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  Field Notes From
Unmasking Skin



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On Assignment
Arrows
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From Author

Joel L. Swerdlow



On Assignment

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From Photographer

Sarah Leen



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Joel Swerdlow (top), and Brian Strauss
 

On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
Unmasking Skin

Field Notes From Author
Joel L. Swerdlow
Best Worst Quirkiest

It was very exciting to realize that what's good for the skin's appearance is also good for the body. Proper diet and all the things that can keep skin moist, healthy, and young looking are the same things that help us avoid such conditions as heart disease. This assignment taught me that vanity can be harnessed into the cause of good health!



When I began the assignment, I bought a dermatology textbook and looked at pictures of conditions such as untreated skin cancers and festering ulcerations from diabetes. Something about seeing photographs of skin problems and diseases struck something very primal in me. I had to look away, and I still l get a tight feeling in my stomach when I think about those images. Dermatologists told me they knew what I was talking about, but it was something they'd grown accustomed to. Throughout work on this story the problem persisted. Why? Maybe it's that other health problems are inside where we can't see them. The best explanation I could come to was that we rely on our skin to protect us, and it's simply difficult to see something wrong with it.



The article only touches briefly on the issue of race and the biological role of skin color. Yet, scientifically, the significance of skin color is extremely limited, and is the topic of much debate among experts. This debate is fascinating and worthy of a story on its own.
(See Online Extra: A New Light on Skin Color.)





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