Most Skin Moisturizers Found In Pharmacies Can Actually Be Harmful For Your Skin
In Asia, about 72 percent of the populations have sensitive skin without knowing that they are having so while in the US, the figure is about 40 percent. For Asians, the hot and humid weather, air pollution and long periods of time in the air-cons at offices, shopping malls or homes, often puts the skin under a lot of stress.
Unfortunately many are ill informed through advertising and media that putting on a skin moisturizer might actually help their skin. Walk into any drugstore or pharmacy and you will find a wide array of skin moisturizers with varying claims. Some even claim to be specially formulated for sensitive skin and might cost more while in reality could actually be doing more long-term harm.
World renowned dermatologists, Professor Dr Peter Elias from the University of California who has been spending more than 45 years of research on the matter based on complaints form many of his patients commented in an interview with Thailand Medical News. "Many of my patients were telling me that they are applying some expensive stuff but it only provided relief for the first hour or so, and then their skin felt drier than ever.And in most cases complications developed after a long while."
The human skin, bombarded daily by our exposure to things that include sunlight and environmental toxins,is highly effective and enduring in its role as a barrier, says Elias. He likens that barrier to a brick wall.
In that model of the skin, which he developed in the 1980s, corneocytes, which are dead cells that make up the surface of the skin, are "bricks" surrounded and held together by membrane sheaths made of a "mortar" of three lipids: cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acids.
"What's important is that those three lipids are present at approximately equal ratios, equal numbers of molecules of each of them. When that ratio gets thrown off, he says, the membrane sheaths do not completely fill the spaces between the cells.Then, instead of a brick wall, you get this ‘Swiss cheese’ result which is detrimental," says Elias.
Unfortunately, what Professor Elias had learned from a recent study of moisturisers is that many on the shelf may be doing more harm than good for certain people.That's because maintaining the brick wall comes down to a suite of related factors: pH of the skin, the makeup of the "mortar," and the body's response to the "Swiss cheese" situation.
Most common moisturizers are designed to provide a layer that keeps skin from getting too dry. But these lotions may lack "mortar" ingredients, contain them in the wrong proportions, or change the skin's naturally acidic pH.
Dermatologists have known for years that the skin is slightly acidic, a factor that helps prevent infection. Recent research by Elias and others has revealed that the enzymes responsible for producing ingredients for the "mortar" work best at this acidic pH.
When the pH is thrown off, there is not enough mortar produced, or the three lipids are not produced in the right ratios. The result is a naturally occurring "Swiss cheese" that gives rise to skin conditions such as eczema.The body perceives the "Swiss cheese" as an injury, and in response produces cytokines, small molecules that trigger the inflammation response that leads to healing. But individuals with sensitive skin or skin conditions, their repair tools ie the enzymes that make the three lipids,are not functioning properly. So the injury remains and the cytokines keep coming, causing greater inflammation and irritation.
Which often leads the individual with sensitive skin to reach for a bottle of moisturizer, and the cycle may continue not stop and conditions become more serious.
It was found that the great majority of moisturisers have not been tested on people with sensitive skin. Adding a moisturizer that does not supply the correct ratio of lipids or throws off the pH can simply exacerbate the situation and increase inflammation. It induces a vicious cycle where the patient is applying material frequently for temporary relief but the result is long-term worsening of the skin.
The key for people with sensitive skin may lie in a lotion that is formulated for skin repair and contains the "mortar ingredients" in their proper proportions, according to a study by Elias and his colleague, Mao-Qiang Man, M.D., also a research scientist with the San Francisco Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System-affiliated Northern California Institute for Research and Education.
The initial finding showed that a special formula of the lipids in their proper proportions lowered cytokine levels in the blood, decreasing inflammation.
Elias and Mao-Qiang are planning two larger-scale studies in various countries including Asia. One will compare the effect of a lotion designed for barrier repair on cytokines in the blood with that of other off-the-shelf moisturizers. The other study will look into how much of the body needs to be covered regularly with the barrier repair formula for it to be effective. In addition, UCSF Dermatology professor Theodora Mauro, M.D., is carrying out studies to look at whether fixing the "mortar" in the skin can not only reduce inflammation in the skin but affect systemic inflammation that plays a role in chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes. Thailand Medical will be providing updates of these research on its site.
Unknown to many ,skin that is under stress can also lead to a variety of other medical conditions from basic allergies developing to even more serious immunity and auto-immune related diseases occurring. Many medical researchers are coming to a new conclusion that repairing the “skin’s brick wall structure” can actually prevent a lot of complications and also provide whole benefits. The skins role as a barrier has been underappreciated for a longtime. The researchers are hoping that with a new category of skin moisturizers will be t developed in the future based on this new research and also with future clinical trials so that better products that actually helps people will appear on the store shelves,