Most people believe that melanoma is the only type of skin cancer, and we understand why. Melanoma is very popular, mostly because it’s the deadliest of all skin cancers. In reality, there are 3 skin cancer types and melanoma is the rarest of them all.
With melanoma or any other kind of skin cancer, the sun has been found to play a huge role. When we say the sun, we mean the UVA and UVB radiations which emanate from the sun. But it’s not the sun alone that releases these deadly rays.
“Other artificial sources such as solariums and sunbeds also radiate the UVR and people who have used a solarium have a greatly increased risk for skin cancer” explains Jane Homberger, a registered nurse and the founder of Skin Smart Australia.
What’s the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?
While both are harmful and should be avoided at all costs, Ultraviolet Ray A (UVA) and Ultraviolet Ray B (UVB) are not the same. The “UVA rays can penetrate deeply into the dermis” Jane says. In other words, they have a longer length of ray and are mostly responsible for skin ageing. UVB is shorter. But, it’s also fully capable of causing harm to the superficial layers of the skin.
Types of Skin Cancer
This is the most common of all skin cancer types, but thankfully, it is the least deadly. BCC is mainly caused by UV radiation from sun exposure. Little wonder why this skin cancer mostly affects areas such as the chest, face, shoulders, and back—they’re the most exposed to the sun.
This cancer type often manifests either as a flat pink scaly area or a raised pink pearly nodules. It also tends to not spread past the singular affected area. However, it does eat deep into the affected spot and can cause serious damage if not treated fast.
Like Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC for short) tends to also settle on sun-exposed areas of the body. However, it is characterized by a painful scaly lesion and can spread across various parts of the body. This is why treating this cancer as early as possible is key.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Because it spreads so rapidly, it is very difficult to treat. Melanoma evolves from the cell that produces melanin— the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Jane states that “melanoma rises in an existing mole, or it can grow as a new lesion. Just because a person had had a mole all their life doesn’t mean it can’t become melanoma when they’re adults”. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma can affect anyone at any age. Unlike BCC and SCC, it can grow on any part of the body, irrespective of whether or not the area is constantly exposed to the sun.
Factors that Determine Survival from Skin Cancer
- Early Diagnosis. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better.
- Genetic predisposition
- Specific Cancer Diagnosis.
The risk of skin cancer seems to be on the increase, especially in people under the age of 40. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before cancer manages to spread. It all starts with being aware of any change in your skin including hidden areas like your toes and scalp. Pay extra attention to your moles and seek medical attention the minute you notice an abnormality.
WHY SKINCARE MATTERS
Let me begin by saying that despite what has been discussed, ageing can still be a very positive journey and l for one see it as a privilege as unfortunately there are not many people who make it to their ‘golden years’.
However, when it comes to skincare we do need to stop looking at it as just purely an aesthetic concern and begin to see it as a health issue. Our skin that is vital and fragile will age, and its roles of protection and regeneration will diminish over time.
Due to our ever-growing ageing population, we are realizing how ageing skin can in fact be a real health problem that can complicate and due to co-morbidities can be made complicated.
As health care professionals in a clinical setting, knowledge of skin health is vital to ensure that it is being protected, maintained and if need be treated accordingly.
As individuals, we can help ourselves to ensure that skin health is maintained for as long as possible.
How can this be achieved?
From a clinical perspective, there are evidence-based interventions available to help promote and maintain skin health as individuals age by incorporating a prevention network. This network combines elements of education such as the importance of using sun protection, interventions for early diagnosis and treatment of skin problems such as skin cancer as well as protection against wounds and lesions such as skin tears.
Within this prevention network, there is also the element of providing therapeutic and rehabilitative interventions when skin issues are established such as providing emollient therapy for dry skin to control symptoms and maintain the integrity of the skin.
Fortunately, as individuals, we can incorporate this prevention network into our everyday lives, and it does not need to be made up of an array of complicated or elaborate routines. We need to maintain focus on preventing dry skin in ways such as bathing ourselves in lukewarm water and not hot as this can lead to skin sensitivity. Avoid vigorous rubbing when drying ourselves as this can create friction leading to a possible breakdown in skin integrity and ongoing issues.
