Helping skin help itself


  • Health
  • Sunday, 16 Feb 2003

By PAUL YEO

AS smooth as a baby’s bottom ? not. That’s what age will do to your skin, and that’s probably why we love touching babies because they smell good, and feel heavenly, with smooth, supple skin that soothes and feeds the senses. 

So many of us try to fight the ravages of time by applying different chemicals to our faces and bodies in the hope that we can retain as much of our youthful skin as possible. It’s a constant battle to hold back the tide of time.  

But it’s not easy. The skin is a complicated structure with many functions. If any of the structures in the skin are not working properly, something goes wrong. As sturdy as it is, the skin requires attention and maintenance to function properly. Without such care, the complex organisation of the skin breaks down. 

Skin problems become more apparent as we age because our body’s ability to repair skin slows down considerably. As teenagers, our skin cells can repair themselves easily. But by the age of 50, we no longer seem to have the ability to repair our skin as well. 

Another factor is damage from the sun, which we can easily appreciate by comparing the protected, smooth, wrinkle-free skin on our buttocks with the sun-exposed skin on our hands and our faces. The most widely accepted theory of why this happens and why skin and our bodies age over time is termed the free radical theory.  

In short, free radicals are oxygen molecules that have lost an electron through interaction with other molecules. The resulting oxygen molecules are very unstable and reactive. In order to restore their missing electron, they steal from other “healthy” molecules, thus creating more free radicals and in the process, damaging cells. It’s a bit like rust on steel. 

The collagen layer of our skin is especially susceptible to this free radical damage that arises from sun and pollution exposure. These become stiff and inflexible, eventually resulting in skin that looks and feels “old and leathery”. 

But trust technology to come up with something: Estée Lauder’s Perfectionist Correcting Serum for Lines/Wrinkles. The principle behind the formulation of Perfectionist is as old as a time, and a favourite past time of many a woman – talking, or communication. 

The cells in our skin talk. Really. It might not be the usual conversation that you or I may be used to, but it’s a language all its own that enables the skin to react and adapt to the vagaries of the environment.  

These communication lines have been “tapped” by an innovative technology that helps skin cells better utilise key ingredients on the skin’s surface to help correct the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  

Dr Daniel H. Maes, vice president of research and development at Estée Lauder laboratories, was in Kuala Lumpur recently for a briefing on Perfectionist. Dr Maes, who holds a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Chemistry and a Ph D in chemistry, revealed that the secret behind Perfectionist is BioSync Complex, an Estée Lauder original that synchronises information sharing between skin cell layers.  

But before we go into how Perfectionist works, it’s appropriate to look at the structure of the skin first for a clearer understanding of its effects.  

In essence, the skin is the body’s largest organ, and on the average, a person has about 2.7kg. That’s quite a bit of skin. But there’s a purpose to all of this – it’s not just an “afterthought”, something that wraps around the body and keeps everything else in. It is in reality as indispensable as the body’s other major organs. It encases the body and guards it from potentially harmful intruders. It is the body’s first defence against pathogens like viruses and bacteria. 

The constituent components of the skin perform a second major function – sensation. Without the use of tiny receptors and nerve endings in the dermis and epidermis, we would not be able to feel, interpret pain and pleasure, or position our bodies safely. 

Under normal circumstances, skin temperature and body temperature are about the same. The skin works to balance and maintain its temperature according to changes in the environment. It also responds to internal changes in temperature. Fever makes it hot and red in some cases, and cold and clammy in others. It reacts to external stimuli, like sun exposure, toxins, and even psychological stimuli. Basically, the skin is a constant and dynamic interface between the body and its environment.  

In addition, sensible exposure to sunlight synthesises the production of vitamin D.  

Traditionally, the skin has been divided to three layers, but for purposes of better understanding how Perfectionist works, it can be divided to four layers – epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous tissue and the basement membrane. Each layer has specific functions. 

Epidermis 

The outer layer of the skin is the epidermis. It varies in thickness in different areas of the body. It is the thinnest on the eyelids at 0.05mm and the thickest on the palms and soles at 1.5mm. 

Basically, the epidermis contains five layers. There’s no need to get into the names of these five layers. Suffice to say, the bottom layer has cells shaped like columns, and these divide and push already formed cells into higher layers. As the cells move into the higher layers, they flatten and eventually die. The top layer of the epidermis is then made of dead, flat skin cells that shed about every two weeks. 

There are three types of specialised cells in the epidermis. The melanocyte produces pigment (melanin), and pigmentation of the skin, eyes, and hair is determined by such cells. Varying amounts of melanin determine colour in both skin type and body part. In addition to colouring the skin and eyes, melanin actually protects the eyes from excessive harmful UV rays. Melanin absorbs high-energy light, like UV and blue light, more than it does other light in the spectrum. This helps protect the lens as well as the retina, by dispersing light throughout the eye according to its intensity.  

Besides melanocytes, there are also Langerhans’ cells, which are the frontline defence of the immune system in the skin. 

Dermis 

As with the epidermis, the dermis also varies in thickness depending on the location of the skin. It is 0.3mm on the eyelid and 3.0mm on the back.  

The dermis has two layers – the papillary and reticular layers. Running through both these layers are collagen and elastic tissue. Collagen is the protein responsible for skin support. It is mostly the loss of collagen structure that is responsible for the slack and deep wrinkles of ageing.  

