Skin Pickings -We are animal.

Bare with me, this is about skin 🙂

As so often happens the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned about life, the universe and everything came bundled up in an unexpected parcel of un-planned, un-expected and often inconvenient parcels of truth.  I like that about life, it reminds me that I are not just autonomous control-bot computing and rationalizing my way through life.  I am not alone, my actions cause re-actions and vice versa.  I both contribute and feed off the chaos and it is good.

So, it is usually whilst  in this un-planned state of mind that I sit watching my tribe of Guinea Pigs go about their daily business.  We currently have four boys and four girls, a status-quo that changed as a result of a heat-wave induced Guinea Pig cull back in January that wiped out 6 of our beautiful girls and 2 boys leaving us bereft and having to re-think our piggie policy.  With respect to our Guinea Pig friends we try to split them into friendship groups based on sex, age and personality to make their lives with us as happy and peaceful as possible.  Having got this spot on before said hot day things were going well but afterwards we were left with a problem.  We ended up with three boys plus two girls to re-jig.  The girls having been living together before were fine and carried on eating grass, drinking water and pooping merrily as if nothing had happened.  However, the boys were more of an issue.

Two of the three remaining boys are young brothers that had, up until hot day been living in perfect harmony with their older male mentor Ned.  Ned was a lovely boy, about a […]

And then I got sick.

Business is booming, life is sweet and weekends are mostly free and easy so why do I feel like death warmed up?


Regular readers of this blog may recall me talking about my eczema and my disappointment at not being able to stop it despite me being a cosmetic chemist and having access to all the right ingredients and knowledge.   Well, I think I just got a little closer to understanding my problem and I wanted to share that with you, mainly because my most frequent health issue is my skin so it makes sense to talk about it on this beauty/ cosmetic science blog but also because I use my writing to learn and explore so while this may just help you it will certainly help me out heaps!

But first of all history (or her story if you like).

I was born allergic according to my parents and I have to agree with them.  Some of my earliest memories involve me taking off all of my clothes because they were too hot and itchy (it wasn’t my clothes it was my skin), of tummy aches and of feeling uncomfortable.  That’s not to say that I spent all of my time in that state but eczema and allergies did feature heavily in my growing up.  That said I had friends who had it worse and my allergies never got so bad that I needed hospitalization or extra-special care.  Just a large dose of calamine lotion, some cortisone and a few cool showers usually kept me on track.

As I got older my eczema changed and I stopped getting it on my body so much. Instead it crept onto my hands mainly because I spent a good […]

This old skin of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

Well maybe not ‘shine’ in the literal sense but well, you know what I mean…..

Whether we like it or not growing younger is the stuff of fantasies and while we can turn back the clock somewhat with our arsenal of modern interventions there is some truth to this idea:

At 25 we have the skin we were born with.

At 45 our skin reflects our lifestyle.

At 70 we wear the skin we have earned.

So what does that mean?

Well firstly I want to re-frame what I am talking about as our ‘skin’ being a dynamic and ever-renewing thing is never really that old, shedding fully every 28 days or so.  What I am talking about is our skin producing cells, their health and their vigour.

Unless we have an illness, trauma or genetic condition our skin functions like a well tuned sports car throughout our younger years.  Wounds heal,  environmental damage is mopped up and repaired, the barrier (our outer defence) is strong and ready and its appearance is smooth, taught and vibrant.  This flush of youth generally sees us into our early or even late twenties despite relentless wear, tear, abuse and mis-management but by the time the clock ticks over to 30 things are starting to change.

I remember turning 30, looking in the mirror and going ‘yay for me’ as by that time my acne had finally started to calm and my skin was yet to show any outer signs of ageing despite my aforementioned spottiness plus my pallor (the sun and me aren’t good friends), eczema and general itchiness.  Little did I know that my smugness would be limited and that the winds of change were just around the corner.

Now at nearly 40 (38 actually) […]

You would think that being a cosmetic chemist I could stop this.

Hello, this is me:

and this is a close up of my problem:

Yes, that is a close up of a heat rash on my poor old eczema prone skin.

