bath?
Dr. Blanning

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