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Changing The World With Our Bare Hands | Part ONE

Written by Jane Wurwand on May 22nd, 2014.      0 comments

When you brush past someone in a crowded restaurant or accidentally nudge a person in a hallway or on an elevator, you say “I’m sorry” or “Pardon me” because, in American culture, their private space has been violated. The fact that this split second of harmless, casual social physical contact is considered a transgression significant enough to require an apology—no matter how perfunctory—reveals that something truly is wrong with life in the big city.

I am a skin therapist, and for me, the past 30 years have been jam-packed with learning, and I believe that the most important professional quality for any skin care professional should be a commitment to gathering knowledge. Throughout my education, I have been fortunate enough to learn about a myriad of products, techniques and technologies—everything from the use of nightingale droppings to the role of galvanic current in skin care. During this lifetime of learning, one thing never has been clearer than it is now: Skin care is all about touch and human hands.

Go back to that crowded elevator, where you tuck in your feet, hips, elbows and shoulders to prevent the slightest incidental contact with fellow travellers, and it is clear that touch has become demonized in our society. The roots of this mistrust of the body reach back to America’s Puritan past and are combined with modern-day xenophobia—the fear of foreign things. Commonly, people fear the unknown.

Undeniably, these are uncertain, alienated times during which it would make sense to seek solace and comfort in humanity. Instead, you retreat into your own isolated, insular world where social touching virtually is eliminated—what pop culture commentator Faith Popcorn called “cocooning” in the early 1990s.
Today, teachers shrink from touching their students, fearful even of applying sunscreen to their faces before a field trip. Co-workers hesitate to offer a gentle hug or pat on the shoulder to a colleague, dreading the threat of sexual harassment charges.

What is left of life on Earth? I am convinced that finding the way back to our humanity won’t happen with politics or with law. It will happen through the alchemy of human skin touching skin.
Satisfying Skin Hunger

I am not referring to sexual touching, which often is used as a shortcut to satisfying what I call “skin hunger.” Although sex has its delights, it is not the entire story of the skin, and sexual touching is not what you crave most deeply as a sentient creature. The overemphasis on sexuality in today’s culture is evidenced in phenomena as wide-ranging as sexual dysfunction (rampant), the gluttonous abundance of cyberporn (empty) and preteens having their first sexual experiences at increasingly younger ages (scary).
Sexuality has become twisted precisely because humans are starved for a nonsexual connection. Because you can’t touch casually and in a purely friendly manner, all of it becomes sexualized. This is a problem when humans yearn to touch people for whom they have no flicker of sexual interest, but would like to hug and squeeze anyway—the spouse of a good friend, children, a kind neighbour or that sweet grandmother who sells organic tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Because you cannot touch these people in a socially accepted manner, you feel that your desire to connect must be somehow naughty, dirty or tainted.

For decades, research has indicated that touch-deprived infants—as well as the young offspring of all mammals— experience mental, physical and social retardation, even if they receive adequate nourishment in other areas. The lack of physical contact is an acknowledged factor in hastening the deaths of elderly people who reside in hospitals and nursing homes. It is not an accident that society’s most reviled criminals are kept in solitary confinement, and prison administrator’s report that inmates housed in this fashion often request that they be executed rather than endure the loneliness of living in their own skin without contact. Isolation kills, but to be branded officially as untouchable is a fate worse than death.

Some people confuse skin hunger with sexual desire. Others attempt to satisfy it with food, drugs and drink, entertainment and insatiable consumerism—shopping and spending, hours of anesthetizing television-watching and numbing workaholism. In my opinion, the American obesity epidemic has as much to do with the loss of socially acceptable casual physical touching between family members, peers and friends as it does with wolfing down pounds of the newly supersized M&M’s while surfing the Internet. All of these phenomena spring from losing touch, both literally and figuratively, with the wisdom and rhythm of the body.

Stay tuned for Part TWO of this article....

This article was supplied by S-H-E - Skin Health Experts
Distributors of Dermalogica and Home of the International Dermal Institute (IDI)
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