What is GMO? Should you be bothered by its use?

As you may know, it is possible to “engineer” DNA, i.e. to modify the genetic material that makes bacteria, plants and animals, what they are.

DNA is modified all the time, right now in some of your cells as they divide and the complex enzymes that direct DNA duplication make a small mistake here and there. This is called a mutation. Most of them will go unnoticed. They happen in your skin and you may get a “sun spot” here and there because UV energy damaged DNA and the mutation was not corrected properly by the other enzymes in charge of fixing the mistake. These mutations are not directed by any plan, they just happen and, when they happen in an important gene, they may lead to cancer.

What does it mean to “engineer” a DNA change? Using sophisticated biochemical tools that include enzymes that can cut DNA in very well defined sequences, and other enzymes that can glue back the DNA, but this time with a “foreign” piece of DNA instead of the original, it is possible to make transgenic organisms.

This amazing technology is now being used to fight cancer. You may have somebody in your family who has benefited from “re-programming’ his/her immune system so that T cells – white blood cells that normally fight viruses – recognize and kill the cancer cells.
For plants, it is a different matter. Why would you genetically modify plants? That was the big question that plant biochemists were trying to answer when the technology became available. The question was, how can you use these techniques to benefit humanity? Now, decades after scientists got hold of the technology, we have some examples of how they were used. Some applications may seem useful, others just silly. We also found out in the intervening years that there were dangers in using the technology that we did not even know existed.

First, let me re-tell you a story you may already know. Between 1845 and 1852 there was a great famine in Ireland that resulted in a huge population decrease made of emigration plus one million deaths. The main factor in this terrible human disaster was a microscopic fungus called Phytophtora infestans, and this fungus infected potato which was the main foodstuff for the Irish population, the disease is called potato blight. At that time, there was no effective method to contain the fungus so that was it. There was no food and many people died.

Now there are fungicides that can contain this fungus. But wouldn’t it be nice to have potatoes that are resistant to the fungus? After all, people want “organic” potatoes grown without any insecticides or fungicides or even synthetic fertilizers. In any case, fungi are very good at evolving so that they become resistant to the fungicide.

A potato breeder may get lucky and find or create a variety that is more resistant to the fungus. This actually happened and the gene responsible for resistance to potato blight was found and cloned, available for further genetic manipulation. It would be nice to be able to insert that gene into potatoes that are sensitive to the fungus, and this was also done using genetic engineering, something that looks a bit like the “cut and paste” that we can do using word processing.

Would you mind eating these potatoes? The process is not very different from the one used by experienced potato breeders that select for favorable genetic characteristics and breed crops to get better. I would not mind at all. It would remove one cost (fungicides) of the cultivation of potato.

I may object, however, to other uses of genetic engineering. I don’t like the idea of a crop making a protein that is not made by that species, like, say, a plant making an insecticide (and whose effect on humans may not be well known). This is the case of corn engineered to make a bacterial toxin, working as an insecticide. Another: I would not like to see a plant making a human protein, like barley being genetically engineered to make human epidermal factor. What is the advantage in that?

And here we get to yet another objection to genetic manipulation of crops: we will never know enough about nature to be able to predict all possible bad outcomes of human intervention. One of those became apparent when butterflies die when they pollinate corn engineered to make a bacterial toxin. Another: a gene that confers resistance to a herbicide was acquired by non crop plants, starting a strain of super weeds.

Nobody knows what we don’t know, so it is presumptuous of scientists or CEOs of seed companies to sit down and decide what crop is going to be engineered next and how. This is why the European Union is very strict in deciding what can be done and to which crop. Unfortunately, other countries are not that careful. For example, Argentina has huge areas of the country now planted with transgenic soy resistant to glyphosate, a herbicide that is now sprayed in abundance on those huge areas of the country, affecting the health of people, plants and animals. To make things worse, this is the resistance gene that has been spread outside the crop, so now we have weeds resistant to glyphosate. What has been gained? There were some temporary financial gain for those planting soy because the yield was higher at a time when the demand for soy was high too, but the loses inflicted on everybody else are also high.

