• Josep Orellana, science journalist

    Seborrheic dermatitis for life

    Flaky skin on the face or scalp – a common misconception is that the skin is dry. However, the flakiness may be evidence of seborrheic dermatitis. Using certain types of moisturizers can aggravate the condition. What can we do to prevent this condition and keep our skin healthy?


    Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that develops in parts of the body rich in the sebaceous glands that produce sebum (oil). The most frequently affected areas are the scalp, behind and inside the ears, the eyebrows and eyelids, the nose and the chest. The disorder presents as flakiness, yellowish lesions and reddish patches. The skin looks greasy and swollen and is sometimes itchy. Seborrheic dermatitis is associated with greasy hair but it has no bearing on the personal hygiene of the affected person. Read More

  • Fede Montagud, editor

    Why do our fingers wrinkle in water?

    28 Sep



    Brain, Behavior and Evolution

    It used to be thought that, when immersed for a long time, our fingers and toes absorbed water and shrivelled. And that was it. But why do other body parts remain unwrinkled? And why are the wrinkles deeper towards the fingertips?


    Surgeons have long known that fingers with nerves severed in accidents do not wrinkle in water, indicating that the wrinkling depends on the nervous system. New studies reveal that the wrinkling is most likely an evolutionary advantage that enables us to grip better in the wet. The wrinkles configure an optimum tread that rapidly removes water from our fingers and toes while increasing the contact surface and traction resistance – rather like the deep treads in tires that are specially designed for wet surfaces. What now needs to be researched is at what point in our evolution this trait appeared – shared, incidentally, with macaques.

  • Susana Andújar, chemist

    Understanding labels: what’s in a cream?

    Every day we apply a range of moisturizing, anti-ageing, cellulite and other creams to the face and body. Although these creams may differ in terms of their components, all are based on a stable emulsion that supports the active ingredients in the product. Here’s how to identify active ingredients on the cream’s label.


    A cream’s action is determined by the active ingredients, which are the basis on which a product is labelled and advertised. Most important of all, however, is the “base” emulsion that acts as a support for these ingredients. The base is composed of two immiscible liquids (water and oil or silicones), with one distributed in the other in the form of tiny droplets stabilized by a third component, the emulsifying agent. Read More

  • Fede Montagud, editor

    Alternative method for testing cosmetic allergens


    Contact allergies of the skin affect approximately 20% of people in the western world. Certain cosmetic ingredients are allergens, especially dyes and perfumes. To test them a new method is being tried out that does not require animal testing.


    In 2009 the European Union banned cosmetics manufacturers from testing their products on animals and also from importing any ingredients tested using this traditional approach (the USA has no such law). Since then scientists have been seeking alternative solutions. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg are developing a method based on cultured skin cells, which are exposed to the allergenic substance for 24 hours and then photographed. The number of affected cells provides a measure of the allergenic potential of each substance.