Our skin is best protected by washing with pH balanced body and face washers. Daily application of emollient based creams or lighter based if preferred is important to not only alleviate skin dryness but also improve the barrier of the skin and microbial defences. Furthermore, daily sun protection with a broad-spectrum sunscreen is important to prevent skin cancers but also incorporating self-skin assessment is key to ensure early intervention.
Finally, when we talk about skin health it is about approaching it holistically so, therefore, incorporating a well-balanced diet is just as important as what we topically put onto our skin.
What hopefully has been highlighted, albeit only briefly, is not only how wonderful our skin is in all that it does for us, but also the importance of why it must be taken care of and maintained to help achieve the quality of life. This can be achieved in both clinical settings but also as individuals on a day-to-day basis.
The care of ageing skin must change focus from looking at it just from an aesthetic perspective to how the breakdown of structure and function affects the quality of one’s life. And this must start from an early age because if we are to take note of what the World Health Organisation has stated…prevention is far more effective and costs far less than treatment.
This blog post is written by Dora Erdossy, Dermal Educator & Dermal Clinician. With over 25 years’ experience in the Skin Care Industry, Dora Erdossy has worked as a Dermal Clinician and Educator for some of the industry’s largest brands across Australia, USA and Europe. Dora’s passion for education saw her become an educator for dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute in 2001 where she taught in Australia, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand. In 2005, Dora moved to the United States where for the next 3 years, she championed the role of Senior Educator at dermalogica’s Los Angeles HQ.⠀
Ageing Skin. When we think about this skin condition, it’s typical and normal for us to think about ageing skin from an aesthetic perspective. We think about wrinkles, fine lines, flaccid skin, uneven pigmentation and overall dryness and dehydration. We perhaps look at mature aged individuals and guestimate their age based on what we are seeing. However, it is time for us to view ageing skin in a different way.
Thanks to the generally high standard of living in most parts of the world, compared to previous generations, we are fortunately living much longer with better health. For instance, in 1946 the life expectancy was 65 years old whereas today it is 80 years old. In fact, approximately 36% of our population are over 65 years old.
Despite the fact, we are living longer and for many of us it is a healthy journey, living longer does come with new challenges. Ageing is linked to a series of physiological and pathological processes as the body overall is coping with multiple ageing organs and illnesses resulting in poly-morbidities.
Among these challenges is skin ageing. Ageing skin is associated with changes in its structure and functionality such as reduction in skin cell turnover and its potential for it to regenerate. What can all this lead too? Increased vulnerability and dryness which in turn can increase the risk of skin damage and infection.
Skin is a vital organ and is one of the most important organs of the body for our health and wellbeing. It is time for skin to be seen as an organ that must be taken care of not just for aesthetic purposes but to help maintain quality of life.
SKIN: THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE
We know that skin plays a vital role in being the first line of defence as its main function is to provide protection and act as a barrier between the body and our external environment. It is the largest organ of the body that also has additional functions such as maintaining body temperature, provides sensory functions in relation to temperature and touches as well as acting as a storage for water and fat stores.
Our skin consists of 2 primary layers known as the epidermis and the dermis and even though I could provide endless information about these two fascinating layers, for the purpose of this article, l will keep it brief.
The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin that plays two important roles. In no specific order, it provides protection from bacteria and other microbes and it also helps keep moisture within the skin.
If our skin becomes injured and impaired, the body can become subjected to the invasion of outside agents, which will lead to irritation and sensitivity. Furthermore, moisture can escape from the epidermis, known as trans-epidermal water loss and this can further impair barrier function.
What is worth noting here is the pH of the skin, which ideally should be between the pH of 4 to 5.5. The low pH of the skin creates what is known as the acid mantle which contributes to the barrier function of the skin. When the skin becomes damaged, it can shift the pH towards alkaline, increasing the skin’s susceptibility to bacterial skin infections.
