I’ve been giving people deep-tissue massage for 11 years and one thing is certain: no two bodies are the same. The sheer diversity of people’s bodies never fails to amaze me and it is one of those things that keeps me present in what I do.
But just as fascinating is the diversity of skin. We talk about skin as if it were just an outer covering, a surface. Even in terms of its physiology, skin is much more than that - it’s a highly complex organ that protects us, regulates the heat of our bodies, excretes toxins and resists water.
But skin is also remarkably revealing about the person it envelops. When I touch someone’s skin I feel like a blind person reading braille. I read so many different stories; it’s such a privilege. Although I practise deep-tissue massage, I really enjoy to take some moments to palpate the skin with a fine touch. Even the lightest will send strong signals to the client’s brain through the sensory receptors in the dermis and epidermis.
These tiny receptors collect very accurate information when touched. They sense pain, temperature, pressure, friction, stretch. Unique receptors respond to each kind of information. This helps provide the body with a full picture of what is touching the skin. We might call it the intelligence of skin.
We use the term ‘skin deep’ when we want to suggest something is superficial, not deep or lasting. But learning how to ‘read’ skin can reveal a lot about what is happening to that person.
As a therapist I love people’s skin. And I love the way it ages, like wood, acquiring a patina, the sheen produced by years of wear and polishing. Everybody should be comfortable in their skin. You see how that expression suggests how connected to our identity, to our sense of ourselves, skin is.