Archive for August, 2012

You friends may tell you how well they get on with this face cream or the other, but if you have sensitive skin, you may find that most water-based moisturisers you’ve tried are causing more problems that they solve.

Here’s why: in order to create a water based-cream, cosmetic manufacturers have to use two categories of substances that are not exactly skin-friendly: emulsifiers and preservatives. They often add a third type of additive called penetration enhancer  – a solvent that makes the product penetrate the skin faster.

  1. EmulsifiersFats and water don’t naturally mix, so an emulsifier is needed to create a smooth emulsion. Emulsifiers are designed to change the properties and behaviour of the fats and oils in the moisturiser, but there is a problem – our skin also uses an orderly structure of fats to maintain its integrity. It is called the intracellular matrix – if exposed to a lot of emulsifier, it will break down, causing a variety of problems from dryness to irritation and, in the long run, to more serious conditions like eczema.
  2. PreservativesThese are added to keep micro-organism off your face cream, which otherwise would really be a tasty snack to scores of bacteria, moulds and fungi. These are pretty resilient creatures – defeating them is quite a challenge and  it takes a pretty aggressive additive to keep them out. No wonder these additives often melt plastic, as described in this post:
  3. Penetration enhancersUnlike the two additives above, penetration enhancers are not a must, but cosmetic manufacturers often add them – if the skin doesn’t care to take in the product, then it must be made to. Penetration enhancers are solvents that react with fats and - like emulsifiers – they don’t discriminate between the fats in the moisturiser and the structural fats of our skin.

Healthy, strong skin has mechanisms to cope with these additives – after all, our skin is a barrier organ, designed to keep out substances that would harm us. In sensitive and  problem skin the barrier function is impaired, the offending substances have more of a chance to get into the living tissue of the epidermis and cause damage.

For all these reasons, a water-free face cream that nourishes your skin without exposing it to harmful additives is a lot more likely to  help your skin get back on its feet.



Rosacea – Symptoms and Causes

Posted by Luca Willington

What is rosacea?

A condition affecting blood vessels in the skin.

What are its symptoms?

Depending on the type of rosacea, the symptoms are:

  • Redness and flushing on the cheeks, nose, forehead and/or chin. This is called “Erythematotelangiectatic” rosacea  -  it’s a mouthful, but all it means is superficial reddening (erythema) and dilated or congested blood vessels (telangiectasia). The redness is aggravated by food triggers, intense physical activity and sun exposure (basically everything that increases blood flow and makes blood vessels dilate). In advanced cases burning and stinging sensations occur.
  • Facial reddening with papules and/or pustules that come and go (called “Papulopustular” rosacea). This type of rosacea looks similar to acne and it is sometimes called acne-rosacea. The difference is that rosacea does not present with whiteheads and blackheads like acne.
  • Thickening of the skin, affecting the nose in most cases, and sometimes also the cheeks, forehead, chin, eyelids and ears. This type is called “Phymatous” rosacea (from the Greek work Phyma = tuber, tubercle or swelling), and it is caused by the swelling of sebaceous glands (tiny glands that produce the oil-like substance which protects and lubricates our skin)
  • Bloodshot, irritated and watery eyes – this is “Ocular” rosacea, which occurs at the same time as, or sometimes before, rosacea symptoms affecting the skin. The eyes feel gritty, dry and/or itchy, and sensitive to light.

What causes rosacea?

Unfortunately the causes of the condition are not well understood. There are several hypotheses being researched, including:

1. Oxidation of fatty acids in blood vessel cellular membranes

Like all cellular membranes in our bodies, the cellular membranes of blood vessels are made of fatty acids, some of then unsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids are prone to oxidation, which leads to free radical formation. Our bodies have mechanisms to stop oxidative damage (using antioxidants), but in some cases the anti-oxidative response is inadequate. In such cases large amounts of free radicals might damage the blood vessels, which would then become leaky. Research conclusions1  published in 2003 document a link between rosacea and free radicals/oxidative reactions.

2. A fault in the skin’s anti-inflammatory response

Abnormally high levels of anti-inflammatory peptides were found in rosacea skin, pointing to the possibility that rosacea is caused by a fault in the skin’s inflammatory response.2

3. Tiny organisms that live on human skin

A mite (Demodex Folliculorum) and a bacteria (Helicobacter Pylori) have been suspected to cause rosacea. However, both organisms are commonly found on people who do not suffer from rosacea. While  is possible that their presence might aggravate  symptoms, it is unlikely either of the two organisms single-handedly trigger rosacea.


1. Öztas, M. O., Balk, M., Ögüs, E., Bozkurt, M., Ögüs, I. H. and Özer, N. The role of free oxygen radicals in the aetiopathogenesis of rosacea. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology Volume 28, Issue 2, pages 188–192, March 2003

2. University of California – San Diego. “Cause Of Skin Condition Rosacea Discovered.” ScienceDaily, 7 Aug. 2007