You would think that being a cosmetic chemist I could stop this wouldn’t you?  No.  No for a number of reasons which I will attempt to list below:

I am a lazy product user – I forget, give up, can’t be bothered to re-apply etc, etc.
I am a stress head – working on this one dear people but not quite there yet.
It is extremely hot here at the mo – several weeks of temps see-sawing from mid 20C – mid 40C and dry, oh so dry.
I love swimming – and there’s nothing more drying to the skin than water.  Go figure…..
I have a habit of itching myself and can’t quite work out if I scratch because I itch or if I itch because I scratch…..
I probably don’t drink enough water (no idea why that matters but it usually does).

I am sure that I have made, been given or purchased many great eczema products and yes, at times I do use them all but unfortunately in my case I think I’ve gone beyond a simple cream solution and need serious anti-itch therapy.

I’m off on my hols next week and am hoping that some fresh air, sea water and reduced stress will help clear this lot up but beyond that I’m going to give some hypnotherapy a try to see if I can get to the bottom of what lies beneath that itch/ scratch cycle (I’ve had bad eczema since I was a baby so probably never knew anything different).  That paired with a much stricter product regimen should (I […]

The Sun Has Got His Hat On – A thoroughly Modern Dilemma

These days there is a lot to be confused about. Information comes at us from every angle and before you know it even stepping outside requires agonising debate, the weighing up of options and behaviour modification. Here is a little song about it.

The sun has got its hat on

And I’ve got mine on too

And glasses, cream, burquini, boots and socks to name but a few

I’ve heard that UV’s nasty

That sunshine makes you die

So before I go outside  I’ll make a will & kiss the kids goodbye (forever).

But wait.  What’s this I’m reading

I can’t believe its true

The doctor says I’m Vit D low and that suns good for you.

So now I’m in a quandary, I can’t tell wrong from right

So I think I’ll keep one leg in and the other out all night.

Wait… make that day………


A Closer Look At Dermal Penetration and How It is Measured

Following on from my article earlier this week I have done a little more research into dermal penetration.  The result?  It is as complex and confusing as I thought it would be.

Enjoy – and if you don’t enjoy the article why not enjoy looking at this yummy cheese and wine that I’ve been supping with the team at New Directions!

The skin is made up of many layers with the stratum corneum located at the top of the epidermis being the part that we apply our cosmetics to.  Below the Stratum Corneum or horny layer lies the viable epidermis which can metabolize chemicals that pass through.  In addition to that are hair follicles, sebaceous and sweat glands which can offer an alternative route to topically applied chemicals.

The important questions on the lips of many a cosmetic chemist are these:

Just how much of my active-packed product gets through the skin


When it does, are all of the chemicals metabolized in the same way?

Those questions are tricky enough to answer when the chemical in question is applied at a known concentration in an inert base but become almost impossible to answer when you consider how many variables there are in a typical cosmetic!  Also we must not forget that the skins ability to resist or succumb to a chemical is also related to its thickness (where it is located on the body), its age, and the sex of the person that it is attached to, its general health and its individual genetics.   That’s a lot to measure and try to control!

That said methods have existed for many years to characterize the passage of a chemical through the skin.  One such method utilizes a Franz Static Diffusion cell […]

How many actives can the skin take at once?

Hello people,

I do hope that you are well and enjoying this lovely month of October!  I have been really busy of late and have struggled to update the blog as often as I’d like but hopefully the archives are keeping you happy.  Anyway, the business that I have been busy with will turn into blog posts soon as I am learning new things all of the time especially now that I have my lab and office at home. Check out the hubbies handy work:

Today I wanted to post some thoughts on a question that keeps cropping up in my consulting circles:  Just how many actives can the skin take at once?  OR  How many actives should I put into my skin care?

Good questions and worthy of much research which I will assemble over the coming weeks.  For now I will share my thoughts with you and open up for comment.

So, what do we know about skingestion (not that there is such a word but I thought it sounded good and apt)?

There are several groups of people who would be able to answer this question and I’m not one of them.  I’d be tracking down a few dermatologists, pharmacists, product test houses and beauty therapists in the first instance but before that I’d have a bit of a think…..