The upper, papillary layer pf the dermis contains a thin arrangement of collagen fibres. The lower, reticular layer, is thicker and made of thick collagen fibres that run parallel to the surface of the skin. 

There many specialised cells and structures in the dermis. The hair follicles are situated here, with the erector pili muscle that attaches to each follicle. Hair follicles are tiny tubular chambers of the skin in which hair takes its root. By excreting oil, follicles act to move dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. For this reason, sebaceous (oil) glands, muscles, and nerves accompany every follicle.  

Sebaceous glands occur alongside the hair follicle as tiny teardrop appendages. Their function is to lubricate hair and to facilitate sweating in the follicle.  

There are also eccrine (sweat) glands that are not associated with hair follicles. They are found everywhere on the body except the rim of the lips and most of the penis. There may be as many as two million to five million eccrine glands in the body, with the greatest accumulation on the palms. They are typically more developed in women, and are found in greatest number in the pubic region and in the armpit. When an apocrine gland secretes sweat, some of its cells disintegrate. The product of this disintegration contributes to sweat, which, depending on the amount and type of bacteria it produces, carries an odour that is characteristic of perspiration. 

There are also blood vessels and nerves that run through the dermis. The nerves transmit sensations of pain, itch and temperature, while specialised nerve cells transmit touch and pressure. 

Subcutaneous tissue 

The subcutaneous tissue is the layer of fat and connective tissue that houses larger blood vessels and nerves. This layer is important in the regulation of temperature of the skin itself and the body. The size of this layer varies throughout the body and from person to person. 

Basement membrane 

This can be described as the “invisible” layer in the skin. The basement membrane is the anchoring complex joining the epidermis and dermis of the skin. It links the epidermis and dermis, keeping skin looking tight and taut, and here lies the thrust of Perfectionist’s actions. 

Perfection in skin 

According to Dr Maes, Perfectionist can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles to the skin by a unique process called Biosynchronisation and Biostrengthening, achieved with its BioSync Complex.  

“The function of the basement membrane is linked to its two major components: integrins and laminins. Together, they help synchronise the cellular activity in the skin.  

“Integrins are proteins located in the cells of the epidermis, dermis and basement membrane. Their main function is to ensure the communication between all these cells so as to synchronise their activity. This allows for optimal cellular functioning, especially in the synthesis and use of collagen in the skin. 

“On the other hand, laminins are proteins located in the basement membrane. The laminins are organised in such a way that links the cells in the basal membrane to both the dermis and the epidermis. This provides a greater adhesion between the two structures, thus contributing greatly to skin firmness. 

“The support function of integrins and laminins plays a major role in skin ageing. As we age, the integrins lose their ability to synchronise cellular activity. As a result, collagen production in the dermis is delayed. By boosting the activity of integrins and providing the cells with added energy, we improve the skin’s ability to synthesise collagen. This specific activity is called Biosynchronisation,” explains Dr Maes. 

“Unlike other technologies, that concentrate only on increasing collagen synthesis, this approach allows us to work upstream, by restoring the skin’s natural systems. We no longer force the skin to produce more, we help it work better.” 

But Perfectionist doesn’t stop there. “We can also help the skin in working specifically with the laminins. As these loose their attachment to the dermis, the basement membrane flattens. Adhesion is partially lost and the skin looses its resilience. 

“By restoring laminin activity, and restoring the basement membrane structure, we prevent the slack caused by the loss in adhesion and can significantly reduce deep lines. This is what we call Biostrenghtening. Perfectionist is a product combining both Biostrengthening and Biosynchronisation,” he elaborates. 

“Because of its unique formulation, including a dual optical technology, Perfectionist reduces lines and wrinkles from the first application onwards.  

“From the start, the dual optical technology kicks in immediately. After one week, the BioSync Complex’s effects can be seen. 

“At day one, we can see that fine lines and wrinkles are blurred. This is an immediate result of the dual optical technology. This technology allows for the scattering of light: when normal light hits the skin, it is reflected and shows all of its small imperfections. By decreasing the reflection phenomenon, we can improve the general appearance of the skin. 

“The dual optical technology uses two different components: The first one is an invisible polymer with a specific net structure that will allow the scattering of the light that hits the skin. We also use particles with microscopic holes that will fill the fine lines. The holes in the particles make them invisible, by reproducing the refraction index of the skin. 

“After one week, we can start to see the effect of the BioSync Complex, which activates integrins and boosts the energy level of the cells. From the first application, the Bio-Sync Complex reactivates cellular networking to speed up the biological activity of ingredients that activate collagen synthesis. “Then, synchronised communication between the cells optimises all cellular activities, and after one month of use, the Biostrengthening activity starts to take place. 

“Activated laminin restructures the basement membrane by strengthening the attachment between the dermis and the epidermis. The result is an improvement in skin firmness and elasticity, as well as a reduction of the deep lines.”  

Dr Maes claims that Perfectionist doesn’t react to free radicals and other elements that attack the skin. Instead, it boosts the skin’s innate ability to respond to such stimuli, thus reducing fine lines and wrinkles utilising the skin’s own internal mechanisms. It has been developed to provide a continuum of benefits to reduce visible signs of ageing on the skin. Now that’s technology. 

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