Science of Skincare Products – Eczema Supportive Care

Elisabeth Briand Interview on Science of Skincare ProductsThis is a 4-part series focused on understanding the science behind skincare products so that parents of eczema children and eczema sufferers can better understand what goes into the bottle. For this series, I have Dr. Elisabeth Briand, R&D manager at Skintifique. Elisabeth holds an Engineering Master’s degree in food industry and a PhD in chemistry. Before working for Skintifique, she had 10 years experience in academic research as a physico-chemist, in France at Paris VI and Paris XI faculty of Pharmacy and in Sweden, at Chalmers University of Technology. In this interview, Dr. Elisabeth is helping us to understand the science of laboratory-tested skincare products.

MarcieMom: Thank you Elisabeth for joining me again for this last part of our skincare products. Ive covered in this blog that moisturizer has preventive effect on eczema and for those with eczema, moisturizing frequently is able to reduce the use of corticosteroid cream. What I would like to focus in this interview is whether the type of cream, how we apply and when we apply will make a difference in the functions of the moisturizer.

MarcieMom: We are aware that the more liquid a moisturizer is, the shorter time it will last but it is more comfortable to apply than an ointment (which has little to no water content), especially in hot and humid weather like Singapore or during summer. Does the nature of whether it is lotion, cream or ointment affects the efficacy of the skincare product? For instance, does being lotion meant it is more easily absorbed and being ointment meant it will be longer-lasting?

Dr Elisabeth: Many kinds of products are indeed available to help and promote skin health. The same principles as those described earlier work for all of them: products with few ingredients and safe ones will be better for sensitive and fragile skins.

Various kinds of products will, as you said, give different kind of feel and the aim may (or may not) be different as well. The purpose of the two products is different, while ointment is often used to bring a lot of fatty acids the skin and add an occlusive layer to reduce the TEWL (Transepidermal Water Loss or water that is lost through the skin), cream is more used to bring water to the epidermis, as well as other hydrophilic compounds that could be of interest. Creams bring also hydrophobic compounds (fatty acids, hydrophobic active ingredients, …) but to a lesser extent.

The long-term efficiency of a product will depend on how it is structured and how quickly the compounds are delivered to the skin and absorbed. For ointment, they generally have an occlusive layer that will remains on top of the skin, which is the purpose of these ingredients so that it can prevent water to evaporate from skin. So the feel it gives and that specific function will last for a rather long time. On the contrary, water and active compounds are delivered quickly and evaporate or absorbed quickly by skin. As a consequence, the moisturizing feel disappears rather quickly

One of the achievements that may be reached by using innovative structure is to make cream that have a feel comparable to a classical cream, but will display a long-lasting delivery of the active ingredients, and then combined some of the advantages from an ointment (long-lasting relief and effect) and from a classical cream (pleasant feel, bringing water to the skin).

Skincare Moisturizer as Eczema Support

MarcieMom: The other bigquestion that all parents have is each skincare company claims that their product is able to hydrate, build the skin structure better. These typically belong to the group of moisturizers that contain ceramides or have the ability to restore the skin lipids. In your view Elisabeth, is there certain characteristic (such as ingredients or process) that will differentiate a category of moisturizer as being better at restoring skin functions than others?

Dr Elisabeth: Efficiency is claimed by all companies, of course, because all products will bring the element that will help skin moisturizing, at least in the short term. It is clear however that some products will be more efficient than others; just like some products will have better feel than others etc. As mentioned in our previous discussion, this is why scientific innovation and knowhow comes into play: in our view, they are the key to make better, more efficient and safer products

Ceramides are indeed one of the components that enter in the composition of skin membranes and seems to play a role in its restoration. There are however several types of ceramides and all of them do not seem to display the same efficiency according to various recent publications. What will help skin to be restored is to protect it from threats, and nourish it with proper ingredients. A general appellation of Natural Moisturizing Factor has been created to describe these ingredients that can play a positive role in skin restoration. Ceramides are only one of them. For example, vegetal oils are mainly made of fatty acids that interact with skin cell membrane and help it to be “nourished”. Some of these oils also have additional compounds that will play a positive role. Glycerin, urea, aminoacids, cholesterol, and many other ingredients can play a role in restoring skin functions. What is important is to determine which ingredients will be helpful in a specific situation, and how you can maximize the efficiency of this ingredient in the molecular structure that you create inside the product.

