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.
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
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 Current grafting techniques may eventually be superseded by tissue engineering methods that produce prefabricated custom flaps of skin that match the size and type of skin needed.
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