The skin’s pH can also be increased by systemic diseases such as diabetes and even simple wound dressings can increase the skin pH which could potentially lead to further breakdown of the skin.
The dermis often called the ‘true skin’, supports and nourishes the epidermis. It contains important components of the skin such as blood vessels, nerve endings, hair follicles, sweat glands and the lymphatic system. The dermis also contains collagen which helps to provide strength and structure to the skin along with elastin fibres that provide skin its elasticity allowing it to return to shape after it has been stretched.
As we age, the production of collagen and elastin is reduced, which in turn leads to wrinkling, sagging and increased risk of skin tears. So as much as skin is incredibly durable, it too like all other systems of our body, eventually succumbs to the inevitable effects of ageing.
So how does the skin change as we age? What are the contributing factors?
We will delve into this in Part 2…..
This guest blog is written by Dora Erdossy, Dermal Educator & Dermal Clinician. With over 25 years’ experience in the Skin Care Industry, Dora Erdossy has worked as a Dermal Clinician and Educator for some of the industry’s largest brands across Australia, USA and Europe. Dora’s passion for education saw her become an educator for dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute in 2001 where she taught in Australia, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand.
In 2005, Dora moved to the United States where for the next 3 years, she championed the role of Senior Educator at dermalogica’s Los Angeles HQ.
Acne, also referred to as that one skin condition that almost everyone has to deal with
. Acne is one super common, and often persistent skin condition. Often acne is associated with the time period of puberty, but it is also a common concern for adults. Just when you think you’re on top of your breakouts, another sneaky pimple emerges. Why is that?
There are a variety of factors that contribute and exacerbate acne. Our failure to manage or address these underlying issues is one of the reasons acne is so relentless.
Below are 6 clues to what may be worsening your acne, as discussed in an interview we conducted with Prudvi Mohan Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer of DECIEM.
Yes, stress contributes to acne. Stress, particularly mental stress, often results in the increased production of a hormone called androgen. The androgen hormone increases the production of sebum. In turn, excess sebum clogs the follicle, creating an ideal environment for anaerobic bacteria to thrive. If you think stress is contributing to your acne, read a recent article we wrote on effective stress management strategy. (Link to: Blog from 16th September: Can meditation assist healing https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yYQVAWKNt5kU6Ow2KaH4gBUkbpZdyU3_/view?usp=sharing)
Medications such as antidepressants have a tendency to increase acne breakouts. Prudvi explained that drugs such as lithium or amoxapine could trigger breakout. He recommends speaking to your healthcare provider if your acne appears to be triggered by your medications.
- Genetic predisposition
Some people with acne have a genetic predisposition. While there isn’t a lot we can do about changing our genes, it may be interesting to ask your parents if they experienced acne as a young adult. If that’s the case, speak to your physician on management strategies.
- Excessive exfoliation and face washing
Washing and exfoliating excessively is a common behaviour of those with acne. This logic is often due to the misconception that acne is caused by poor hygiene. If anything over cleansing and exfoliating worsens acne as it causes drying and irritation to the skin, this in turn causes inflammation, impairs the skin barrier and increases sebum production. And so the cycle continues. A clue to whether your cleanser is drying out your skin is, does your skin feel tight after cleansing? If so, it is likely stripping away your skin’s vital lipids. Exfoliation is effective at removing skin cells before they can clog the follicle, choose a chemical exfoliant such as a papain enzyme or Beta Hydroxy Acid such as salicylic over a physical granular exfoliant.
- Sun exposure
Some people deliberately expose themselves to the sun because they believe it can help cure acne. This belief is not only incorrect but dangerous as it increases your risk of skin cancer. Excessive sun exposure causes inflammation, adding inflammation to an already impaired skin impairs healing and may even lead to worsening of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
We recognise, of course, incidental sun exposure is inevitable and that’s okay. Just don’t make it a part of an acne treatment regime. It doesn’t work.