MarcieMom: Readers of this blog are familiar with basic skincare, such as moisturizing right after shower and making sure to moisturize enough. Either due to cost or belief of effectiveness of certain way of moisturizing, some parents may

  • apply brand A moisturizer in the day, and brand B at night; or
  • apply brand A on certain days of the week and brand B on others (or alternate by weeks);
  • apply brand A (a lotion) and brand B (an ointment) over it.

In your view, which is the skincare moisturizing method that make sense? For instance, with constraints that many families have, such as budget and time to moisturize (e.g. child in school or simply to reduce the number of times moisturizing is needed).

Dr ElisabethA daily moisturizing routine is indeed driven by various factors, lifestyle included. A product can be efficient, but if it is a hassle to use it, it won’t be used properly and will become inefficient. I would say there is no “you have to” routine, just find one that is working for you. If you keep in mind the principles I already described: using efficient products with few and safe ingredients, you can find what works the best for you. And it may be completely different from what works for another person. And it can be the same product or products for a very long period of time. Regularly changing skincare products from time to time can be a good idea when you are using products that contain a lot of ingredients. or that contain an ingredient you are slightly sensitized to. So you will give a rest to your skin that would otherwise be exposed to some ingredients that could become unhealthy with time and regular use.

MarcieMom: Many eczema sufferers feel that rotating the emollient seems to make it more effective than always using the same emollient. Is there some basis for that?

Dr ElisabethThe efficiency of a product is determined by its ability to bring what is needed by the skin to be protected to help restore its functions. Rotating products can be a way to bring various efficient ingredients that are not found in only one products. But as I just mentioned before, there can be other reasons that can make an emollient less efficient, so you have to switch from it for a while. Some ingredients can lead to some sensitization of the skin. Not strong enough to give a rash, but strong enough to lead to some irritation if used over long periods of time, that would explain why a product would become less efficient. Reducing the number of ingredients can decrease this risk and in that case, your emollient will work for a longer time.

Thank you Elisabeth of being ever so patient in this series of interviews on skincare products, tackling specifically the science behind it. It is truly enlightening and practical!

For all interviews under this Science of Skincare Products series:

Science in the Bottle

Safety and Product Expiry Date

Stability

p.s. Declaration of no self-interest – is that what it’s called? lol Just want to let you know that Dr Elisabeth left a comment on my blog and I felt she was very helpful. When I realized her area of expertise, I suggested that we collaborate on a ‘science-y’ series as I’ve always been intrigued by it. No money has changed hands, only time invested to bring this series to you all!

#SkinishMom Says – Don’t link Contagious to Eczema

I came across this ‘harmless’ article that was simply sharing about the closure of a children zoo in Gothenburg (the second largest city in Sweden). What caught me was the headline “Animal ‘eczema’ closes Gothenburg kids’ zoo“. I know that animals get eczema but I’m curious about the inverted commas. So I read on and the writing below both infuriated and saddened me:

A statement on the park’s website added that vets had taken samples from the lambs and goats and were currently waiting for test results. Staff suspect that the animals have contracted a skin disease similar to eczema that can be passed between animals and humans and vice versa.

… one of the vets working at the zoo told the TT news agency that humans symptoms would include “sores and blisters on hands”.

I know the writer of the article was probably saying that the appearance of the rash looked similar to eczema and it was suspected that it could be pass on to humans. However, one could easily misread it as the skin disease was similar to eczema which is contagious.

Eczema is not contagious (PERIOD).

