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Skin complaints related to visual display terminals (VDTs) such as smartphones, tablets, and computers are on the rise. Visually it's a rosacea-like dermatitis (erythema, oedema, papules or pustules), and can be accompanied by itch, pain and smarting (1). Some only have subjective symptoms and no visible skin problems.
It was thought that this skin condition might be caused by prolonged and repeated exposure to blue light emitted by electronic devices. The term "blue light" refers to the high-energy visible (HEV) light spectrum, which is present in the blue region of the visible light spectrum. As we are spending more and more time with or in front of screens from computers, tablets, or smartphones, there are increasing concerns about the harmful impact of blue light on skin. When referring to these light sources, we talk about artificial blue light. Dr Ludger Kolbe (Chief Scientist Photobiology) tested the radiation onto the skin emitted by different smartphones and tablets from various distances. Findings: the amount of blue light emitted during the conventional use of electronic devices is by far not enough to trigger harmful skin effects. If you sit in front of a monitor uninterrupted for a week at a distance from the screen of approximately 30 cm, this would be the same as the blue light intensity of spending one minute outside on a sunny day in Hamburg Germany at around midday at midsummer. If you hold a smartphone right next to the skin, the intensity does increase, but it would still take approximately 10 hours of uninterrupted use to match the effect on the skin of just one minute of sunlight as described. The emissions from electronic devices are barely noticeable in comparison to natural blue light directly from the sun and are, thus, negligible. The same does not apply for natural HEVIS, which does harm the skin.
So is HEVIS from a screen is not causes screen dermatitis, what does? Overall, there is an overlap with skin complaints in buildings with ‘climate control’ problems (2), which may explain why screen dermatitis is relatively more common in atopic patients. The same authors found psychosocial conditions and high work-related stress to be indicators for developing VDT-related facial skin problems. Berg et al. (3) found that these patients frequently have sensitive skin: they are so-called ‘stingers’, reacting with stinging or itching when lactic acid (5%) (LAST-test or Lactic Acid Sting Test). In a large literature study, screen dermatitis was found to show many similarities with skin damaged by UV light or ionizing radiation (4). Ionizing radiation consisting of particles, rays with sufficient energy to cause ionization in the medium through which it passes. Examples are heat or light from the sun, microwaves from an oven, X rays from an X-ray tube and gamma rays from radioactive elements. In this large literature study, not only clinical but also immuno-histological manifestations were evaluated. Most striking was the increased number of mast cells in screen dermatitis, containing histamine. The latter is known to be released when mast cells are exposed to UV light and may be responsible for symptoms of itch, pain, oedema and erythema in screen dermatitis. Furthermore, Langerhans' cells in the epidermis were significantly decreased or virtually absent in screen dermatitis as well as in skin damaged by UV light or ionizing radiation. On the other hand, levels of some neuropeptides were determined, and although several differences were found with normal skin, no single marker was 100% able to distinguish between healthy skin and screen dermatitis (1). It is unclear whether VDTs leak electric or magnetic fields that affect our cells (4). In keeping with these findings are the conclusions of a case-referent study, stating that screen dermatitis most likely is the result of non-specific or irritant factors in subjects with sensitive skin (2).
In conclusion: It is highly recommended to use SPF and protect the skin from natural HEVIS (with for example product containing Licochalcone A). However protection against artificial blue light won't likely prevent or improve screen dermatitis symptoms. Always consult your dermatologist for a proper diagnose and treatment.
Dermatologists and pharmacy-assistants or pharmacists are regularly confronted with consumers or patients who have tired about a 100 skin care products and "react" to almost all of them. This could be seen as sensitive or hyper-sensitive skin: self-reported facial presence of different sensory perceptions including tingling, stinging, burning, tingling, pain and pruritis (itch). Sensitive skin was first described by Maibach in 1987 under the name of Cosmetic Intolerance Syndrome. Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) is caused by the non–immune-modulated irritation of the skin by a substance, leading to skin changes. Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) is a delayed reaction in which a foreign substance comes into contact with the skin; skin changes occur after re-exposure to the substance. Sounds dramatic, and it is. Buying products to find out that you can not use them is a waste of money, disappointing and if you don't know the cause it is utterly frustrating or problematic. Symptoms can appear local systemic, occur immediately or sometimes with a delay of several hours or days and range from mild to very severe in case of a serious allergic reaction (even life threatening anaphylaxis) and may impact quality of life and/or sleep.
