• Núria Estapé, science journalist

    What’s melanin for?

    16 May  What’s melanin for?



    Photochemistry and Photobiology

    When we refer to the sun and to tanning, we refer to melanin. Melanin is produced when the sun touches the skin, making us go brown. This pigment darkens the skin to protect it from the damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. Our hair and the iris of the eye also contain melanin. But what exactly is melanin and what is it for?


    Melanin is not unique to humans, but is to be found in most living things. Thanks to melanin, some animals can change their colour as camouflage and plants have different colours. The melanin pigment is derived from tyrosine, an amino acid essential for our body to function properly. Melanin is made in the melanocytes (epidermal cells) and also in the hair follicles. It’s a bit like a coloured crayon, responsible for brownish and reddish tones in the skin and hair. But its main function is, in fact, to protect us against the damaging effects of UV radiation. Read More

  • Violeta Camarasa, science journalist

    Soaps: thousands of years, thousands of formulas

    6 May Soap-history



    Open Learn

    Soap History

    Soap, which is so ubiquitous today as a skincare product, has not always been around. Formerly a cleanser was made by boiling different types of fat with ashes. Soap has a curious history, starting with such ancient formulas and leading up to current scientifically grounded manufacturing methods. Soap always played and still plays an important role in modern societies. It has been a major weapon against epidemics, it ensures minimum standards of hygiene and is a major industry.


    1. Babylon and ancient Egypt. The first soap of which we know was used in ancient Babylon about 2800 BCE. Inscriptions found in excavations reveal a formula based on ash and fats boiled together in water. The Ebers Papyrus, a medical treatise written in ancient Egypt around 1500 BCE, explains how animal or vegetable fats were combined with alkaline salts to form a kind of soap used to cure skin diseases. The ancient Greeks and Romans, meanwhile bathed with pumice, sand, clay and oils – but not soap. Read More

  • Anna Solana, science journalist

    Skincare through psychodermatology

    30 Apr Skincare through psychodermatology




    We all know that some skin conditions have a psychological dimension. And we aren’t referring to going red when we feel ashamed or breaking out in a sweat from fear. Acne, psoriasis and even certain kinds of warts may be psychological in origin and, according to psychodermatologists, can be treated with hypnosis, relaxation, meditation or psychotherapy.


    Some 10 years ago, a Harvard Medical School article launched a debate about the effectiveness of what is called psychodermatology. Can psychological therapy cure a skin problem? North American and European psychodermatologists think so, and, for many years, have defended the validity of their theories and therapies based on linking the psyche with the skin. Just to make it clear, we are referring to dermatologists and psychiatrists who use relaxation, meditation and hypnosis, that is, people with medical degrees. A doctor’s diagnosis is essential before any therapy. Read More

  • Fede Montagud, editor

    Emojis also reflect phototypes

    27 Apr Emojis also reflect phototypes



    NPR News

    Emojis are the faces that are used to express emotions in online communications. Anyone who uses a mobile phone, instant messaging or social networks will have seen lots of them. In the latest version of its operating system, Apple has introduced new emojis with different skin tones, resulting is some controversy in the WWW.


    Some forums refer to racism, because, it is claimed, the yellow faces are too yellow. Online, the least little outburst can set the WWW afire. The question is why has Apple classified humans in terms of six skin tones: why not four or 10? Is this a whim of Apple designers? No, in fact. Apple designers have done their homework and the decision is scientifically grounded. The new Apple emojis, which users worldwide are already downloading, are based on the phototype classification created in 1975 by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick and widely used today. Read More