Eczema is not contagious

It saddened me because so many children and their parents all over the world are already struggling to manage the eczema in school. Apart from the difficulty of implementing a skincare routine in school, tacking the social impacts of eczema is also an uphill task. Schoolmates may think the eczema rash is contagious especially if the eczema child has rashes on the face, arms or legs, constantly scratching and the rash looks like it’s spreading on some days (flare-ups). Eczema children get shunned because they are feared to infect others. Their parents face a difficult task of explaining eczema to the teachers and getting the school to communicate with the students. We don’t need any news article to possibly further fuel the wrong notion that eczema is contagious, IT’S NOT!

I’ve emailed the online paper to request if they can amend their writing, will update when I hear from them.

#SkinishMom

 

Science of Skincare Products – Stability

Elisabeth Briand Interview on Science of Skincare ProductsThis is a 4-part series focused on understanding the science behind skincare products so that parents of eczema children and eczema sufferers can better understand what goes into the bottle. For this series, I have Dr. Elisabeth Briand, R&D manager at Skintifique. Elisabeth holds an Engineering Master’s degree in food industry and a PhD in chemistry. Before working for Skintifique, she had 10 years experience in academic research as a physico-chemist, in France at Paris VI and Paris XI faculty of Pharmacy and in Sweden, at Chalmers University of Technology. In this interview, Dr. Elisabeth is helping us to understand the science of laboratory-tested skincare products.

MarcieMom: Thank you Elisabeth for sharing with us your knowledge on skincare products. So far, we have covered the basics of the ‘science’ in skincare formulation and safety, expiration of skincare products. Today we are learning about the concept of stability in a skincare product.

Is it possible that a moisturizer has not spoilt but is no longer effective? Is technology required to hold the ingredientstogether to be stable?

Stability in Skincare Product ingredients

Dr ElisabethGenerally yes. The best skincare products can be quite sophisticated, “high tech” products, so if the structures that hold the different ingredients are degraded, then there can be a significant loss of efficiency. To make a parallel, if you stomp onto your mobile phone and it is crushed, you will still have all the components of the phone, but the structure will be destroyed and the phone may not work any more! Using industrial processes enable to make structures that will increase the stability of a product. You will not be able to achieve these structures with a bowl and a mixer. A lot of scientific and industrial knowledge is necessary to make products that will last for a long period of time.

At Skintifique, we have developed products that have very novel internal structures, which is what give them distinctive properties, be it for moisturizing the skin, protecting it from common allergens and irritants such as Nickel and other metals, or providing long lasting moisturizing and soothing.

MarcieMom: Any tips for parents to make sure that they are buying a product that is safe and stable and not using one which has stopped being so?

Dr ElisabethChoosing a product that is safe and efficient is a major concern for parents and people with sensitive skins. The first tip I would recommend is to choose skincare with the least number of ingredients. No ingredient is completely safe for everyone, and by reducing the number of ingredients you are exposed to, you minimize the probability your skin will react to one of the constituents. So in that case, fewer means safer. Of course, the better known the ingredients, the safer the products: a skincare product that would only contain 8 ingredients but 3 of which no one has ever heard of, or used in a skincare, would not necessarily be the safest choice…

I would recommend buying skincare from a brand you trust and that must fulfill stringent regulation. It can be established brands but also new ones (and as a representative of a new brand, I can only emphasize that some new brands can be even safer and better than established ones!), a keypoint is : do I trust this brand or do I have reasons to? Of course, one sometimes needs to try new products, if only to get better benefits than with current products, so then another keypoint is: can I make a test, eg buying initially 1 tube, or getting a sample etc. Some tips can help to reassure about the professionalism of a company: is there an easy way to contact them, are there some credential that tell you who is behind, are they prone to answer your question to one of their products, are their products manufactured in reliable places

Use products that have been designed for sensitive skins or children. They have been assessed by independent experts in toxicology with more stringent criteria, especially in the EU.

