SCIENCES

Clean: The New Science of Skin

Riverhead. Jul. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780525538318. $28. SCI
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Physician Hamblin (If Our Bodies Could Talk) draws attention to our skin, the largest organ in our body. We spend lots of money on skin care—it continues to be one of the fastest-growing industries—without entirely understanding why the products that we apply to our skin work (or don’t). The author describes skin anatomy and our skin microbiome, the bacteria and other microscopic creatures living on our skin. He goes on to discuss the history of the idea of cleanliness, the origins of the soap industry, and the lack of government regulatory oversight that allows nearly anyone to mix chemicals in their home and market them to the public as skin care. The resulting products may be harmless (if overpriced), but they may also be toxic. Some skin care companies are now embracing the idea that the less we do to our skin, the better. Hamblin notes that the incidence of eczema, allergies, and other skin problems is extremely low among the Amish, suggesting that early exposure to microbes and allergens may not only result in lower incidences of allergies, but better skin.
VERDICT A quick, engaging read for everyone concerned with caring for their skin, and the science behind it.

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