India has become the first Asian country to ban the testing of cosmetics on live animals. Such tests are performed to check the safety of ingredients before skin tests are made on human volunteers. Numerous alternative tests exists that avoid animal suffering.
With this initiative, India follows in the footsteps of the 27 European Union (EU) countries that applied this rule in a stepwise process starting in 2003 and ending in March 2013. However, unlike the EU, Indian health authorities will temporarily allow importation of ingredients tested on animals from other countries. Animal advocacy groups celebrate this step for a major Asian country and continue to denounce these practices in places like the USA and China.
The skin is our protective shield against external aggressions. It works tirelessly, day and night, year in, year out, to ensure that our body is comfortably adapted to the environment. We are all very aware that it is vital to keep our skin healthy and that's why we care for it.
A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that most medical consultations refer to skin problems. The research was based on an analysis of the medical records of more than 140,000 people (people of all ages, half of them men, the other half women) from Olmsted County (USA), who authorized statistical use of their data collected between 2005 and 2009. It was found that 42.7% of queries were related to various skin diseases and problems, followed by consultations regarding arthritis (33.6%), the back (23.9%) and cholesterol (22.4%), in that order. While the dermatology consultations referred to all kinds of skin conditions, acne and sebaceous cysts were the most frequent motives for consultation. It seems clear that when we observe a small change in the skin, we become more concerned than when we feel other symptoms.
Avoiding sun damage to the skin has many advantages: it prevents premature ageing and reduces the chances of disease. That’s why we rush off to buy sunscreens when the warm weather comes along. But omega-3 fatty acid, found in nuts and fish oils, may play a significant role in protecting our skin from the sun.
This is, at least, the evidence reported for a recent study led by Dr Lesley Rhodes of the University of Manchester (England). The sun induces immunosuppression in the skin, preventing the body from using natural means to fight against infections and cancer. Volunteers who took part in the experiment consumed 4 g of omega-3 daily and were exposed to simulated sunlight from a machine. It was demonstrated that immunosuppression was halved in periods of exposure of up to 15 minutes; for periods of 30 minutes the beneficial effects were not so evident. In view of the results, Dr Rhodes believes that regular intake of omega-3 can reduce our skin cancer risk throughout life. However, it cannot be considered a substitute for sunscreen – simply an extra measure of prevention to keep our skin healthy.
Our skin is covered by a huge variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses living in perfect harmony and constituting the skin’s microbiota, also called skin’s flora. New research reveals just how numerous are the species of fungi that colonize our skin and help it stay healthy and look good.
Almost everyone knows that our digestive system requires the presence of microorganisms in order to process food. Similarly, the skin’s own ecosystem needs beneficial germs to remain healthy. A recent genetic study conducted in the USA and published in Nature describes for the first time the 80 types of fungi that normally live on our skin. The areas where most species are found are our heels – and feet in general – while species are less abundant on the neck, back, ears and palms. This important finding has quadrupled the known number of types of fungal microbiota and will guide future research on the role of skin microorganisms. Furthermore, the study confirms the importance of respecting the balance of this ecosystem in order to keep our skin in the best possible condition. Remember: take short, tepid showers, and use soap, shower gels and moisturizers with a slightly acidic pH (between 4.7 and 5.5).