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THE LIFE OF THE SKIN by Arthur K. Balin


by Arthur K. Balin & Loretta Pratt Balin & Marietta Whittlesey

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-553-09719-9
Publisher: Bantam

 A husband-and-wife team of dermatologists use fascinating clinical tales about their patients to share their knowledge of the body's outer wrapping. The Balins have a joint practice outside Philadelphia, where they treat patients with diseases common and uncommon as well as men and women who simply want to enhance their appearance. The skin, they explain, is an organ of communication, and they are clearly fluent in its language. Among the more unusual patients whose stories they relate are Elaine (pseudonyms are used to protect their patients' privacy), whose skin hardens into such a rigid carapace that she comes to think of herself as the ``turtle woman,'' and Chandrika, an Indian woman who is desperate to hide the white spots on her skin because she fears her husband will divorce her for having leprosy (she doesn't). Less exotic but especially absorbing is the story of Anne, a 40-plus outdoorswoman with seriously sun-damaged skin, who undergoes various treatments to undo what the sun has done, and Nancy, who has a luxurious head of hair but imagines that it's falling out. Perhaps the capper, though, is Arthur Balin's story of how he came to give his own father a facelift. Woven into these stories are short lectures on the structure and function of normal hair and skin, and information on the techniques available for rejuvenating aging skin. The harmful effects of sunlight are a pet peeve of the Balins'; consequently, there is a wealth of information about these, ranging from deadly melanoma and other skin cancers to premature wrinkling. If the book has one take-home message, it could be said to be ``Don't leave home without your sunblock.'' Occasionally too graphic for comfort, but overall, entertaining and instructive.