This is just one example to illustrate the complexity of the problem and the importance of accepting that we don’t know everything.

Now, let’s talk about specifics. We, at Skin Actives don’t use ingredients obtained from genetically modified plants. We don’t need to.

We are in favor of everything that is good for the environment. I (HNS) studied ecology at school when it was a relatively new science so I am very aware of environmental interactions. For example, I would not engineer barley to make EGF because I know that genes can be transferred between plants and I don’t like to introduce unknowns when there is enough stuff to worry about.

All of the above does not mean that I am not receptive to genetic engineering of plants. I still remember when plant engineering was almost a dream and scientists were suggesting ways that the technology could be used. Somebody suggested vaccines made in bananas (I don’t remember how the proteins were supposed to evade digestion), another was increasing starch accumulation in potato to make better French fries. If you can think of a good use for genetic engineering of plants, please let the scientists in your local university know. On the other hands, there have been many ideas that did not work out very well. For the time being, genetic engineering is a beautiful tool already in use to help humans fight cancer but it is still waiting for good ideas on how to use them for plants.

Glycans in Skin Care

(From the July 2014 newsletter)

We know that genetic information is carried by our genes in DNA, and by the RNA and proteins resulting from the DNA-carried information. But glycans also carry information in processes like cell growth and apoptosis, folding and routing of glycoproteins, cell-cell interactions and cell adhesion and migration.

Lectins are proteins that recognize specific glycan configurations and are involved in recognition of pathogens. The carbohydrate-binding activity of most lectins resides in a small portion of the protein. For a history of 130 years of research on lectins, see the review by Nathan Sharon and Halina Lis (2004)

People old enough to remember the Cold War may remember a particularly nasty example of lectin use in a political assassination: ricin. How does ricin kill? It binds to human cells containing either terminal N-acetyl galactosamine or beta-1,4-linked galactose residues. Another example of a very relevant lectin is the influenza virus hemagglutinin, responsible for the attachment of the virus to the host cells, a prerequisite for infection.

At Skin Actives, we have been using Glycobiology research for quite a while, and have written in our newsletter about the benefits of yeast beta glucan. Dectin-1 is a lectin, a small trans-membrane receptor which recognizes beta-1,3 and beta-1,6-glucans, granting humans innate immunity.

Lectins and the Skin

The first human lectin was identified in 1974, but the work on skin lectin receptors lags well behind that on receptors present in other human organs. There is a receptor lectin in fibroblasts and keratinocytes that recognizes rhamnose (a methyl pentose) not synthesized by humans. From the point of view of skin aging, an issue so dear to the skin care industry (including us at SAS!) it is known that applying rhamnose containing glycans to the skin stimulates cell proliferation, decreases elastase-type activity, stimulates collagen biosynthesis, and protects hyaluronan against free radical mediated degradation. This is a very useful effect, even if we don’t know what the primary function of this receptor lectin is supposed to be. Based on what we know about lectin receptors, we can hypothesize that they have something to do with the beneficial bacteria that live on our skin, but the receptor could also be just an evolutionary leftover. Living organisms, even viruses, possess sophisticated enzymatic systems devoted to making the glycans and also the lectins to recognize them, so I am sure there are more interesting stories to be discovered by scientists that will be later used in medicine and even skin care.

People with skin conditions characterized by excessive cell division, like psoriasis, should avoid glycans that promote cell division (dectin-1 seems to be over-expressed in psoriatic skin), but glycans that modulate the immune response, like fucoidans and yeast beta glucans, should be fine.

Lectins may have implications for allergy: galectin-3 is highly expressed in epithelial cells including keratinocytes and is involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory skin diseases by affecting the functions of immune cells. For example, galectin-3 can contribute to atopic dermatitis and may also be involved in the development of contact hypersensitivity by regulating migration of antigen presenting cells. Human milk contains non-digestible oligosaccharides, another connection to the role of glycans in allergy.

