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Examining Skin: A Functional Barrier

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: March 2, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 12 of 13

New research on the different proteins of the skin and their metabolism could also lead to technologies helping skin produce its own sunscreen, which it already does to some extent. By activating histidase, an enzyme in the stratum corneum that breaks down into urocanic acid, a mild UV protectant results. Activating urocanic acid production in the skin would not replace the use of sunscreen during sun exposure, but it could provide an additional protection for everyday by enhancing the skin’s own ability to produce greater UV protection. In addition, it could allow for a very uniform protection, which, unless applied flawlessly, current sunscreen does not.

What the Research Reveals

The skin barrier may be composed of cells that appear dead but it is far from being a dead structure. It is an extraordinarily important, active, rich and complex structure. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is part of life and, more often than not, means the survival of a system by its overall improvement.

The stratum corneum represents a very specific and very interesting example. The challenge is not so much to improve the barrier but to move away from old practices that are deeply ingrained in our product design culture and that damage the barrier.

We need to let the skin protect itself, by nurturing a healthy barrier rather than to try and activate cell proliferation and, in the long run, risk hurting the very barrier that allows for these cells to be healthy and functional.

This is definitely the most important lesson that nature teaches us as we learn more about the way it works: Skin is beautifully made, and what makes it dysfunction is our lifestyle more than anything. In the light of what we know, we have to adapt our strategies to restore the skin barrier and, more importantly, not impair it while trying to rejuvenate, whiten or firm the skin. Our job is not to try and force it into doing better, but protect it from getting bad and trust that the healthier skin becomes, the more beautiful it is.

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