An easy way to avoid wasting your money on a new product is to ask for a sample. It is the most important reason why they exist. Usually with a few applications you can tell if you like the product and your skin likes it too. To find out specifically why your skin is (hyper-)reactive it is smart to go to your dermatologist and ask him/her/they for a test and advice after doing some home-work. You can prior to the appointment make a report as detailed as possible. Checklist for the appointment for a dermatologist / allergologist should contain: symptoms with timing, affected areas (face, scalp, body), co-medication, (family) history of skin diseases (for example atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea), occupational hazards (for example hair dressers exposed to chemicals), dietary changes, stress, menstrual cycle, use of washing detergents / fabric softeners, sun exposure (photosensitivity) or environmental triggers or changes (like mega-city pollution or skiing by low temperatures or wind), wear of (tight) clothes and anything you deem relevant like recently undergone (aesthetic) treatments. Of course cross-check the INCI's or ingredient lists of the products you use if there are common ingredient(s) listed. Most common triggers in cosmetics are easy to find: latex, dyes, metals and fragrance. Some ingredients are beneficial for skin, but your skin may need slowly adjust to them, like tretinoid or retinol. Some ingredients may be beneficial for some, however not good for your skin when used on a daily base like alpha-hydroxy-acids in high concentrations.
I know that many mention preservatives as a potential trigger. Some certainly can be. However my experience (about 9 years of clinical tolerability and safety tests with modern dermatological skin care) is that almost all users tolerate products containing evidence based modern preservatives really well (rarely any side effects) and benefit from them as they reduce the risk of contaminations by unwanted growth of microflora in a product. Hence, they are there for your safety. Large companies have thousands of people working in R&D every day and know what they are doing and are there to provide you with the best they can offer, based on the latest regulations, insights and science. Moreover, they would not market products risking high complaint rates or more dermatological skin care without clinical proof of good / very good tolerability (even in sensitive skin). I therefor like to challenge the negative reputation preservatives in general have. We all remember that parabens were "killed" by reputation and because companies want to produce products consumers enjoy and love, they started formulating all their products without them. Truth is that most parabens were and are very safe based on ample evidence. In this case a family of beneficial preservatives suffered significantly because of 1 or 2 bad family-members. We don't formulate with parabens or known potential allergens. A very active and skilled safety department is taking care of that.
Don't completely rely on the word hypo-allergenic. It only means that the risk of a reaction to one of the ingredients is reduced and does not provide a 100% guarantee. Don't think that "everything natural" is always good for you. For example latex (a well known potential allergen) comes from nature. Click the button below for a full list of potential allergens in skin care provided by the FDA.
There are preservative, fragrance and dye free options available in skin care. Although "free off" claims are frowned upon by the industry or sometimes not even legal. Usually these "minimal" products come in specific safe packaging (mostly pumps) to avoid contamination, often also protecting them from air and light to avoid oxidation of certain ingredients in the formula. There are evidence based dermo-cosmetic products which actively sooth and calm the skin with ingredients like Symsitive®, reduce related redness or inflammation with licochalcone A or cool or reduce itch with methoxy-propanediol or polidocanol or a combination.
Sometimes the solution is as simple as the problem. Sensitive (hyper) reactive skin can be caused by barrier impairment, which allows irritants to penetrate the skin, sensors in the skin to be exposed and water to evaporate from the skin.....hence often confused or overlapping with dry skin as the symptoms are identical. If your skin barrier is the problem, the solution is to avoid over-exfoliation or harsh cleansing, maintain the skin's healthy pH (around 5) and use products containing ingredients supporting barrier repair like urea and/or dexpanthenol. These are considered the gold standard as written in this position paper by Prof. M. Augustin et al 2019.
