• Núria Estapé, science journalist

    The skin’s natural moisturizing factor

    31 Mar The skin’s natural moisturizing factor



    Practical Dermatology

    Our skin is equipped with the perfect machinery whose function is to retain water and prevent dehydration. The skin, a vital organ in our body, has the crucial function of protecting all the other organs within it. And it does so through a complex network of molecules called the natural moisturizing factor (NMF), which ensures a delicately balanced epidermis, despite environmental variations in humidity and temperature.


    When we are born our skin is already equipped to stay hydrated and protected from UV rays. Time and environmental aggressions wear down the skin’s mantle, with the result that we lose the water-retaining capacity in some of the beneficial substances in the skin, which should contain some 10% to 15% water. If the water level falls to under 10%, dry skin problems develop: the skin becomes brittle, rough and dull and is more prone to eczema and infections. How can we ensure that the skin retains a minimum of water? Read More

  • Anna Solana, science journalist

    Queen Letizia: against the sun

    21 Mar Queen Letizia: against the sun

    She acknowledges having stupidly sunbathed without protection, like almost anyone else. But she also says she’s learned her lesson. Queen Letizia of Spain, inaugurating the 1st International Symposium on Cancers of the Skin, held in Madrid last January, insisted that "we don’t need to get burned to get a good tan."


    The data prove her right. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of skin cancer triple each decade. Skin cancer annually affects about 160,000 people worldwide; in Spain, incidence has increased 38% over the past four years. The sun takes its toll on the skin. In her talk the Queen very much emphasized this; avoiding excessive and uncontrolled exposure to the sun is key to preventing skin cancer, she said. Read More

  • Susana Andújar, chemist

    Cosmetic labels, true claims?

    16 Mar Cosmetic labels, true claims?



    European Commission

    Cosmetic ads in newspapers and TV refer to marvellous effects and properties, "miraculous" in some cases. This is indeed a world of illusions – yet sometimes we wonder what truth there is in those ads and labels. Although most people are not aware of this fact, there are strict rules that regulate what should and should not be claimed on cosmetic labels.


    Wavy, silky hair, clean, glowing skin, no wrinkles or cellulite, how wonderful! Shopping or watching TV, it’s easy to begin believing that our skin and hair will quickly respond to a few cosmetics and gels. Shop windows, advertising, marketing and labels are all designed to persuade us to believe such claims. But manufacturers are obliged to be very cautious about the properties they claim for their products, as otherwise they will break the law. Read More

  • Fede Montagud, editor

    A tattoo removal cream

    11 Mar A tattoo removal cream



    Dalhousie University

    Alec Falkenham doesn’t regret any of his tattoos. But, if he did, he’d know how to remove them, or at least fade them, without going through the torture of laser or spending a fortune. This Canadian student has patented a cream that takes advantage of the immune response to pigments in inks to remove records of failed love or reminiscences of youth from the skin.


    When ink is injected into the skin the body reacts by sending cells called macrophages to the area to absorb the pigments into the lymphatic system and so clean up the area. However, some of the cells that have "eaten" the pigment remain in a deeper layer of the skin, which explains why tattoos are visible. Read More