One of the main functions of the skin is to keep stuff out. However, we all know that not everything that we put onto the skin stays on the surface and if you believe much of cosmetic marketing you would believe that pretty much everything gets through meaning that the skin does a lousy job.  The truth (of which there isn’t just one) is far more complex […]

Why I think our skin is like a toaster (and we all know that toasters lie don’t we Eddie?)

I love that sketch because it is so true and it was a recent toaster incident that got my brain thinking in this very peculiar way don’t you know!

I have been thinking about the sun, sun screens and the skin for a while now and that’s for a few reasons:

A) Australia has just announced that they are finally going ahead and allowing the marketing of SPF 50 sunscreens (up from a max of SPF 50).

B)  I have several sunscreens in development and so am somewhat forced to think about how to make them the best that I can.

C) I recently spent some time learning about sunscreen testing at a local testing facility.


D) I have skin, I live in a hot place, I am naturally interested.

Anyway, that aside I recently (last night) came to start thinking about our skin, burning, toast, white goods etc, etc…….

My thought is like this:

We all know that when we have too much sun our skin changes.  For some of us it goes a lovely golden brown, for others a deep chocolate tone while some turn red with anger.  I liken this to the settings on a toaster:  still bread,  various shades of lovely toast,  completely stuffed (any link to the colour of toast and our skin is incidental BTW, it’s the cooked-ness that I’m interested in).

Anyway, just like a toaster it is nearly impossible to know how much heat/ light etc constitutes the perfect dose as toasters (and skin it would seem) lie.

That may not seem that interesting but think of it another way: We do not know how much of our ‘burning’ dose is good for us.  We know that some is because we know that vitamin D is […]

The Sun and Vitamin D

The debate around sunscreens and vitamin D is still running hot.  Are sunscreens causing vitamin D deficiencies?   How much sun is enough? When it comes to Vitamin D, is all skin created equal?   There are so many questions…

Thinking about our bodies again we notice that vitamin D is something that the body is equip to manufacture.  At the basal layer of our epidermis lies the answer for here sits 7-dehydrocholesterol ready to jump into action upon receiving a dose of UV.  Scientists have discovered that UVB is the best activator and more specifically that with a wavelength of 295-300nm.   However, it is very likely (though unproven) that while sitting in front of a UV lamp set at this specific wavelength may create the Vitamin D your body requires you would still fail to thrive – our bodies evolved under the sun in all it’s glory – chopping it up is akin to transporting yourself to mars.

Upon UV radiation the 7-dehydrocholesterol is transformed into Cholecalciferol.  This chemical has a half life of approximately 24 hours which means that while you may end up with heaps of this chemical floating around in your blood stream after a day at the beach, unless it is further reacted its benefits will be lost.

Cholecalciferol travels in the blood serum to the liver where it is further reacted to a chemical called 25-hydroxycholecalciferol which can be stored for several weeks.  Upon its release from here the pro-vitamins main job is to facilitate the intestinal absorption of calcium.

With regards to UV absorption it is important to note that the solar spectrum varies from hour to hour, day to day, month to month and year to year. Your geographical position in terms […]

The sun and our immune system.

The skin of a 70Kg adult male would weigh just over 11Kg (16%).  With such a big potential for damage, it makes sense that our immune system is turned down (dimmed)  when we step out in the sun.

If like me, you get cold sores as a memento from your day on the beach you would tend to agree that the sun is definitely putting your immune system under stress but is it?  When it comes to the sun and our skin a bit of immunosuppression is actually a good thing.

If our bodies didn’t turn down our immune reaction when out in the sun, small sunburn could turn into an anaphylactic shock rather than just a prickly rash –  I know what I would rather have!  So, rather than thinking that the sun is putting our immune system under stress we should look at it as our immune system giving us a second chance – like it already knows that we are going to over do it!

And the cold sores? Well, for those who harbor this virus in the body, the immunosuppression action of the sun leaves the gate open just enough for the cold sore virus to kick in. Unfortunately, that is the pay off.

So, rather than trying to fight our natural responses we should assist the body by using sunscreen, boosting our general health (so that we deal with stresses more efficiently) and getting enough rest (strung out bodies tend to over-react.  I know from personal experience!).

Enjoy the sun safely and if you want to read up on cold sores some more then check this out.