Since 2013, there is a new regulation (european cosmetic regulations) that have clarified what is necessary for a product, and fair labeling is a major part of it. Evidence has to be provided before a product can be labeled as suitable for children and sensitive skin. An independent toxicologist expert is mandated to consider all the evidences claimed for a product. What is not done yet is a previous approval of cosmetic product before it is commercialized, but you have to give all these information as soon as a state authority requests it. So if you are a serious skincare company, you have all the tests done, certificates needed and so on in a « cosmetic file » that is ready to be consulted by state authority. There can always be untrusted company that are selling  products with not all the tests made but if it is discovered, consequences can serious…
What is not described in the regulation is the exact method and tests you have to performed to build your evidence, but some consensual recommendations are coming out from bench of experts in toxicologist. As an example, one of these recommendations is to use much more stringent safe limit for a product destined for a child. To illustrate it, this is roughly how is estimated the toxicology profile of a cosmetic product for an adult and a child:
To determine if a product is safe for an adult and how much of this product, at the maximum, it is advised to applied on skin, you determine the exact concentration of each ingredient, and how much of each of these compound is applied on the skin. You have toxicological profile for each ingredient allowed in cosmetics, with the maximale dose at which it is not toxic. The limit of exposure for each of the component of the cream is determined, and the maximum amount of a skincare that can be applied daily is determined by the ingredient with the lower dose of exposure allowed.
To determine if a product is safe for a child, you make the same analysis, but with more stringent criteria. For exemple, the maximale dose of each ingredient allowed per day is divided by a factor of 2.3 and since you have to take into account the various mass of people (generally a factor 12 between a child and an adult), the overall factor of safety is about 27 compare to a product designed for an adult.

As long as it is within the expiry date or period after opening (PAO), and unopened, it should be safe, but as soon as the product has changed in color, odor, aspect, throw it away.

Thank you Elisabeth – now we all know what to look out for especially when most of us have so many creams and lotions at home for our eczema child and after keeping for some time, we struggle whether to throw it out or still use it.

p.s. Declaration of no self-interest – is that what it’s called? lol Just want to let you know that Dr Elisabeth left a comment on my blog and I felt she was very helpful. When I realized her area of expertise, I suggested that we collaborate on a ‘science-y’ series as I’ve always been intrigued by it. No money has changed hands, only time invested to bring this series to you all!

Eczema Support Group on Skincare and Skin Aging

Eczema Support Group Lunch Skin Aging and Care

Join us for a relaxing Friday lunch and meet new friends who are passionate about their skin

Caring for our skin is critical, especially as our skin is the largest surface exposed to sun and the environment. Skin ages both intrinsically and from external stress – sun exposure, air pollutants, smoking and lifestyle. In June’s Eczema Support Group’s session, we will learn with senior dermatology nurse Sister Wong:

  1. Skin structure and how Skin Ages
  2. Causes of Skin Aging
  3. Care for our Skin, answering questions such as the ones below and many more!
  • Sun protection : What sunscreen protection should you use? How to correctly apply sunscreen and don’t we need sun for vitamin D?
  • Bath : Should we bathe more or less? Hot or cold water?
  • Moisturizer: What lotion or cream to use? How do I know it is safe?

Sister Wong is the Senior Nurse Educator at National Skin Center and trained in Dermatology and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) Nursing in UK. She had spent many years in the inpatient nursing care in CDC and currently based in outpatient services in National Skin Centre. She is also in charge of training programmes for the nurses in Dermatology.

Mark your calendar on 5 June 2015, Friday, Lunch provided at National Skin Centre, Level 4, Room 401, 12.15 pm to 1.15pm

YOU MUST RSVP – You must RSVP so that we can order lunch and arrange the layout for the seats. If you’re coming, please email me ([email protected]) your name, mobile and email, number of adults & kids coming, and a NSC staff will confirm your RSVP.

Information shared during the session is not medical advice, information on my blog is not pre-approved by NSC.