- Popping and squeezing
Almost everyone is guilty of this. Tampering with, touching, and squeezing the acne lesions every chance you get is not the best action for your skin. Apart from prolonging the healing time of the acne, it leads to scarring and spreading of bacteria across your skin.
To treat your acne, you need to ascertain its root cause. One way you can find this out is by consulting with a qualified clinician. Also, observe your actions or habits and how they affect the acne by keeping a journal where you document all your observations.
When meditation comes to mind, do you associate it with improved healing? In an interview on how mindfulness practices support healing, we interviewed life coach and meditation teacher Peter Radcliffe of Skillful MIND. After debunking what he believes to be the biggest misconception surrounding meditation, Peter reveals how meditation affects healing and explains 3 sure ways to meditate effectively, which may even assist with better healing outcomes.
What is meditation and how does it support healing?
Peter summarizes the definition of Meditation as “Practicing being here in the here and now, in that awareness mind”. Stress is one of the major adversaries of healing. If you’re able to bring your mind to a state of calmness despite your condition, you’ll fast track your healing.
Not only can reducing stress with meditation and mindfulness have a positive effect on healing outcomes, it can also improve state of mind.
Meditation is about “changing the way you look at the world” says Peter. And depending on your condition, if you can reorientate your mind to see whatever condition you have as neither good nor bad, you’ll start to heal emotionally too.
One big misconception that people have about meditation is that it is synonymous to relaxation. However, contrary to popular belief, one thing meditation is not, is a long, boring exercise that people perform whenever they wish to relax.
“Because people associate meditation with relaxation, they tend to consider meditation as sort of going into this semi-sleep kind of relaxed state when, in fact, what it is is you are completely alert,” says Peter. He adds that “The aim of meditation is not so much relaxation but calmness”. Meditation will help your mind remain calm even in stressful situations.
Meditation and mindfulness: what’s the difference?
The terms meditation and mindfulness are often used interchangeably. Are they really the same? These two activities do have many things in common and are used in similar contexts. Notwithstanding, the two terms do not exactly mean the same thing. So, what sets them apart?
Let’s hear it from the expert himself; “mindfulness is a quality of mind, and in particular, it’s an introspective awareness of what’s going on— I guess in the five senses around you— but in particular, in your thoughts…meditation is the act or the practice of empowering that mindfulness…So, mindfulness is a quality whereas meditation is the practice to get that quality”
3 Tips for effective meditation
- Soft approach
Especially for people just starting out, meditation can feel boring. When this happens, you start seeing the practice more as a chore and less of an experience, which may mean you do not continue the practice. This is why you don’t have to go all-in right away. Start with the basics. Peter suggests 15 minutes every day, preferable every morning. This is because once you introduce a routine, you’re more likely to stick to it.
- Make it fun
According to Peter “If you force yourself to meditate, you’ll develop an aversion for it”. So how do you avoid forcing yourself to meditate but still mediate? Simple. You make yourself love and enjoy it! You can achieve this by using sounds, such as nature music, or meditation in different scenarios such as a soft lawn.
- Join a meditation group
Irrespective of where you are at on your meditation journey, joining a meditation group can benefit you immensely. It allows you to become accountable since there’ll be others there to help track your progress. Also, making meditation a social practice may even lead to new friends.
For all the benefits meditation has to offer everyone should be giving it a go. If you’re not exactly sure how to begin, follow the tips here and start small or join a group. You’ll get the hang of it eventually and in no time, experience the healing power of meditation.
Ready to get started on meditation? Here’s a bonus Meditation Audio Course from SkillfulMind to help kick things off. (you’re welcome!)
Red, itchy skin due to eczema can be distressing for both a child and the parent. No parent want their children to be in such discomfort. While eczema may feel out of your control, there are actions you can take to manage and minimise its effects.
We asked expert pediatrician Dr Nelu Simonsz in an interview to share a list of management strategies for eczema in children.
What causes eczema in children?
