Dr Monty Lyman

Dr Monty Lyman

Dr Monty Lyman studied at the universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Imperial College London. He has worked in a world-leading dermatology laboratory, been the national head of undergraduate and junior doctor dermatology in the UK as well as has won several national prizes in dermatology and medical writing. We had the pleasure to interview him to understand how The Remarkable Life of the Skin came to life.

 

1. What triggered you to write this book?

As a medical student and then doctor I was amazed at how skin is largely ignored by the medical profession, despite it being an immensely important organ. Skin weighs nine kilograms and covers two square metres, but wasn’t even recognized as an organ until the eighteenth century. When we think of organs, or the human body at all, we rarely think of our skin. It is invisible in plain sight. I wrote the book as a love letter to this forgotten organ. Skin is both a barrier against the terrors of the outside world and – with millions of nerve endings to help us feel our way through life − a bridge into our very being. Simultaneously wall and window, our skin surrounds us physically, but it is also an exquisitely psychological and social part of our being. To understand our skin is to understand our self.

2. For which topic/chapter have you had the most passion and why?

I loved writing ‘The Skin Safari’, a journey across our skin’s microbiome. It is amazing to think that we can improve the health of our skin by altering the composition of microbes that live on it. Underarm microbiome transplants have even been shown to eliminate body odour! The other chapter I particularly enjoyed was ‘The Psychological Skin’, looking at how stress causes and worsens skin conditions to the science behind blushing. The interactions between the mind and body are strong, but we rarely talk about them.

3. What do you see as the most promising territories of research on Skin based on your book? And why?

There are a number of exciting areas of emerging research. Dermatology is currently riding a wave of immunological discoveries. ‘Biologic’ drugs, which target specific immune molecules or receptors, have revolutionised the treatment of psoriasis, and is showing huge promise for other inflammatory and autoimmune conditions that affect the skin. The skin is an immune organ, and an improved understanding of the skin’s immune system will also help in the understanding of the skin’s microbiome and how dietary changes and stress affect the skin.

4. What can the Skincare Industry do to accelerate education on the importance of no longer seeing as“ a wrapping paper”?

We all want skin that looks good. But I think we need a cultural shift away from wanting and selling ‘beautiful skin’ to seeking ‘healthy skin’. Skin is not a canvas; it is a complex, living organ. If we look after our skin, we look after ourselves.