Look forward to seeing everyone! Mei

Mom NeedyZz Cartoon – BFF tells it like it is

Mom NeedyZz Cartoon BFF tells it like it is marriageLast week, Kate was really struggling with asking for help and connecting with spouse Mark. Similar experience, anyone? Sometimes, it’s hard to ask for help.. just simply hard to even think how to ask when the day of taking care of a newborn is so energy sapping. Share your journey in any of the Mom NeedyZz cartoons here.

Ask #SkinishMom – Follow Hugh Jackman, get Regular Skin Cancer checkups

If you want to follow a celeb, follow Hugh Jackman’s lead in going for regular skin cancer checkups, especially if you’re at high risk. It’s reported by People that he was first urged by his makeup artist to have a spot on his nose checked in 2013. It turned out to be basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer. Subsequently, Hugh Jackman went for regular 3-monthly checkups and had 4 skin cancers removed.

Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

Given that Hugh Jackman hadn’t been using sunscreen and had lots of sun exposure, he’s at increased risk of skin cancer. The risk factors for skin cancer are:

Skin Cancer Risks

  • Sun Exposure. A tanned look is viewed as healthy but in fact, it’s quite the opposite! The tanned skin meant that the skin cells exposed to UV radiation had increased the production of melanin (skin pigment) to protect the skin from further damage. It is also often misunderstood that we need vitamin D and have to suntan. While it is true that sunlight helps to provide our body with vitamin D, the exposure should not be so much till you get a tan. Check out sun protection from the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Sun Exposure-related Factors. Your age (the longer you’ve lived, the more sun exposure), your gender (male, if work/sports is outdoors) and where you live (warm climate at high altitude).
  • Fair skin. The less pigment in your skin, the more likely for sun damage, therefore fairer skin is at higher risk. Also at higher risk if you have blonde or red hair, or skin that sunburns or freckles easily.
  • Moles. When moles take on a different shape, darker color or irregular edges, it may be a sign of skin cancer. According to a previous interview with dermatologist Dr Verallo Rowell in this blog, her advice was that while not all moles become skin cancer, the risk is higher when (i) there are many (more than 50), (ii) ‘ugly duckling’ sign where one mole looks different from the others, (iii) family history of melanoma, (iv) photo aging evidence and (iv) have characteristics of

A for Assymetry

B for border irregularity

C for irregular pigment distribution

D for diameter of 6 mm or more

E for evolving or changing noted in size

  • Personal or Family History. If you have had skin cancer or immediately family member with history of skin cancer.
  • Weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems (HIV) and those taking immunosuppressant drugs.
  • Exposure to radiation. People who received radiation treatment for cancer or skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne may have an increased risk of basal cell carcinoma.
  • Exposure to certain substances. Exposure to certain substances, such as arsenic, industrial tar, coal may increase your risk of skin cancer.

If you’re not in the high risk group or prefer to do some self-inspection, here’s the symptoms to look out for:

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers are named after the type of skin cells and basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer.

The symptoms of Basal Cell Carcinoma:

  • Unusual bump, sore, skin growth
  • Small, pale, waxy, translucent skin bump (center indent or blood vessels seen)
  • Red scaly patch
  • Brownish scar or flesh-colored lesion
  • Bleed if injured or crusted.

The symptoms are Squamous Cell Carcinoma:

  • Unusual bump, sore, skin growth
  • Rough (pink) skin bump
  • Red scaly patch
  • Bleed easily

The symptoms of Melanoma:

  • New spots on skin
  • Change in size, shape, texture, color or bleeding of an existing mole
  • Sore that does not heal
  • Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
  • Itchiness, tenderness or pain

Typically at the physician, there are a couple of tests including skin biopsy to get an accurate diagnosis. Check your skin regularly so that you’d know when something is out of the ordinary.

