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Much More Than Skin Deep

EVOLV / October 1, 2019

New Research shows that improving skin function and health can do much more than previously understood

At evolv Plastic Surgery and Medical Aesthetics we have always believed in and practiced the fundamentals of improving skin health in benefiting overall quality of life for our patients, ourselves and our families.  Now a growing body of evidence in clinical and scientific research is providing answers as to why this may be so essential to our overall health and well-being.

A recently published study in Nature Communications found that skin that is inflamed and has poor barrier function (a common factor in most compromised skin as well as in sun damaged or prematurely aged skin) releases inflammatory  protein messengers called cytokines that can negatively affect not only the surrounding local skin cells but also other remote tissues in the body as well. Our cells contain a variety of cytokines which are basically ‘signaling’ messengers that tell our cells what to do in a variety of situations.

These cytokine protein messengers are many and have a variety of effects in their influence on cell function.   Inflammation, more specifically chronic inflammation at the cellular level, is a common cause of most disease conditions as well as advanced aging and deterioration and can lead to compromised function and disease in our bodies.  Common skin conditions or disorders associated with chronic inflammation include acne, rosacea (chronic redness), excessive pigmentation, various forms of dermatitis, sun damage and even premature skin aging and skin cancers.  Reducing chronic inflammation through anti-inflammatory nutrition and anti-oxidant supplements, regular exercise and stress reduction as well as general healthy lifestyle choices are the fundamental pillars of improving overall health and reducing the signs and symptoms of advanced or premature aging.

 Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) recently published their findings in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology proving for the first time that improving skin barrier function in otherwise healthy adults may reduce risk of other diseases or conditions associated with chronic inflammation such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even loss of muscle mass associated with aging. Obviously systemic diseases may result from a variety of sources and may have multiple etiologies, however the fact that skin inflammation and compromised function thru inflammatory cytokines can contribute to disease or deterioration elsewhere in the body helps support the importance and wider impact of improving and optimizing skin health.  

The research and vast clinical experience of Dr. Zein Obagi, an internationally recognized dermatologist and educator and inventor of the original Obagi Medical Products and now ZO Skin Health, has progressively defined and revealed the fundamentals of achieving optimal skin function.  One of the major priorities in all of our evolv patients’ individualized medical skin care programs is restoring and improving skin barrier function and reducing inflammation with proper cleansing, exfoliation, stimulation and protection.  The recently published studies from UCSF and Europe researchers help provide why this matters and is so important not only to the skin but also overall systemic health.  Another study from the University of Pennsylvania following 10,000 patients over five years revealed that those patients with an inflammatory skin condition (psoriasis) involving more than 10% of body surface area had an 80% higher risk of death from any cause as well as an increased risk of stroke.  

An additional finding in some of the recent studies was that long term use of topical steroids like cortisone, which are commonly used for many skin conditions associated with irritation, itching and redness, worsened the skin barrier by reducing cellular turnover and function. Based on the above findings, this implies that chronic or excessive use of topical steroid products may have negative effects on local skin as well as general health and their use should be carefully evaluated as needed.  Skin function and cellular turnover, which is optimal in our early years, tends to slow down with aging, stress, in the post reproductive years and especially after menopause.  That is why one of the primary goals in regenerative skin care is the stimulation and restoration of healthy cellular turnover which results in optimal skin barrier function and the reduction of harmful inflammation.

The above recently published research is very compelling in implicating a direct connection between chronic inflammatory skin conditions and other potentially serious health problems.  The basis of this association appears to be cytokines or inflammatory mediators released by irritated skin cells and other immune based pathways that may affect or be associated with other areas of the body.  As further evidence of the ‘mind-body connection’ evolve, we also know that optimally healthy and youthful functioning skin not only has physical health advantages, but also emotional and psychological benefits.  Research has validated that patients who have successful aesthetic treatments and outcomes have measurable increases in the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters in the brain resulting in improved happiness, confidence and quality of life.  

We now have ever increasing, research supported evidence that improving our skin health and the use of properly selected aesthetic products, services and treatments can result in an overall improvement in physical and emotional health as well as general well-being. And that is what really gets all of us excited at evolv and why we love what we do!