The question I ask applicants for neo-skin is what do they want it too look like. There are plenty of glossy flip books full of pictures, and even samples to see and touch. We can make newer, better human skin. But people often lack imagination. While they are tied up terrified over the prospect that their new arm graft won't match their skin tone, I get them out the extreme mod book.
Scales, neo-skin can have scales. It can be thick as a rhino's hide. It can be any color you want it to be, because it's the 24th century and we can match something as mundane as skin tone.
For an upgrade, you can have photoelectric polymers layered in it, customized artwork, data streams, light panels, or just skin that can change color. The military loves this stuff. Stealth, they have a computer system that makes the skin change color to match it's background. I know a performance artist who came in and had clear neo-skin grafted over her entire body. She's gorgeous, and you can see her muscles and tendons, the perfection of the human form. She had that done too, literally perfect. You've probably seen her on an advert somewhere.
Neo-Skin was developed almost by accident, after a skin graft sample was dropped into a gel-bioreactor. The resulting mass of skin tissue was drastically more than was needed. A few simple tests found that a small sample of skin could be taken from a patient, genetically tuned, and then grown in a tank. This could later be trimmed and grafted onto the body of the donor. The first generation of neo-skin grafts were done on burn victims and cancer patients who had lost a good deal of skin.
The military adopted the technology, and started working towards adaptive camouflage. Intelligence agencies, both on the national level, and megacorp level, also started experimenting with the new technology. This would progress for a while, with neo-skin becoming commonly available for civilian and medical uses, and in making Chameleons, commandos who could blend in anywhere. Things wouldn't get interesting until the shadow sector got a hold of the technology.
It started with a mercenary Ivan Steranko, formerly of the Eurasian Alliance. Steranko expatriated to the South African United Republics because there he was free of the political apparatchiks of the Alliance and was free to fight the Atlantic Federation. Fighting brush wars of no importance was more satisfying than manning fortresses and doing drills for battles in a war that was never going to happen. Steranko was badly wounded in an aerial artillery strike and was evacuated to the Jo-burg medical complex. He was going to undergo a neo-skin graft and he said that since he was getting new skin, he wanted to pick to pick what kind. He picked a very think dusky grey skin, mimicking the appearance of rhino hide. He had the samples modified and adjusted until his new skin would be comparable to light body armor. When he emerged from the hospital, he had undergone a number of modifications, including the Claremont biomod. Larger, stronger, and wrapped in living armor, Steranko proved a terror. He routinely lead his band of mercenaries, carrying a power armor assault rifle and a combustion powered ripper sword.
He finished out his appearance by having a custom 'rhino' helmet made, which had a HUD system linked to a smartgun, communications gear, and a modified progressive stilleto built into the horn. If the helmet runs out of power, Steranko is blind because the 'eyes' are cameras feeding data to Steranko's optic jack and an internal screen.
The Federation Intelligence has code-named Steranko 'Rocksteady'.
Lizard Fetish - a dense scaly neo-skin can be grown and grafted onto people with reptile fetishes. This non-permeable type of skin can also be found in extreme environments, such as deserts and underwater, where the non-permeable nature is a major benefit.
Fur Fetish - by splicing a few genes, neo-skin can grow hair or fur. This is expensive as rather than just growing sheets of hairy skin, the follicles have to be directed so that the fur lays in the correct direction. A niche product, it is used in performance art, sexual entertainment, and a small community of Ice Divers, people who enjoy swimming in ice cold waters.
Unown - the Unown community grew out of otaku culture and has a fetish for adorning itself with symbols, script and other non-art tattoos. This was limited to how much skin they had, and how willing they were to sacrifice old ink to make room for new. With neo-skin with implanted polymers and chromatophores, they could program their skin's appearance for new 'ink' and even moving script. This made them very happy. And a bit more strange.
All Hail the New Flesh
Neo-Skin opened a new avenue of personal expression for the wealthy and the bored. It also presented a new path to permanent youth. Once the old dermis started wrinkling and thinning due to age, neo-skin could easily be put in it's place. The majority of neo-skin recipients are not freaks or weirdos, they are wealthy men and women who have reached their second middle age (60-80). This skin is almost undetectable, and most are assumed to be either 'aging well' or undergoing routine rejuvenation treatments.
Neo-Skin is like a normal epidermis. While resistant to cutting and bruising, it can still be damaged. If cut, mangled, bruised, or otherwise damaged, it will heal and form scars like normal tissue. Those with modified neo-skin typically have to have dietary supplements to maintain their skin's performance, such as steady doses of biotin for hair and scales, and so forth. A full body skin change is not done in one surgery, but rather a series. Each surgery will tackle a large portion of the body, such as the torso, or an arm, or a leg. This will be followed by a period of restoration in a med-pod, as the removal of the skin is a very traumatic incident for the human body.
It is more expensive than genetic modification, but it also takes less time to do, with a full body graft being doable in a month, while the fastest gene mod takes six months. It is less available than gene mods, some of which are available OTC. Most facilities that handle neo-skin grafts have a waiting list. Public sector hospitals only do trauma related grafts, leaving all cosmetic and performance enhancing mods to private operations or the private sector hospitals.