Slapping on sunscreen,

#SkinishMom

Science of Skincare Products – Safety and Product Expiry Date

Elisabeth Briand Interview on Science of Skincare ProductsThis is a 4-part series focused on understanding the science behind skincare products so that parents of eczema children and eczema sufferers can better understand what goes into the bottle. For this series, I have Dr. Elisabeth Briand, R&D manager at Skintifique. Elisabeth holds an Engineering Master’s degree in food industry and a PhD in chemistry. Before working for Skintifique, she had 10 years experience in academic research as a physico-chemist, in France at Paris VI and Paris XI faculty of Pharmacy and in Sweden, at Chalmers University of Technology. In this interview, Dr. Elisabeth is helping us to understand the science of laboratory-tested skincare products.

MarcieMom: Thank you Elisabeth for joining me again for this series. Im looking forward to this interview as its focused on safety and stability. Quite a few times I look at a product and wonder what will happen after the expiry date, and if it will spoil without visible change.

MarcieMom: Lets first discuss expiry date. How is this expiry date determined? Is there a real need for an expiry date, as in will certain ingredients really spoil?

Dr Elisabeth: Every product sold in established market must pass mandatory regulatory requirements that are essentially designed to ensure safety of the products for consumers. Expiry date of a product is one of the aspects that is often covered by regulatory requirements. I will talk here more about products produced or sold in European Union, which is one of the most stringent worldwide. It means the product must pass several tests that prove it will not spoil during that period of time.

To ensure the safety of a product, you can strictly follow the regulations that are mandatory, or you can also add extra care to that aspect. Regulation is the minimum required, and you can always do better by putting yourself higher internal requirements.

In products produced and/or sold in E.U., you can have two mentions of expiry, one is an actual expiry date, and the second one is Period After Opening or PAO.

If a product has passed tests that will prove it is stable for at least 36 months, expiry date is optional, but you have to indicate how long this product can be used safely after it has been opened. 

Period after opening symbol skincare

Period-After-Opening Symbol

Some other products will display an expiry date. There are multiple reasons to indicate an expiry date. It can be because

  1. the products did not pass the test for a period corresponding to three year/ 36 months,  
  2. it has not been tested for this long period of time or
  3. it has passed the test for that period of time, but for various reasons, it has been decided to shorten its shelf life.

In the last case, the reason behind is often to ensure a maximum of safety. The tests that mimic product aging are well known and well controlled but are still tests. Real life can be quite different than what has been modelized in a lab, and adding an expiry date is a way to ensure a maximum safety for customers.

Using a product for a longer period that is indicated may not be necessarily harmful, and the product can still be good, but you are on your own. There is no data to support the fact that it is safe or not…

Safety and Expiry Date in Skincare Product

MarcieMom: I suspect that an organic skincare lotion I bought may have got bacteria because after a few weeks of using, my daughter developed impetigo (or of course, the impetigo could simply be a complication from eczema and the scratching everywhere). What are the factors that increase the chance a skincare product will spoil? Is it the type of ingredients, where they are made and flown to, or what temperature they are kept in?

Dr Elisabeth: A serious skincare company will take great care of offering products with the best quality, to avoid risk of products spoiling.

The first factor that will induce spoiling of the product is the quality of raw ingredients used in the product and the quality of the manufacturing process. Having strict controls over these factors will help to avoid problems of contamination and oxidation, which are the most frequent causes of product degradation.

The quality of raw ingredients is obviously essential, as any contaminant present in the ingredients with contaminate the final products. Another source of contamination can be the material that is used to manufacture or package the product. Finally, the last main source of contamination is humans that work on the preparation of the cream. They must take great care of personal hygiene before working (washing hands, using single-use gloves, round cap and masks) and only do so under the highest safety and quality standards. The preservatives used in the skincare provide a good reassurance and generally protect the products reasonable well, but reducing the amount of microbiological contamination from the start, ie from the moment the ingredients are sourced and they are manufactured, is the best way to avoid spoiling later on. In E.U., manufacturers of skincare have to follow “good manufacturing practices” regulation, and at Skintifique, for instance, we have applied extremely strict criteria when choosing our suppliers of raw materials and our industrial partners, precisely so as to have the highest assurance on the quality and safety of our products

Stability tests are made to ensure a safe use of the product, but as I said earlier, these tests are designed to mimic quite standard situations. Real life conditions can be harder than what has been modelized. For example, sunscreen creams that have been forgotten in the car on a back sit, and stayed for a long time in a very warm environment, under the sun, have experience several cycles of heat/cooling, which is one of the harder conditions a skincare product can experience. These conditions exceed what have been tested in a lab, and the product can go bad earlier than what is said on the packaging. To ensure that a product will not spoil, you should keep them away from heat and UV. Putting them in a fridge can help keeping them, but may induce a change in the structure of the product (its texture won’t be the same).

MarcieMom: Thank you Elisabeth for sharing about safety and expiry dates of skincare products – next time when I’m offered the chance to visit a skincare company’s plant, I shall look out for these areas! Next week, we will touch on the stability of a product. Can’t wait to learn more!

p.s. Declaration of no self-interest – is that what it’s called? lol Just want to let you know that Dr Elisabeth left a comment on my blog and I felt she was very helpful. When I realized her area of expertise, I suggested that we collaborate on a ‘science-y’ series as I’ve always been intrigued by it. No money has changed hands, only time invested to bring this series to you all!

Mom NeedyZz Cartoon – A New Mom’s Day runs by 3 hours

Mom NeedyZz cartoon Spouse Help for New Mom

Why does a Mom who needs help feels she has to do it all?

I confessed – I did do it all even though it was very tough in the first year of taking care of my daughter with eczema – cooking 3 dishes and a soup and cleaning the house. Share your mom’s journey and what’s on your plate in any of the Mom NeedyZz cartoons here.

#SkinishMom Investigates – Apple Watch and Skin Irritation

There were quite a few reports of users getting skin irritation from wearing Apple Watch and this got #SkinishMom into an investigative mode. It’s not news that items we wear can cause skin irritation, for instance, nickel in jewelry is a common irritant. It’s also not news that wrist bands can lead to skin irritation, for instance, there was a voluntary recall for Fitbit Force after news of rashes last year. As for Apple, there was also a reported instance of a child getting skin irritation after using iPad (due to nickel allergy). So what’s with these materials and their contact with our skin?

Skin Irritation and Apple Watch - Top 6 Suspects

Suspect #1 – Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Nickel

Allergic contact dermatitis involves the immune system by which a hypersensitive reaction (rash) results from a previous contact with the allergen. Of the metal materials, nickel is one of the most common cited that cause this rash. In 2013, when UK issued new coins containing higher level of nickel, it was reported to pose an allergy risk.

For both Fitbit and Apple, there are nickel in the wristbands. From Apple website,

Apple Watch, the space gray Apple Watch Sport, the stainless steel portions of some Apple Watch bands, and the magnets in the watch and bands contain some nickel. However, they all fall below the strict nickel restrictions set by European REACH regulation.

REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It is a regulation of the EU, which is known for setting strict standards on safety. EU had restricted the amount of nickel in jewelry and products that come into contact with skin in the ‘EU Nickel Directive’.

If Nickel is so much trouble, why do jewelry and wristband manufacturers continue to use it? It is usually selected for its corrosion resistance, toughness, strength at high and low temperatures, magnetic and electronic properties that are superior to other metals.

Suspect #2 – Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Methacrylates 

Methacrylates is a polymer that is commonly used in adhesives and also in both Fitbit and Apple Watch. From Apple website:

The Apple Watch case, the Milanese Loop, the Modern Buckle, and the Leather Loop contain trace amounts of methacrylates from adhesives. Methacrylates are found in many consumer products that come in contact with the skin, such as adhesive bandages. Some people may be sensitive to them, or may develop sensitivities over time. Apple Watch and its bands are designed so that parts containing methacrylates are not in direct contact with your skin.

