Contrary to popular belief, our body's largest organ isn't the heart, nor is it the liver or even the lungs – it's our skin.
Even though the colour, type and texture of our skin may differ entirely from the next person, its function is essentially the same. Accounting for roughly 16% of our overall body weight, it protects us against infection, regulates our body temperature, provides us with sensation and, of course, keeps the rest of our organs in place. In other words, skin is a big deal. It's no wonder, then, we're a nation completely and utterly obsessed with it.
Hashtags like #SkinPositivity and #InMySkin dominate Instagram, while research by Mintel estimated the facial skincare market in the UK at an enormous £1.15 billion in 2017, with the majority of skincare-obsessives now regarding the skin on the rest of their bodies as just as important. It seems the rise in spending corresponds with a hike in people talking about and treating skin conditions. According to a recent study, adult acne in women above the age of 25 is widespread, especially when compared with men, while more and more experts report seeing patients with conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, melanoma (a type of skin cancer) and more.
I'm a beauty editor with access to some of the UK's best dermatologists and a bathroom cabinet overflowing with the industry's most intelligent skincare formulas, but that doesn't make me immune from acne (which materialised at 11 and has continued throughout my teenage and adult years), atopic eczema (this developed when I hit 25), and a habit of picking my skin to pieces, otherwise known as dermatillomania. My obsession with skin is partly why I love this job so much. With brilliant experts, research and case studies at my disposal, I learn something new every day. Yet while I like to think I know a lot about skin, this project has proven that it is even more complex than I could have imagined.
I've discovered that the relationship we have with our skin has the ability to affect absolutely everything, from our mental health to how we interact with one another. There are skin conditions and issues I had never heard of until now but which, as a woman, I would really benefit from knowing about. Take the brilliantly brave contributor who asked to share her heartbreaking and distressing experience of vulval skin cancer, the top dermatologist who has noticed a dangerous link between skin conditions like acne and eating disorders, and the women of colour who told us exactly why they choose to lighten or "bleach" their skin.
Honest, informative, intelligent and poignant, these are the conversations we're having regarding skin all week on Refinery29, and each one proves that the discussion actually goes much deeper than, well, skin deep. Whether you're looking for guidance or simply want to know more about the ins and outs of your skin, please join in the conversation by commenting on our stories and using the hashtag #SkinDeep on social media – we'd love you to share your thoughts and pictures.