Among the cell-cell recognition related lectins, there is one receptor involved in the uptake of melanosomes by keratinocytes, but we are a long way from being able to use this information for a therapy in melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Glycan vs. Polysaccharides (see also Newsletter September 2012 and polysaccharide refresher)

The terms glycan and polysaccharide were originally synonyms meaning “compounds consisting of a large number of monosaccharides linked glycosidically”. Nowadays the term glycan may also be used to refer to the carbohydrate portion of a glycoconjugate, such as a glycoprotein, glycolipid, or a proteoglycan, even if the carbohydrate is only an oligosaccharide.

Glycans usually consist only of monosaccharides linked by O-glycosidic linkages. For example, cellulose is a glycan (or, to be more specific, a glucan, because it is made of glucose) composed of β-1,4-linked D-glucose. Chitin is a glycan composed of β-1,4-linked N-acetyl-D-glucosamine. Glycans can be homo- or heteropolymers of monosaccharide residues, linear or branched.

Glycans at Skin Actives Scientific

We use many glycans in our products: hyaluronic acid, pullulan, Aloe barbadensispectin polysaccharides (rich in uronic acid), apple pectin, galactoarabinan, oat beta-glucan, Laminaria Japonica fucoidan, oat beta glucan, Opuntia (prickly pear) glucan.

Our Glycan-7 booster blend is a combination of plant and fungal extracts that will promote collagen synthesis and fibroblast division and modulate the immune response. This mix includes glycans from aloe, apple, larch, yeast, oat, and brown algae. This group of seven is just a selection from the many glycans we offer that benefit the skin.

Aloe Vera – The gel obtained from Aloe barbadensis plant improves skin hydration, has anti-inflammatory properties and aids healing of cuts, grazes, burns and insect bites. The polysaccharides in this extract include acetylated mannans.

Apple pectin is a complex polysaccharide that contains rhamnose. Fibroblasts contain receptors for rhamnose (more about this later), and binding of rhamnose to the receptor leads to increased synthesis of collagen and strengthened epidermal-dermal junction. Apple pectin helps thicken skin thinned by aging.

Larch arabinogalactans – In native North American Indian tribes, larch was used as a poultice on sores, ulcers, burns and to alleviate itching. When biochemists looked into larch, they found that arabinogalactans stimulate dermal fibroblast activity and proliferation, and promote keratinocyte differentiation and the production of keratinocyte growth factor. Note: Dr. Andrew Weil, a proponent of integrative medicine (which incorporates scientifically proven botanicals into the daily practice of medicine) uses this active in his Origins line.

Yeast beta glucan – The cell wall of yeast is very complex, with a structure that includes beta(1–> 3)-glucan, beta(1–> 6)-glucan, chitin, and mannoprotein. When we come in contact with these special glycans, our immune system is activated so that, when a pathogen is encountered, we are better able to deal with it and stop an infection. Apparently, this response may also prepare us to stop our own “gone bad” cells, those that have lost the capacity to control cell division and have become cancer cells. A great advantage to allergy sufferers: yeast beta glucan (and that of other fungi) seems to decrease the tendency to allergic response and inflammation, and as an added bonus it tightens your skin. A recently discovered lectin is dectin-1, a small cell surface protein that recognizes beta 1,3 and beta1,6-glucans and is a source of innate immunity, i.e. immunity that does not require previous exposure to pathogen.

Fucoidans are sulfated polysaccharides that when applied to the skin increase the density of collagen bundles, decrease activity of proteases (enzymes that break down dermal proteins), increase scavenging of free radicals, and increase cell proliferation. In addition to helping with healing and collagen synthesis, fucoidan inhibits the replication of many viruses, including herpes, human cytomegalovirus, and HIV-1.

Prickly pear (Opuntia fruit) extract – This beautiful fruit contains methylated rhamnogalacturonans (L-arabinose and D-xylose are also represented), giving this extract medicinal powers in treatment of burns, edema, and asthma.

Oat beta glucan – Cereal beta-glucan is a mix of linked (1 -> 3) (1 -> 4)-beta-D-glucan with anti-inflammatory properties.

