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Towards the Light

Dr Monty Lyman explores the many layers and lives of our skin – the body’s largest, most visible and yet most misunderstood organ. Read by Gunnar Cauthery.

Perched on the exterior of our delicate, intricate bodies, the skin is our largest and fastest-growing organ, weighing nine kilograms and covering two square metres. We see it, touch it and live in it every day. It’s a habitat for a mesmerisingly complex world of micro-organisms. Its physical functions are vital to our health and indeed our survival, and it’s crucial to our sense of identity. Yet how much do we really know about it?

Through the lenses of science, sociology and history, Dr Monty Lyman leads us on a journey through the comedy, tragedy and exquisite humanity of our most underrated and overlooked organ. By delving into something that seems so familiar, he reveals how the skin is far stranger and much more complex than we’ve ever imagined.

In today’s episode, Dr Lyman explains that the sun brings light, life, and healing powers, but also demands reverence. The ancient Greeks made Apollo god of the sun but, rather tellingly, he was also god of healing and disease. We hear how and why we tan, and of the dangers of ‘tanorexia’ - an addictive condition. There are also beauty tips from Queen Cleopatra and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Written by Dr Monty Lyman
Abridged by Libby Spurrier
Read by Gunnar Cauthery
Producer: David Blount
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4

14 minutes


10 sensational facts about our skin

10 sensational facts about our skin

It’s a vital part of our bodies and our psyche – how much do we really know about skin?