• 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

  • Ailish Maher, science journalist

    The lowdown on clay

    6 Mar The lowdown on clay



    Applied Clay Science

    Clay, with its rich content in minerals, is making a comeback as a powerful healer and skin beauty treatment. Benefits are backed more by a history of successful use that stretches back to ancient times than by scientific studies. However, one claim that is solidly backed by science is that some clays have powerful antibacterial properties.


    Clay has been deployed for medicinal and aesthetic purposes for centuries. It was used in Mesopotamia and Egypt for its antiinflammatory and antiseptic properties and was also reportedly used by Cleopatra to preserve her complexion. Famous physicians such as Hippocrates, Avicenna, Averroes and Paracelsus — and also Sebastian Kneipp, one of the founders of the naturopathic medicine movement — all recommended clay remedies for the skin. Clay was also used to promote the healing of surgical and war wounds. Read More

  • Anna Solana, science journalist

    The skin and the impact of pollution

    It’s something like the layer of dust and dirt that accumulates on cars between washes. Even despite make-up and daily care, pollution particles stick to our skin, dehydrate it, make it less firm and radiant and even cause blemishes. Air pollution is as harmful as smoking for the complexion. But depending on where we live it may be impossible to avoid it. What can we do to protect our skin?


    According to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in 2013, the air we breathe in Europe is far from clean. In fact, the EEA says that over 90% of the inhabitants of European cities are exposed to worrying levels of PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 microns) – largely originating in diesel-vehicle emissions – and excessively high ozone levels. Read More

  • Ailish Maher, science journalist

    Best — and worst — fabrics for the skin

    30 Sep Best — and worst — fabrics for the skin



    DermNet NZ

    It may seem obvious to say so, but the best fabrics for a healthy skin are usually natural ones. Nonetheless, sensitive skin reactions are more frequently a response to chemical additives than to the actual fabric. There are a few precautions that you can take to protect your skin from toxins in clothing.


    Our clothes differentiate us sexually, safeguard our modesty, indicate social or occupational status and express our personal taste and style. But above all clothes are meant to protect us — from the heat and cold and from risk when we work or practice sports. But what if the clothes we wear actually do the opposite? Do we give enough thought to the risks implied by our wardrobe choices? Read More