Medical practitioners are yet to pinpoint the exact cause of eczema. They have, however, found out that this skin condition is often hereditary— many children with eczema have family members who have it. In addition, medical experts have identified a number of factors that can trigger or make it worsen the condition in children. Here are four of those factors;
- Food triggers
Food allergies and sensitivities can lead to an eczema flare up in children. Nelu says ” a food allergy itself does not cause eczema, but it can worsen eczema. So a child who has eczema can be triggered by the food they ate…but the food in itself is not going to cause a child to have eczema if they weren’t going to get it anyway”
That said, unless a child becomes affected in other ways, or an allergy test has been performed it is not advisable to cease specific foods altogether.
- Clothing triggers
Wearing layers and layers of clothes may trigger eczema too. Excessive heat and the harshness of wool and polyester clothing can irritate the skin. It is common for parents to overdress their children to avoid them becoming cold, however monitor this closely. Clothing made from cotton and bamboo – ‘breathable’ fabrics are recommended.
- Washing detergent
Some detergents and fabric softeners also tend to increase eczema. Pay attention to where and when an eczema flare up occurs, eliminate these detergents once you’ve discovered them.
- Fragrance lotions and creams
Using soaps, creams and lotions with fragrance can worsen the eczema. Dr Nelu recommends that you avoid fragrances wherever possible. Instead, go for simple, benign moisturising lotions and body products.
Managing eczema in children
When it comes to preventing or managing eczema, Dr Nelu believes that “the absolute key is moisturising”. Eczema worsens when the skin is dry as it impairs the barrier function. Dr Nelu suggests moisturising at least twice a day, preferably immediately after a bath—while the body is still wet. Use creams over lotions because creams are thicker and as such, provide a thicker layer of moisture.
- Avoid triggers
Triggers while sometimes difficult to avoid worsen eczema. Avoid trigger foods, wear light clothing, and keep away from fragrance lotions, if you’re unsure of the trigger it may help to keep a skin journal until patterns emerge.
- Keep nails short
Children are often tempted to scratch as eczema is known to become very itchy. Scratching can break the skin barrier which leads to an increased risk of infection. Trimming nails regularly and even using mittens in very young children will prevent breakages to the skin due to scratching.
- Get your child involved
While getting your child to cooperate with you to manage eczema can be challenging. Kids generally try to avoid things that’ll inconvenience them, are not fun or uncomfortable to them.
To overcome this hurdle, Dr Nelu suggests incorporating measures to actively engage a child in their regime. One way to do this is to create a reward system, or encouraging ownership and a sense of responsibility. Setting a regular routine around other frequent tasks also help a child to become used to it.
- Wet wrap therapy
If you’re dealing with an intense eczema case, consider wet wrap therapy. This therapy is very rehydrating and it simply involves wrapping the trouble area with a water-soaked fabric to cool and calm the skin.
- Bleach Bath
According to Nelu, a bleach bath “helps to eradicate some of that bacteria overgrowth on the skin. And that’s for kids who get the really consistently infected eczemas”. This method should only be performed under the recommendations of the child’s health care practitioner, however has been shown to be an effective and simple treatment. Pour ¼ – ½ cup of household bleach into a bathtub full of water, and your bleach bath is ready.
- Steroid Creams
Steroid creams can help as well. They should, however, be used with care. Many parents will cease use of steroid creams as the skin becomes fragile, this typically indicates overuse. Using correctly and as recommended is a viable option for the management of acute eczema outbreaks.
- Manage emotions
Children that have eczema, especially if in visible areas may experience bullying and teasing from their peers. It is needless to say that this can affect their self-esteem negatively. Dr Nelu tells us that in such a situation as this “asking them directly how things are going at school and advocating for them through school” can help tremendously. It is also advised to discuss concerns with the teacher of your child.
While we’ve included standard treatments that can help to manage atopic eczema they may not work for all cases. We advise that you seek professional advice to determine an effective treatment plan for your child. If you wish to learn more about management strategies for eczema sign up to the eczema and psoriasis skin summit where you can watch presentations by industry leaders and hear stories of those with lived experience.