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August 1987

Skin Potions

Arch Dermatol. 1987;123(8):1087-1088. doi:10.1001/archderm.1987.01660320137028

Skin and its appendages have, through the ages, arguably been the source of more potions, both therapeutic and toxic, than any other animal organ. Powders of rhinoceros horn, which consists of no more than compacted stratum corneum, to this day are valued for their aphrodisiac properties. Bezoars, concretions of hair found in stomachs of mountain goats, were worn as amulets to ward off evil spirits or were powdered and ingested as all-purpose anti-toxins. Even before the current wave of escalating claims that various skin extracts preserve or restore cutaneous health and beauty, lanolin, the sebaceous secretion that accumulates on sheep wool, was widely accepted for its ability to put "life" back into dreary skin.

The science of skin extraction was probably engendered by frog's skin, long used in the Orient to treat dropsy and by South American Indians to poison arrowheads.1 Frog's skin has two glandular structures which are