Most Popular in:

Alternative Therapy Treatments

Email This Item! Print This Item!

Changing the World With Your Bare Hands

By: Jane Wurwand
Posted: June 25, 2008, from the January 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

page 3 of 4

The skin is hungry, and people will find a way to feed it any way they can. Think about it—you ask friends to “keep in touch,” and you promise to “touch base.” You talk about feeling “warm fuzzies,” as well as “stroking” someone’s ego. You say that someone “rubs you the wrong way.” A challenging situation is called “sticky” or “high-pressure,” forcing you to “get a grip.” You describe conflict as “friction.” Someone may be called “smooth” or “slick” or, in the extreme, “slimy.” A person on the opposite end of the spectrum may be “dry” or “rough around the edges.” High praise for something may involve referring to it as “hot” or “cool.” These tactile conversational references are plentiful in the English language and are moored in an unspoken understanding that touch always is straightforward.

One cultural half-truth is that women want to cuddle in bed, while men simply want to hit the target, so to speak. These roles and expectations find at least some reality in the fact that they are reinforced culturally. But when it comes to a need for nonsexual touching, check out the big, burly bearhugs, high-fives, joyful chest-bumping and appreciative bottom-patting that take place between National Football League or National Basketball Association players after scoring points. Here are some of society’s most lionized examples of masculinity showing each other respect with intimate, affectionate physical contact. During these moments, where touch is safe and permitted even among macho guys, they’re being about as cuddly as sweaty, adrenaline-buzzed 250-pound men possibly can get! Clearly, free-flowing testosterone and nonviolent, nonsexual touching are not mutually exclusive.

Touch and oxytocin

Phyllis Davis talks about this concept in relation to the release of oxytocin through touch in her book, The Power of Touch (Hay House, 1999). Oxytocin, which is a body chemical that is secreted by the posterior pituitary gland in the brain, sometimes informally is referred to as “the hormone of love” or “the cuddle hormone.” Although, among humans, it may be released into the bloodstream during orgasm, along with other activities, the net effect is not sexual—oxytocin is more about getting cozy than simply getting busy. Current studies at the University of California, San Francisco link the presence of this chemical in mammals with pair-bonding, nest-building and pup-retrieval—which includes remembering to pick up the kids after soccer practice—in many varieties of animals, including humans.

Today, synthetic oxytocin is used widely in obstetric practices to help begin or continue labor in childbirth, to control bleeding following delivery and to trigger lactation. Remarkably, spray-on formulas labeled “Trust in a Bottle” and “Liquid Trust” are being marketed that promise to give the wearer an edge in business and romance.

Your role in liberating touch

Professional skin care must play a crucial role in the liberation of human touch. Take a close look at this profession. Why do clients come to you—because they want their skin to look younger? Yes, most definitely. Because they want to correct topical problems, such as acne outbreaks or hyperpigmentation? Of course. These are the most literal and circumstantial reasonsfor the existence of the skin care profession. But there is another reason: skin hunger.