Thirteen public libraries around the United States and Canada have received small grants through the AAAS Skin Deep Project to fund public awareness events related to skin health. The events—scheduled for this fall—will combine skin care awareness with advice from skin health professionals such as dermatologists as well as tattoo artists and even a beauty queen.
“Everyone has this protective outer layer—skin. It’s our largest organ and a key line of defense against the elements,” said Suzanne Thurston, senior program associate in AAAS Education and Human Resources. “It’s important that everyone have a basic understanding of its physiology, function and best practices for taking care of it.”
As part of the larger AAAS Skin Deep Project, funded by Neutrogena, AAAS offered small grants to libraries to develop skin health programs for their communities. They received dozens of applications for the small grants, which were offered spring and summer. The libraries received $500 toward their outreach projects, plus copies of the new AAAS book,The Science Inside Skin.
“Public libraries are excellent partners when developing community outreach projects,” Thurston said. “They often have established relationships with not only their community, but also with local experts and specialists who can help develop a public outreach event.”
Some of the libraries receiving AAAS grants will team with a local dermatologist. At the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, a dermatologist will talk about skin problems across the lifespan. And at the Red Feather Lakes Community Library in Colorado, participants will be eligible for free skin screenings by physicians.
“Most of our residents live at elevations greater than 8000 feet with an active, outdoor lifestyle that is wonderful for fitness but risky for skin exposure and cancer,” wrote the Red Feather Lakes grantees. They wanted to use the grant funds to focus on skin cancer awareness, education, and protection.
Thinking about getting a tattoo? During a session targeted to teenagers, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, Kansas, will have a tattoo artist explain the risks of getting inked. For younger children, the Topeka and Shawnee County library will give out sun hats to parents with babies and have elementary and middle school students create jewelry using UV-sensitive beads that alert their wearers to when sunscreen and a hat are needed.
“The awardees came up with creative ways to encourage interest in skin health across all ages,” Thurston said. In addition to awareness about skin cancer and other serious skin health issues, awardees used other skin problems—like acne and dry skin—to pique interest. “We’re looking forward to hearing the response of teenage girls in Pennsylvania when they hear about the dangers in sun-tanning,” she said, referring to a program at the Upper Darby Township and Sellers Memorial Free Library in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
The grants to libraries are part of the AAAS Skin Deep Project, which has the new publication The Science Inside Skin  available online and in print. The project also includes classroom resources for middle and high school grade levels. The classroom resources include lessons on acne, skin conditions that affect athletes, and how foods and drinks can alter skin health.
Developed by the AAAS Education and Human Resources staff, The Science Inside Skin is the latest book in the AAAS Science Inside series, which uses plain language to explain the science behind real-life health issues such as obesity, HIV and AIDS and pregnancy.
Here’s a full list of the 13 libraries receiving funding through the AAAS Skin Deep Project: