This is the 2nd part of the much-awaited Skin Health series, where I get to work with Dr Verallo-Rowell again (we last worked on Sensitive Skin Product Series in 2012). The series is inspired by my conversation with Dr Verallo Rowell’s daughter, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics) in Singapore when she mentioned her mom identified underlying health problems after seeing the skin of her friends. Dr Verallo Rowell is a renowned dermatologist, dermatopathologist and dermatology/laser surgeon who has authored of over 150 articles that have appeared in dermatology journals and meeting publications, and two books on skin and health. Read more on her here.
Understanding Skin and Health – Functions of Skin
The skin has a few important functions, (i) it protects the body from foreign particle, bacteria and it prevents moisture loss, (ii) the skin regulates body temperature, and (iii) the skin gives us a sense of touch. We understand that in atopic dermatitis, the immune cells in the skin mistook a (harmless) allergen to be harmful, resulting in skin inflammation.
MarcieMom: Does dry skin indicate possibility of eczema and other skin or health issues?
Will a person’s diet, lifestyle, smoking, drinking (caffeine or alcohol) affects the dryness of skin?
Dr Verallo-Rowell: People with the inherited form of eczema called atopic dermatitis almost always have dry skin but not all people with dry skin have skin or other health issues. Some people just have Congenital Dry Skin while others have Acquired Dry Skin from environmental agents such as too much hot water and strong detergents use; friction from clothing; frequent air travel, pollution, exposure to chemicals at work or play, or frequently staying in highly air-conditioned rooms.
Yes definitely – the diet is very important because what we eat forms the structure of our cells, in particular the lipid bi-layer of our cells where a balance of saturated and unsaturated oils, short and long chain fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 oils or transfats can contribute to inflammation at the molecular level to eventually manifest itself as skin dryness. Smoking is a strong oxidizing agent. Many studies have now shown it to therefore show much faster aging changes including dryness, wrinkles, toughening of the texture of skin. Too much alcohol affects the liver and caffeine dehydrates.
MarcieMom: We know that an infected skin patch feels warm to touch. Are there health conditions that affect how cold or hot our skin feels or cause a change in how cold or hot an object feels to us?
Dr Verallo-Rowell: Our skin when compared with skin of others in the same room or under the same environmental circumstances may feel hotter to touch when: febrile from any cause usually infections; in hyperthyroid persons; in rosacea ; when perspiring heavily. The opposite – feel colder to touch may occur in anemic, cachectic, hypothyroid people, or very sedentary people or anyone with lowered metabolism.
A change in how cold or hot an object feels to a person is affected primarily by the condition of the peripheral nerves. One sees this in Hansen’s disease, diabetic neuropathy, metal poisoning, and any other form of neuropathy affecting the peripheral nerves.
MarcieMom: The dermis contains collagen fibers that maintain the elasticity of the skin. In the subcutis, there are fat cells, nerve cells and blood vessels. There are many products that are marketed as containing collagen, be it to be consumed or applied on skin. How does the collagen from a drink find itself to the skin? And how does the collagen on a skincare product ‘dig’ itself to the collagen fibers of skin? Will it bind with the existing collagen fibers? Are they even the same collagen?
Dr Verallo-Rowell: Collagen are coarser fibers in the dermis that give skin its bulk or structure. Elasticity of the skin is given to it by the elastic fibers. The ingredients in the above products are soluble forms of collagen meant to add bulk, or elastin, meant to give elasticity. These ingredients are usually from animal or plant proteins with similar bulk forming effects though more likely just texturizing or moisturizing effects. They are extracts that blend into the formulation and not the collagen fibers or fibrils themselves. Many years ago collagen from cows (called Xyderm or Xyplast) were popular fillers that were what we used to inject into the skin. The molecules of collagen are too large to penetrate the skin and its barriers by topical application.
MarcieMom: Thank you Dr Verallo-Rowell, it is a reminder for me to eat healthily and also understand how our skin interacts with the environment!