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August 2017

The Skinny on Skin Idioms

Author Affiliations
  • 1Augusta University Medical Center, Augusta, Georgia
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(8):746. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.2332

Many parts of the human body appear in a variety of English language expressions. As the largest and most visible organ, skin offers tremendous idiomatic potential. Herein, I explore a few of these popular sayings.

The qualities of skin tell a lot about one’s character. If a person has “thick skin,” they can withstand criticism. Conversely, a person with “thin skin” is easily offended. Skin may also belie a person’s core character. “Beauty is only skin-deep” is a familiar saying that suggests external attractiveness has no relation to goodness. This proverb was first stated by Sir Thomas Overbury in his 1613 poem, “A Wife”: “All the carnal beauty of my wife is but skin-deep.”1 Now, a shortened of this idiom, “skin deep,” is often used to allude to anything superficial or slight.

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