Sharon, N. and Lis H. (2004) History of lectins: from hemagglutinins to biological recognition molecules, in Glycobiology, 14: 53R–62R.
Faury G, Ruszova E, Molinari J, Mariko B, Raveaud S, Velebny V, Robert L. (2008) The alpha-1-rhamnose recognizing lectin site of human dermal fibrolasts functions as a signal transducer. Modulation of Ca++ fluxes and gene expression. Biochim.Biophys.Acta. 2008. pp. 1388-1394.
Noss, I; Doekes, G; Thorne, PS; Heederik, DJJ; Wouters, IM (2013) Comparison of the potency of a variety of beta-glucans to induce cytokine production in human whole blood Innate Immunity 19: 10-19.
Oh JH, Kim YK, Jung JY, Shin JE, Chung JH. (2011) Changes in glycosaminoglycans and related proteoglycans in intrinsically aged human skin in vivo. Experimental Dermatology. 20:454-6
Larsen, Larissa, Chen, Huan-Yuan; Saegusa, Jun, Liu, Fu-Tong (2011) Galectin-3 and the skin. J Dermatological Science, 64: 85-91.

July is Eczema awareness month

Eczema. Is there anything you can do?
Your skin is rashy, red and itchy. And this is not the first time. What is going on? Anything you can do to fix it? Is it caused by an irritatnt (like alcohol or sodium lauryl sulfate) or by an allergen (balsam of Peru, idebenone)?
You may not be able to “fix” eczema, because it has to do with the way your immune system responds to stuff. Inflammation is a symptom, and you are the detective in charge, if you are a good detective you will be able to control your eczema.
Is it irritation? Maybe you are using a disinfectant with a lot of alcohol in it, or a no-wash antibacterial. When did the problem start? Eliminate one by one the suspect products and see whether your hands get better.
Is it allergy? Maybe you started using a new toothpaste (all natural! Good for you!), but the ingredients in it are allergenic.
Is it your grandchild and a worsening nappy rash? Check the fancy nappy rash cream that “influencers” say it’s the new wave in baby products. Honest!
You need to get to know your body, and nobody but you can tell you what you are doing that may be hurting your skin. Once you have a predisposition to allergies, you need to get familiar with your body and avoid aggravating the situation. The easiest first step is to avoid fragrances. If you like a particular fragrance, maybe keep a potpourri with it in your closet. It is true that the sense of smell is precious, but don’t indulge it at the expense of your health.
If it was a bug bite, use some cortisone cream, perfect for emergencies. For larger areas, you can use Skin Actives soothing serum or anti-inflammatory cream.
You may suspect that it is a food you are allergic to, but be careful, because you may end up with an exclusion diet that leaves you with a serious vitamin deficiency or a protein deficiency.
If you recently started with a new medication, check with your doctor. In fact, antibiotic allergies can develop rapidly and land you in the ER.
Will the allergy get better? They rarely do, and you may need to get “proper” allergy tests to find out what is going on.
Before you make an appointment with the doctor, make a first inspection of the ingredient lists for the products you use. It may be hard to believe but some companies use known allergens as ingredients. Check for Balsam of Peru, a very natural ingredient that is also very allergenic and can be found in some diaper rash creams (!).
Do the earrings you got as a present contain Nickel? Have you been taking lovely, fragrant bubble baths? Sodium lauryl sulfate is great for bubbles but don’t use it in your bath, it is a common irritatnt (it is OK to use it to blow bubbles, though).
Many clients ask why we at Skin Actives don’t use fragrances or essential oils in most of our products. Fragrance is a “luxury” many of us can’t afford because we have a tendency to develop allergies. Essential oils may be natural but natural has nothing to do with allergenicity: it all depends on how the chemical structure of the chemical interacts with your body. If there is a perfume you know is OK for you, you can add a few drops to your Skin Actives products. Even better, just use it as a perfume so you don’t complicate your life unnecessarily.
When we at Skin Actives use an essential oil, like in our UV repair cream, it is because one or more of its chemical components has a particular benefit.
If you are in the middle of an eczema episode, stop making things worse. Avoid harsh soaps, and apply a good barrier cream. When you wash your clothes, use a washing detergent without enzymes (proteases) and the double rinse cycle. An over the counter allergy medication like Zyrtec (cetirizine) can also help.
When eczema, diaper rash, or periodontal dermatitis happen is a good time to use your common sense and stop trusting advertising and cartoons depicting cute babies. Read the ingredient list and if you see Peruvian balsam oil, ran and take your baby with you.

