Dermatologists, Sun Bathing and Eczema

Dermatologists can be accused of having contradictory attitudes towards sun exposure. On the one hand, to prevent skin cancer we routinely advise against sun bathing, but on the other, we often treat common skin disorders like eczema ("atopic dermatitis") or psoriasis with ultraviolet (UV) light.  Now there is even reason to think that too little exposure to sunlight may be why allergic diseases, like atopic dermatitis, have become so much more common in recent years.  What is going on with … [Read more...]

What Is The Skin Barrier, And Why Does It Matter?

The skin barrier is like a brick wall. The cells or "bricks" are surrounded by fat (lipids) or "mortar". Credit: Mary L. Williams Why Have A Skin Barrier? Our skin barrier is what stands between us and the outside world. But the skin barrier is more than a mere fence or line drawn in the sand to separate "inside" from "outside", or "here" from "over there". Our skin barrier protects from many different types of threats to our well-being. We probably think of these primarily as perils coming … [Read more...]

Do pores on the skin need to breathe?

  Pores on the skin represent openings of hair follicles and sweat ducts.  These pores do not ‘breathe’ in the usual sense – our lungs take care of that need.  Yet, it can help to keep your pores open.  Sweat gland openings can become obstructed – for example, by wearing skin tight clothing when we exercise.  This can result in an itchy heat rash, or miliaria,  Hence, it is advisable to avoid overdressing when it is hot, and to remove sweaty clothing and shower as soon as possible after … [Read more...]

Highlights from the 2013 IID. Part 7: Is Acne a Disorder of the Skin Barrier?

It has been known for decades that the formation of keratinous plugs in the outlet of the sebaceous follicles is the first step in the process of acne vulgaris.  These 'comedones', (called 'open comedones' (blackheads) if the opening of the pore is wide and the plug is visible; and 'closed comedones' (whiteheads) if it is tiny and the plug buried under the surface), precede the development of inflammatory lesions (what we call pimples). It has also been known for a long time that individuals who … [Read more...]

Highlights of the IID. Part 5: The microbiome of normal skin and atopic dermatitis

The gut and its bacterial flora – its ‘microbiome’ – is receiving a lot of attention from scientists and their findings are being closely followed by the lay press.  The skin’s microbiome, too, has become a hot topic among dermatologic researchers, as evidenced by the number of papers and reports dealing with the subject at the 2013 International Investigative Dermatology meeting in Edinburgh.  Of these reports, several dealt with the microbiome in atopic dermatitis (or eczema).  This is of … [Read more...]

Highlights of the IID 2013. Part 2: Promising New Drug for Atopic Dermatitis

An important feature of the inflammation in atopic dermatitis (and in the other ‘atopic’ disorders, such as asthma) is the overproduction of ‘bad’ cytokines, such as interleukin 4 (IL-4), by a subgroup of Th2-type lymphocytes. After secretion from Th2 cells, IL-4 percolates up into the epidermis where it decreases the production of both lipids and proteins that are critical for normal barrier function (see our recent series of articles on atopic dermatitis for more information on the link … [Read more...]

Highlights from the 2013 International Investigative Dermatology (IID) Meeting in Edinburgh: Introduction

Every 4 years, the Eurorpean, North American and Japanese dermatologic research societies host a joint meeting. Last week the 2013 International Investigative Dermatology meeting took place in Edinburgh, Scotland. Over the next several days we will summarize some of the highlights of research on the skin barrier that was presented there, alternating posts of research from the Elias group with work coming from other laboratories around the world. … [Read more...]

Atopic Dermatitis: Its In the Genes

In an earlier post, we examined two current concepts about the increased prevalence of the allergic skin disease, atopic dermatitis.  The allergic diseases – atopic dermatitis, asthma, and allergic rhinitis – have long been known to run in families. But the inheritance of these 'atopic' diseases is complex and involves more than one gene, like many other common conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or psoriasis. To date, variations , called ‘polymorphisms’, in over 100 genes have … [Read more...]

Atopic Dermatitis: A Modern Epidemic Because We’re Too Clean?

The prevalence of atopic dermatitis (or eczema) is soaring, as are its related allergic disorders, asthma and hay fever (or allergic rhinitis). No one knows exactly why, but a popular theory blames our too healthy urban life style – the so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis.’ We no longer live on farms. No longer are we exposed early in life to pathogen-enriched rural soils. Our babies have less contact with animals, and, with our smaller families, fewer siblings. The immunizations and antibiotics they … [Read more...]

Why Early Humans Needed Dark Skin

The skin under the dark fur of most mammals  is pale or non-pigmented. Polar bears are an interesting exception to this rule – they have reversed the dark hair/light skin paradigm: their white hairs provide camouflage against the snow and ice, while their pigmented skin can absorb what little warmth the Arctic sun provides.  Ancestors of modern human, like other primates, also had pale skin under their dense coats of pigmented hair.  … [Read more...]

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