Suspect #3 – Irritant Contact Dermatitis to Sweat

Irritant contact dermatitis is a delayed hypersensitive reaction due to prolonged exposure to an irritant. There is a wide range of possibilities that trigger irritant contact dermatitis, almost anything is possible including our sweat. Since Apple Watch and fitness trackers are worn to keep track of heart rate and fitness goals, it is likely that it comes into contact with sweat. From an interview with dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee, she explained:

The salts from sweat can crystalize and act as an irritant to the skin. If you can see that your baby’s sweat has dried and has a salty residue, then I would recommend rinsing it off with plain water (no soap) to prevent it from becoming an irritant. If the sweat is not crystalized, I wouldn’t worry about it much.

Suspect #4 – Irritant Contact Dermatitis to Soap

Those familiar with eczema skincare know that soap is not recommended as it is drying (alkaline) and often irritate sensitive skin. In fact, soap is seldom patch tested as it is almost a certainty that leaving it on your skin for 2 days (norm period for patch test) will result in a rash. If your Apple Watch happens to trap the soap and you’re wearing it without removing, the soap may be the culprit behind the rash.

Suspect #5 – Heat Rash

If it’s hot and humid weather and your Apple Watch is constantly in contact with your skin, it may result in blocked sweat ducts. Similar to a common baby rash Miliaria (as babies have immature sweat ducts, thus more prone to blockage), your blocked sweat ducts can trigger skin rash.

Suspect #6 – Constant Friction

I couldn’t find a Pubmed article on friction and skin rash but from my understanding, it could be

  • Constant friction causes chafing that can be painful. Moreover, exposed skin is more vulnerable to irritants.
  • The sweat residue increases the friction.
  • Wet (sweaty) skin makes the chafing worse.

So What to Do if You Really WANT AN APPLE WATCH?

If you have not bought the Apple Watch

You can take a patch test to see if your skin will react to materials in Apple Watch, especially nickel. A patch test is quite expensive and take 2-4 days for the patch results to show and require repeat consultations to view how your skin has reacted. I read from WSJ that you can try taping a nickel coin on the inside of your arm for 2 days and see if a rash appear. (I’m not sure if it’s accurate reflection though as the nickel quantity or type of nickel alloy may be different.)

Or decide not to take the risk or take the risk with a later generation of Apple Watch (where possibly nickel and other improvements to apps would have been made!)

If you have bought the Apple Watch > No reaction – Good for you!

If you have bought the Apple Watch > Skin rash – Top 6 tips to Try

Skin Irritation and Apple Watch - Top 6 Tips to Limit Skin Rash

  1. Place a barrier between your skin and the wristband – you can put a layer of emollient over but be sure that your skin is clean. Slapping moisturizer on top of sweat and irritant may worsen the rash. Of course, use a moisturizer that will not irritate your skin in the first place (ingredients to avoid).
  2. Clean your sweat off and put on the watch only when your skin is clean and dry.
  3. Make sure to wash soap off or use a gentle non-soap cleanser if you have sensitive skin.
  4. If it’s hot and humid, you may want to take off the watch for a few hours. (Maybe when you’re sitting down and not exercising?)
  5. Not wearing it too tight or too loose – Apple had provided guidelines on this; both too tight and too loose can cause skin rash, think of a waist band that’s too tight or a watch that’s too loose and created friction.
  6. Keep the Apple Watch clean – it somewhat defeat the purpose of cleaning your own skin and then putting on something that has a host of sweat residue and debris for hours a day. Apple also has guidelines on cleaning their watch.

I’m actually glad that I didn’t go out to get an Apple Watch (it’s not available in Singapore anyway!) because I always get skin rash with watches (leather or metal) and a gym mate told me you can’t play all your iTunes songs on the Apple Watch and can’t blue tooth the songs from the watch to the earphone (gasp! That’s the main reason why I want an Apple Watch). Do share your experience in the comments!

Sticking to watch-free (skin rash free) wrist,

#SkinishMom

p.s. I’m not sure if Apple is reading this post, comments are my own, from understanding of skin, rashes and reading online. But if Apple is reading this, do amend a formatting error on your guideline – REACH, not REACh (sorry, but I kinda get irritated by formatting error!)

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