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The Skin

Like any other organ, skin is subject to wear and tear, injury, and aging. But unlike other organs, the skin, especially on the face, exhibits its problems in a very public way. Repair of damaged skin is an area of intense research.

Once it is severely damaged, skin does not rejuvenate itself and scar tissue never goes away. Yet as the American population ages, we continue to value the appearance of youthful skin and a good suntan. Since the 1950s, a multimillion-dollar international commercial market for skin care, heavily influenced by medical knowledge, has developed.

Cosmetics, as a kind of second skin, have helped the face become more of a consumer marketplace than ever before. The Hollywood glamour cosmetics of the 1920s through the 1950s were replaced by the clean, scrubbed, youthful look of the 1960s, the blue eye shadow and sideburns of the 1970s, and the explicit appeal to science, health, and fitness of the 1980s and 1990s.
Modern commercial cosmetics have been readily available since the 1920s but the products have not always appealed to diverse consumers. Ethnic mass marketing began to appear in the 1970s.

The market for skin products not only relies on medical knowledge gained in treating skin cancer, burns, and other dermatological cases, but also stimulates skin researchers to come up with ways to save us from potentially harmful habits. Medical findings about the connection of sun exposure to melanoma (skin cancer) changed the composition of tanning lotions and shifted their promotion from an emphasis on tanning in the sun to the use of sun blocks and sunless tanning products that tint the skin.

Methods for resurfacing the skin have gradually changed the medical and aesthetic outcomes for patients with severely damaged skin. Current grafting techniques may eventually be superseded by tissue engineering methods that produce prefabricated custom flaps of skin that match the size and type of skin needed.

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