In my opinion all skin is "sensitive", and it should be. It is our skin's function to protect us by sensing heat, cold, touch, pressure and pain for example. However when the skin does not tolerate "normal conditions", hence is overreacting to (common) ingredients in skin care, it is telling you "something is off" and it might be Cosmetic Intolerance Syndrome. Listen to your skin. Don't forget to ask for a sample and advice from the pharmacist when buying a new product or go to your dermatologist/allergologist to get a better understanding of the problem, so they can provide a tailored solution for you.
The fibroblast is one of the most important cells involved in ageing skin. You can find it in the lower layer of the epidermis and the dermis. It has many functions, one of which is the production of key components like hyaluron (filling + hydration), collagen (strength + structure) and elastin (flexibility + stretch). It particularly has to work hard to replenish hyaluronic acid or hyaluron as this filling component only has a half-life in the skin of several hours up to a day. Good quality collagen can last 15 years and elastin up to 70 years. It is also believed to be involved in the clean-up of dysfunctional components, like for example broken elastin, which is visible photodamage-damage and called solar elastosis. Fibroblast senescence (agedness) does also increase the risk of age spots. In proper ageing skin management, the fibroblast is a key target-cell.
Many aesthetic in-office treatments like ultrasound, radio-frequency, chemical peelings, laser etc. are based on causing controlled damage to the skin provoking wound-healing. This is the base of their rejuvenating or aesthetic impact. The number of new fibroblasts (myofibroblasts) is increased during the wound-healing process. Some injectables, like for example hyaluron-fillers cause the fibroblasts at the injection site to stretch and bio-stimulate collagen production. There are specific bio-stimulating injectable treatments. The most popular ones are Sculptra®, Radiesse®, Ellanse®, and a new one which combines hyaluron-filling and bio-stimulation is HArmonyCa®.
As we age the fibroblast is undergoing some changes because of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. It loses it’s production power, it flattens, loses mechanical tension and therewith the ability to interact with other cells in the skin. It is becoming “tired and deaf”. My hypothesis was that injecting large droplets of hyaluron into the dermis might cause the fibroblast to become “lazy” via a negative feedback mechanism: when something is present in abundance, the fibroblast might not be stimulated enough to work hard to replenish it. This is not yet scientifically proven.
It is important to keep the fibroblast in good shape and biologically active. We can stimulate it’s biological activity with skincare containing bio-stimulators, or ingredients which activate the production of important skin components by the fibroblast. On the other side we need to protect the cell from damage.
Bio-stimulating active ingredients in skincare which have shown to particularly stimulate the fibroblast* are for example:
Protection from photo-damage we can achieve with a combination of sunscreen and anti-oxidants, more specifically Licochalcone A. Licochalcone A has a proven broad ability to protect the skin from damaging free-radicals or oxidative stress from UVA, UVB and HEVIS (High Energy Visible Light) affecting keratinocytes and fibroblasts.
I am not yet aware of skincare ingredients which increase the number of (new) fibroblasts, like the semi or minimal invasive in-office treatments. It’s an interesting field to explore if this is possible without injury, inflammation or irritation. However, you probably get "more bang for your buck" by starting a a skincare routine with focus on bio-stimulation and protection of the fibroblast pre- and post minimal and semi invasive aesthetic treatments. This could be something we will proof with a clinical study.
Our life expectance is increasing and the average age when menopause occurs didn't change much in the last decade. This is why more women will have to care for post menopause skin for a longer time. During and after menopause our skin will go through some changes and might even become problematic. In this blog post I will have a closer look into these changes.
During the start of menopause, also called peri-menopause, women will notice some changes to their skin. This is because estrogen levels start to decline (-35% between age 35-50) and as estrogen level decline, androgen level proportionately become more dominant. As a result, the majority of women experience drier skin. Or when the hormone levels are differently balanced they may get a more oily skin or develop acne tarda (adult acne), because the oil gland activity is increased. Another problem is that the skin's pH level will increase, which will impact skin health, barrier and microflora or microbiome. A higher pH value may result in problematic skin.
