Prof. Abeck 2Q: What effects do environmental influences such as intense heat, freezing cold or stress have on the skin?

Environmental influences generally have a great impact on skin. The heat and the cold naturally affect the skin from the outside, while other factors, such as stress or smoking, affect it from the inside. At low temperatures, the barrier function of the skin is so badly affected that it leads to an increased transepidermal water loss. This means that the skin dries out more quickly. If the protective function of the skin is affected, allergens or irritants, for instance, can penetrate it more easily, which can lead to irritation or inflammation. We all know the result: the hands or the face especially are often scaly and reddened in winter. This can be remediated by applying moisturizer regularly and drinking enough water.

In warmer regions with lots of sun, however, the so-called Mallorca Acne can occur. In this case, the skin reacts to the combination of intense UV radiation on oily sunscreen, forming itchy nodules.

Stress, on the other hand, has an indirect effect on our skin. If we are under time pressure, even a balanced diet and sufficient exercise often fall short. In addition, unhealthy lifestyle practices come to the fore when we are stressed - we smoke more often and eat more snacks that can be quickly prepared and that are usually more fatty and sugary. This also has an effect on our skin, which, more than any other organ, reflects our physical and mental condition.

Q: How does smoking affect the skin?

Smoking affects all cells in the body and can have very different effects. On one hand, it promotes premature skin ageing and increases the risk of cancer. On the other hand, tobacco consumption can also trigger and intensify skin diseases. In my experience, even wound healing takes considerably longer in heavy smokers than in non-smokers. Chronic dermatoses, such as psoriasis or Lupus erythematodes, but also hormone-related hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) are also promoted by smoking.

Q: To what extent do exhaust emissions affect skin aging and skin in general?

Air pollutants, exhaust gases and fine dust can have a negative impact on our skin. As allergens, they can cause irritations or promote inflammatory skin diseases such as neurodermatitis. In addition, initial studies have shown a connection between air pollution and accelerated skin aging in the form of pigment spots and facial wrinkles.

However, there is currently still no effective means of protecting our skin against these environmental factors.

Q: Does the water hardness of tap water influence the skin health?

Absolutely! Hard water, i.e. water rich in calcareous substances, contains many dissolved minerals, such as calcium, which promotes the formation of limescale (calcium carbonate deposits). If the calcium carbonate concentration exceeds a certain value, calcium deposits in the form of white or yellow lumps can occur on the skin. Limescale therefore promotes the build-up of detergents from cleansing products on the skin, while also increasing the pH of water. Even a slightly alkaline pH value weakens the skin’s so-called protective acid mantle and thus our skin barrier, making it easier for harmful microorganisms to penetrate and irritations to occur more quickly.

Q: Can environmental influences be reduced through targeted skin care?

Skin care products that have protective and antioxidant properties on the skin barrier are very well suited for active protection against skin-damaging environmental influences. Vitamin E and C in particular, but also flavonoids, such as rutin or omega fatty acids, act as free radical scavengers and protect against cell damage.

Q: When should the consumer specifically use/choose skincare products?

Skincare products can be used every day, since our skin is exposed to many different environmental factors on a daily basis, albeit to different degrees. Especially in times when there are high levels of stress, in winter or after extensive sunbathing, appropriate skincare products can specifically help with cell regeneration and serve as a protection.

Q: What do you think about products designed to protect the skin from electromagnetic radiation?

Anti-electrosmog products are a myth. To protect your skin from electromagnetic radiation, we would have to live in a bunker or wear a lead suit. Natural radiation can be found anywhere in the world, so the body is used to it and copes well with it. Anti-electrosmog products are therefore just the result of panic and of the desire to make money.

Q: How important is UV protection really?

UV radiation is the most important factor in sunlight-induced skin aging (photo-aging) and in the development of skin cancer. Especially when exposed to strong sunlight, like in summer, by the sun at high-altitude or in equatorial regions, one should not stay exposed to it for long periods of time without sunscreen. The use of sunscreen not only prevents premature skin aging and wrinkling, but also skin cancer. The latest trend is the development of skincare products that contain ingredients that simultaneously protect the skin from UV radiation and skin aging. I very much welcome this trend because, according to a study carried out in 2017, the consistent use of sunscreen would prevent around ten percent of melanoma diseases worldwide.