Spiritual and religious aspects of skin and skin disorders
Philip D Shenefelt,1 Debrah A Shenefelt2
1Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of South Florida, Tampa, 2Congregation Or Ahavah, Lutz, FL, USA
Abstract: Skin and skin disorders have had spiritual aspects since ancient times. Skin, hair, and nails are visible to self and others, and touchable by self and others. The skin is a major sensory organ. Skin also expresses emotions detectable by others through pallor, coldness, "goose bumps", redness, warmth, or sweating. Spiritual and religious significances of skin are revealed through how much of the skin has been and continues to be covered with what types of coverings, scalp and beard hair cutting, shaving and styling, skin, nail, and hair coloring and decorating, tattooing, and intentional scarring of skin. Persons with visible skin disorders have often been stigmatized or even treated as outcasts. Shamans and other spiritual and religious healers have brought about healing of skin disorders through spiritual means. Spiritual and religious interactions with various skin disorders such as psoriasis, leprosy, and vitiligo are discussed. Religious aspects of skin and skin diseases are evaluated for several major religions, with a special focus on Judaism, both conventional and kabbalistic.
Keywords: skin, skin disorders, spiritual, religious
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