Loss of biological activity
Around this period the metabolic biological activity in the skin will decrease faster than in our 20s or 30s. The production of important components like hyaluronic acid (filling + hydration), collagen (strength + structure) and elastin (flexibility + stretch) by fibroblasts (a very important skin cell) isn't sufficient, while the speed of their degradation is inclining because the skin's natural resilience against damaging free radical activity is reduced and the activity of degradation enzymes, like hyaluronidase, collagenase and elastase is elevated. Therewith the presence of those important skin components is declining 30% in the first years. This leads to more advanced signs of ageing skin and an overall loss of skin quality: skin firmness, skin surface eveness, skin tone eveness and glow (Goldie, Clin Cosmet Invest Dermatol, 2021).
Skin ageing is a multifaceted continuous biological degenerative process, with an impact on overall skin quality, self perceived attractiveness, confidence and comfort (Quality of Life). The optimal solution should improve all 4 emergent perceptual categories or EPG's of skin quality (an important component of human attractiveness) as mentioned above. This can be achieved by supporting skin's own resilience against the inclined loss by degradation (reduce free radical and enzymatic activity) and increase skin's own biological activity, hence skin's own production of hyaluron, collagen and elastin with bio-active ingredients or bio-stimulators and inhibit human tyrosinase activity (reduce age spots). I will explain the 4 key actions below:
Some evidence based bio-actives we can find in skincare are:
2. Enzyme inhibitors
Some ingredients in skincare which inhibit enzymatic degradation are:
Damaging free radical activity is increased in mature skin and ROS (Radical Oxidative Species) increase degradation of all components, enzymatic degradation and human tyrosinase activity, a powerful cocktail of anti-oxidants is a "must-have". The combination of fresh activated L-Ascorbic-Acid (primary defence with instant neutralisation of extra-cellular free radicals) and Licochalcone A (secondary defence with long-lasting intracellular stress protection is a valuable addition in any day or nighttime skincare regimen. Licochalcone A is moreover one of the most powerful anti-oxidants (if not the most powerful one) proven to reduce (deep) oxidative stress from High Energy Visible Light or HEVIS. As we know, free radicals from HEVIS damage the important skin-cell called the fibroblast and increase the risk of age spots. A product which development was initiated, supported and clinically tested by me is Eucerin's Hyaluron-Filler Vitamin C Booster. I highly recommend this product, especially after a collagen-stimulating in-office procedure.
4. Human tyrosinase inhibition
A relatively new, effective and safe ingredient in skincare which was tested on inhibiting human tyrosinase is Thiamidol. Other ingredients in skincare were tested on mushrooms (Hornyak, Journal of Investigative Dermatology 2018 & Mann et al. 2018) and are not potent in reducing human tyrosinase activity. It took 10 years of pioneering research (dr Ludger Kolbe) and comparing 50.000 actives to patent and market it. In the mean time Thiamidol is loved and recommended globally by many dermatologists and evidence based with 35+ studies including >2000 participants with all Fitzpatrick phototypes.
Every AM routine should at least have a skincare product with SPF of 15 or higher.
An improvement of skin quality leads to an improvement of quality of life (van Geloven et al. EADV 2022).
Hope this was helpful.
Vitamin C is a "must have" skin care ingredient our skin needs at any age.
One of the best researched skin care ingredients and proven to be very beneficial for skin is Vitamin C. Our skin uses Vitamin C as an anti-oxidant and the dermal fibroblasts need Vitamin C for the production of collagen. Two very good reasons to add this ingredients into your daily skincare routine whether you are twenty or eighty. Moreover, our skin depends on us for the needed supply, as our skin is not able to produce Vitamin C itself.