Your skin at 80: a horror story with a happy ending

Is it too early to think about how your skin will look when you reach 80? Maybe, but to me it feels just like yesterday when I was a teen at the beach trying to get as brown as possible (it was considered cool), and even better if I could get my nose and cheeks to peel off.

In your teens, you worry about acne, and as soon as acne is under control (if you are lucky), you start noticing fine wrinkles (their arrival probably accelerated by the benzoyl peroxide in the anti-acne products you used). Your pores look definitely larger and you start worrying about how your skin is going to look in your 30s.

Close your eyes again and you are thinking about cosmetic surgery for your wrinkles, but worrying that you may end up looking like a Halloween version of what you used to look like. And with good reason: tight skin and puffy lips (pumped up with cross-linked collagen) don’t look very attractive.

By now, you are 50+ and feel sorry about the loss of eyelashes and eye brows. Should you get a eye brow tattoo and/or maybe glue some flake eyelashes? By now, you have lost most of your original eyelashes and look a bit like a Martian used to look in cartoons. You get a temporary tattoo for your eye brows and now you lose most of what was left of your original ones. You wish the fashion were back to the 1940s when Hollywood stars used to pluck their eyebrows to a thin line.

Close your eyes again and you are 70+. Your skin feels paper dry and tight, itchy and uncomfortable. Your dermatologist has sent some worrying looking moles that she had to remove to be biopsied. A bruise takes longer to heal and you try hard to avoid any blister or cuts because they take forever to go away.

But you never thought about 80! Just yesterday you were a teen worrying about acne and getting a perm (or straightening your hair, whatever was in fashion then). How much of this was caused by you and you treating your skin and hair as if it were going to last forever until it is not?

Forget about guilt. We are all to blame for taking our bodies for granted. Be happy and start taking care of yourself right now, even if if feels like it is too late. It isn’t.

If you have a child, make sure she has sunscreen and even a rash guard when she goes to the pool. A quick shower afterwards will remove most of the chlorine and other ROS* deposited on her skin.

For your acne afflicted pre-teen or teenager or even for you, avoid benzoyl peroxide and other fast and furious anti-acne products that will bring some relief with a high cost later in life. Go for a multi-faceted anti-acne strategy that protects the skin at the same time.

In your 20s, don’t agonize over fine wrinkles. Use products that will help your skin produce energy, renew cells and make matrix proteins and hyaluronic acid, and protect it from ROS*.
Keep doing this.

As you approach menopause, think about replacing that vanishing estrogen, vital for your skin and hair vigor. Keep preventing DNA mutations that will bring age spots and the danger of skin cancer, you have stem cells in your skin but you still need to prevent mutations from damaging them.

As your approach your 70s, keep nourishing your skin, making up for the decrease in blood vessels that used to provide amino acids, vitamins and essential fatty acids to your skin, which is perpetually renewing and in need of nutrition to make it possible. Vitamin A and epidermal growth factor will give the extra push it needs.

And then, when you reach the 80s, and even your 90s, you will find that your skin looks different but feels comfortable and it keeps infection away, it protects your from the elements and keeps your body well hydrated.

You will see your beauty, different from when you were a baby but still there, allowing you to keep loving yourself and living a full life.

In every stage of your life, keep Skin Actives working for you and your family.

Is your sunscreen to blame for coral bleaching?

Corals are among the most amazing and beautiful and complex living beings. What we see is an exoskeleton made of calcium carbonate that has been formed slowly by the whole colony, made of identical individual polyps. These polyps are marine invertebrates of the phylum Cnidaria; in this phylum, members of the class Anthozoa are the reef builders, but you may be more familiar with other members of the phylum that include the nasty, if beautiful, jellyfishes.

Corals are even more complicated than “just” the colony of tiny polyps making a beautiful exoskeleton that used to end up as beautiful earrings and necklaces (this practice is not heavily regulated).