We can either include enough Vitamin C in our diet or apply Vitamin C topically there where we need it the most. Usually this is the skin which is exposed to (sunlight) as this increases damaging free radical activity in our skin. An active form of vitamin C can reduce the free radical activity, which we call anti-oxidative effect.
There are 4 things to consider when buying a skincare product containing Vitamin C:
Day or night?
Some recommend to use Vitamin C during the night, as the active form of Vitamin C will oxidize in daylight. Hence, your skin can benefit from the Vitamin C longer during the night. I would recommend Vitamin C to be used during daytime (thus added to your morning routine), as we need protection from damaging free radicals the most during daytime and the oxidization of Vitamin C is actually a sign that the ingredient is doing it’s job! It’s even better to add Vitamin C both to your day & night time skincare routine.
Is L-Ascorbid Acid enough?
Vitamin C is counteracting free radicals from UV light. However, UV is not the only damaging light form as there is also High Energy Visible Light or abbreviated HEVIS. This penetrates even deeper into the skin where also the dermal fibroblasts reside. The dermal fibroblasts are our collagen and hyaluronic acid producing cells and a key target in an effective anti-ageing skincare strategy. Lichochalcone A (Licorice-root extract) has proven to be the most potent anti-oxidant to protect the dermal fibroblasts and neutralize free radicals from HEVIS. Moreover, Lichocalcone A increases Glutathione, which is a skin’s own anti-oxidant. Licorice-root extract is an anti-ageing hero.
The combination of Vitamin C and Lichocalcone A will protect our skin and dermal fibroblasts from free radical damage by UV and HEVIS and will provide superior biological cell protection in comparison to Vitamin C only. For me this is a good reason to use a product containing both ingredients as a first step after my cleansing routine in the morning. If you have sensitive eyes, I recommend to use an eye care prior, which will form a barrier to help to prevent the low pH Vitamin C product to migrate into the eye area. Afterwards you can use the other products of your skincare routine. I would like to put emphasis on using a SPF of 30 or higher during the day. This will not only help to protect your skin, but also support he anti-oxidative benefits and make them last longer.
Hope this was helpful.
Lately I was trying out several skin care products with a very similar smell, which I actually started to appreciate during my evening skin care routine.
Usually, an overpowering fragrance in a product puts me off, however I consider this one soothing. The (in my opinion) pleasant odour comes from an ingredient called Tanacetum Annuum or Blue Tansy (Moroccan Blue Chamomile - not to be confused with Tanacetum Vulgare) and is found as the signature ingredient in some more luxury "Blue" products like May Lindrom's beauty balm concentrate called "The Blue Cocoon", Sunday Riley's tranquility cleansing balm called "Blue Moon" (Blue Tansy Leaf oil) and her sleeping night oil called "Luna". All products are relatively "oily" and you only need the littlest amount.
Blue Tansy is "calming", as it supposed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic, anti-histaminic and anti-fungal properties. Tanacetum Annuum is an essential oil with a very dark blue collar due to chamazulene. The aromatic description is sweet, warm fruity, with subtle floral, camphorous and herbaceous undertones. It's most often mixed in with other oils or ingredients to dilute it, as the recommendation is not to use concentrations above 5%. Although it has anti-inflammatory properties, some might have intolerance for it as it contains camphor, which can cause sensitivity. Therefore, I would not recommend to use multiple products containing Blue Tansy in conjunction.
Pure Blue Tansy oil is not easy to get hold of, thus an expensive ingredient. If I was asked choose one product, I would pick Sunday Riley Luna sleeping night oil which also contains Retinol. Luna is easy to use and incorporate in a night time regimen, is less expensive when compared to May Lindrom's "The Blue Cocoon", very popular amongst "beauty guru's" and receives many positive reviews. Alternatively, there are other evidence based skin care ingredients with proven anti-inflammatory properties, for example Arctiin (anti-inflammageing, stimulates hyaluronic acid and collagen production) and Licochalcone (also powerful anti-oxidant). They don't have the blue colour or "calming" odour, which some may find offensive.
Hope you enjoy healthy skin & take care.
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