How do these polyps feed themselves? They may use their tiny mouths to eat some passing plankton or even tinier fish, but their static position limits this source of food. The solution? They incorporate food producers into their own bodies: most of their energy and nutrients is derived from photosynthetic unicellular dinoflagellates that live within the polyps. These photosynthetic organisms are commonly known as zooxanthellae. Corals that depend on photosynthetic organisms for energy are limited to clear waters and water depths that allow enough light reaching the zooxanthellae.

What is coral bleaching?

In some stressful environmental conditions, the polyps in the coral can expel the zooxanthellae. This happens when the temperature increases (or decreases) beyond a certain limit, or there may be a change in nutrient availability of light. A change in temperature is the kind of stress that may make the symbiosis of coral and algae unsustainable. This does not mean that the coral is dead, the polyps are still viable, but will now depend on what food they can obtain from the environment. Also, they can be re-colonized by other zooxanthellae that may be better adapted to the new conditions, or the temperature change may be transitory.

There is no doubt that a gradual increase in sea temperature has first bleached and then killed many corals. Now, however, a new possible cause has been revealed. Not surprisingly, adding an unusual chemical to the environment can damage corals, and this has lead to a new law in Hawaii that bans the use of chemical sunscreens. In one paper, it was shown that adding sunscreen to a container where a piece of coral had been placed lead to bleaching (loss of the algae). This is a crude study, unlikely to represent anything remotely like real life because we don’t apply sunscreen to corals! What we do, if we care enough about our skin health, is apply sunscreen to our skin. If the sunscreen happens to have a chemical sunscreen (not a physical one like zinc oxide) it will be washed into the sea and within minutes it will be broken down by the sunlight. In fact, one of the problems with chemical sunscreens is that they are so unstable under sunlight.

Why do scientists do bad science (because this study of effect of sunscreen on corals is bad science)? Many reasons, and the main one is that scientists are human. One of humans’ bad traits is that we may wish to be famous for the 15 minutes allocated to scary scientific news. I am not going to give a list of these scary (bad science) scientific news because 1) it will lengthen the 15 minutes of fame allocated to the bad scientists and 2) this is the way that bad science is perpetuated. Apparently, we seem to remember false news even better than we remember the true ones.

Another reason may be that false news may help hide the real ones, like the fact that the warming up of the sea, caused by global warming, definitely causes coral bleaching.

And a third one: due to the crazy rules that dictate what is a “charitable” organization in the USA, anybody can start a “not for profit” company in a day or so, and start collecting donations via a website based on any dramatic piece of bad science, especially if the news touches of something as dear to humans like corals.

Here you have the triad: dramatic scientific news (bad science usually), a precious natural treasure like corals and the prospect of making fast money out of people (i.e. the marks).

What can you do about corals? First, don’t panic. We at Skin Actives have always been involved in doing good science, supporting sustainability, protecting the environment and participating in societies that support these aims. That’s what we do.

The skin of men

Why do women spend so much money and time taking care of their skin and men don’t?

Is this because the skin of men and women are so different in anatomy and physiology and biochemistry? No. The difference is in the expectations we have: women rely on their appearance more, while men are judged by society by other parameters.

There are a few differences: men’s skin tends to be thicker. Another: if they wear a beard, it will cover more skin blemishes.
Because they don’t wear makeup, there will be less makeup caused damage to the skin (and eyebrows and eyelashes and hair).

Not all differences are advantages: acne tends to be more devastating for men, and the scars will be even deeper.

What does this all mean? That men should take care of their skin just as women do. They will live just as many years and will need their skin to be comfortable and protect them from changes in ambient temperature, from microbes and from the environment in general.

My suggestions:
1) For young men suffering from acne, gift them our acne kit.
2) Sunscreen! UV is the major cause of skin aging. And don’t forget hats.
3) To repair damage and help with scars: collagen serum
4) To help with dry skin: our ELS serum, with every lipid his skin needs to protect effectively
5) For aging skin: anti-age cream, UV repair cream.
6) To protect from pollution in cities: antioxidant serum. Free radicals, including those formed when UV radiation hits the skin, are a major cause of skin damage and aging.
7) To protect against hair loss: hair care serum. And if they don’t like gray hair, go for Skin Actives gray hair serum.

8) Beard! If he wants a beard, the very best beard care is at Skin Actives!

Skin Health Awareness Quiz

Here are the answers for the Skin Health Awareness Quiz for May 2018. Thank you to those who participated!

1.Which of these environmental factors damage the skin?

  • UV light
  • Pollution from car exhausts
  • Hydrogen & benzoyl peroxide in skin care products
  • Disinfection by-products (DBPs) in pools
  • All of the above

2. Which of these skin problems can be caused by sun damage?

  • Hyperpigmentation & hypopigmentation
  • Wrinkles and loss of elasticity
  • Gray hair
  • Skin cancer
  • All of the above

2. What is the best way to reduce the visible signs of damaged skin?

  • Pick at any blemishes
  • Use a magnifying mirror
  • Schedule expensive and damaging aesthetic procedures
  • Cover with layers of makeup
  • Use Skin Actives products, like Collagen Serum

4. Which of the following products will help protect skin and keep it looking healthy?

  • Antioxidant Serum
  • Advanced Protection SPF 30 Sunscreen
  • UV Repair Cream
  • Collagen Serum
  • All of the above

May is skin cancer awareness month.

What is cancer?

All the cells in our body, and in all multicellular organisms, are regulated in multiple ways to make it possible for the organism to function as a whole. Cell division is a very tightly regulated process, and many genes participate in its regulation.
As we age, our cells divide again and again and, despite all the corrective mechanisms that ensure that there are no major “typing errors” when DNA duplicates, errors occur. These are called mutations.

We can see that our skin cells have mutated in the sun spots that accumulate as we age. This means that the DNA mutations have affected, in one way or another, the complex process of synthesis of melanin and its transfer from melanocytes to skin cells. In itself, this is not a big deal, although some of these pesky sun spots can be ugly, at least for the person who see them in the mirror.

More importantly, these mutations may affect one or more of the genes that regulate very tightly skin division in the skin. Some of these changes may be benign and non invasive, like the ugly skin tags. Other may endanger our lives.

Why is skin cancer so common these days? It has to do with changes in the environment and in social habits. Some chemicals destroy the layer of ozone in the atmosphere (the infamous ozone holes) that prevent some UV from reaching us. Also, people of light skin that used to live far from the equator (that is how the light skin type evolved, so that people in that latitude could make vitamin D) decided to move near the equator and have beach vacations. We also live much longer lives thanks to advances in medicine and agriculture, so our bodies have more time to accumulate DNA mutations. These factors, plus others we may not know about, have increase the incidence of skin cancer. We have to deal with this unhappy situation and that means protecting ourselves better.

Dangerous skin cancers include melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a somewhat less dangerous type of skin cancer, but all types of skin cancer require treatment and that is when you really need a dermatologist. Dermatologists are experts at spotting skin irregularities that may be signs of trouble, and when in doubt they will do a biopsy. Amazing scientific advances mean that some types of cancer, including melanoma, that used to kill, can now be attacked with sophisticated molecular biological tools, but the sooner you see your MD, the better.

If you want to learn more about what cancer is, you can read “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Beautifully written and researched.

What can Skin Actives do for you

If you want to prevent skin cancer, there are things you can do. You cannot change your genetic makeup (although this may be possible in the future), the result of the lottery that we win and/or lose during conception. But sunscreen is a necessity, especially in some latitudes and some times of the year. Skin Actives also offers (besides sunscreen) antioxidant products that will help you prevent further mutations, so use them. Our UV repair cream can also help.

These days, there are many products that advertise their power to repair DNA. None of them has been proven, so think before you buy them. Using a bad product is not just a waste of money, it is a waste of an opportunity to use an effective one.

Excellence In Dermatology Research Career Development Award $20,000

Skin Actives Scientific LLC is accepting applications for research proposals targeting the amelioration of damage to hair, skin, lips, and nails from the treatment of diseases including, epidermal barrier dysfunction and repair, cutaneous side effects from systemic medications, and inflammatory dermatologic conditions associated with internal diseases.

Please see the PDF below for more information.

Grant Letter