- Collagen Stimulating Supplements
- Visual UV Skin Analysis: The Skin Scanner Comes of Age!
- Skin Scanners: Not Created Equal
In the past decade the beauty industry has seen a shift towards the understanding that skin nutritional supplements may prove to be more effective than topically applied products.
The saying "You are what you eat" certainly is proving to be true, with an increase in skin disorders like eczema, allergic contact dermatitis and itchyosis. A rise in childhood obesity and medical conditions like diabetes type 2 are also showing to be on the increase.
Therapists have been recommending the supplements of Omegas for many years, knowing the benefits and that good cellular health will result in a healthy epidermis. But more recently there has been an increase in the marketing of supplements that are supposed to increase collagen within skin and turn back the clock of an ageing skin.
The industry went through a similar time when anti-ageing creams containing hydrolysed collagen were supposed to also prevent or treat the ageing skin. It was quickly realised that, due to the molecular weight and size of ingredients like hydrolysed collagen, this was not going to happen. The industry rapidly had to change its mindset and began to relate product composition to skin structure and function and in doing so, became more knowledgeable and less susceptible to marketing hype of suppliers and manufacturers to the beauty therapy industry.
Well, once again we are going to have to rapidly bring ourselves up to date, but still using the same mindset that was used in the past: Relate product composition to skin structure and function, but from a nutritional point of view. Instead of looking at the composition of a facial cream, we must move to investigating the composition of the many new skin nutritional supplements that have come onto the market.
This article is going to concentrate on Collagen Supplements only, this will prevent getting sidetracked onto the many pathways that one could so easily go down.
We will begin with the usual reminder of the cells and systems that are involved with the manufacture of collagen within skin, concentrating on Collagen Type 111 and Type 1.
Collagen is created by fibroblasts, which are specialized skin cells located in the dermis.
Fibroblasts also produce other skin structural proteins such as elastin (a protein which gives the skin its ability to snap back) and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). GAGs make up the ground substance that keeps the dermis hydrated. In order to signal or turn on the production of skin structural proteins, fibroblast cells have specially shaped receptors on their outside membranes that act as binding sites to which signal molecules with a matching shape can fit. When the receptors are bound by the correct combination of signal molecules (called fibroblast growth factors, or FGFs), the fibroblast begins the production of collagen. Growth factors are polypeptides (proteins) that bind to receptors on the cell surface, with the primary result of activating cellular proliferation and/or differentiation.
Many growth factors are quite versatile, stimulating cellular division in numerous different cell types; while others are specific to a particular cell-type.
Fibroblast growth factors act specifically on various types of epithelial cells including keratinocytes of the skin. In addition, some types of Fibroblast Growth Factor have been shown to be more than growth factors: they can protect epithelial cells from damaging effects induced, for example, by radiation and oxidative stress.
Fibroblast Nutritional Requirements
There are a number of factors that will ensure the formation of healthy strong collagen.
Key Amino acids (proline & glycine)
Silicon allied with magnesium and calcium
Growth factors and Hormones
Zinc is a co factor
Iron is a co factor
Essential Fatty Acids are required for all cell functions and healthy cell membranes
Another important component of the Dermis is the Glycosaminoglycans
In addition to making Collagen and Elastin, the Fibroblast also makes another important component of the Dermis - the Glycosaminoglycans.
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) found within the Dermis & Epidermal Cells are associated with Proteoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans and Proteoglycans are active regulators of cell function, participate in cell-matrix interactions and play an important biological role in fibroblasts proliferation, differentiation and migration by effectively modulating the cellular phenotype.
The following Proteoglycans are associated with GAGs and are associated with skin:
Heparin & Heparin Sulphate
Glycosaminoglycans are another name for the ground substance that supports the fibres Collagen & Elastin and determines the physical properties of connective tissues. Proteoglycans like Hyaluronic acid serve as important regulators of cell behaviour.
Do Collagen Supplements assist in the formation of Collagen and reverse skin ageing?
Now that you have a clear understanding of what is required for the fibroblast to create collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans, we can take a closer look at the components that make up some of the collagen supplement tablets that are available today.
The question is: What are they made of?
They are primarily made of hydrolysed collagen also known as collagen hydrolysate or purified gelatine, this is collagen that has been enzymatically or chemically processed to make it more digestible and more easily absorbed by the body. It is often used by body builders because it is an inexpensive protein source.
Hydrolysed Collagen as a Supplement
Collagen is found in the connective tissues in skin, bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments of animals and is commercially derived from either fish, beef, pig or chicken. Hydrolysed collagen consists of water-soluble peptides, which are rich sources of the amino acids glycine, L-proline and L-hydroxyproline. Nutritional supplements containing hydrolysed collagen appear to be targeting collagen type 11 found in joints and ligaments. These types of collagen supplement are typically marketed to disorders of joints like rheumatoid arthritis and bone disorders like osteoporosis.
Collagen Hydrolysate has an amino acid composition equivalent to what is found in the cartilage matrix. Supplements containing collagen hydrolysate are also targeting the joint cartilage and type 11 collagen.
Gelatine as a Collagen Supplement
Gelatin is produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the bones, connective tissues, organs, and some intestines of animals such as cattle and horses. The natural molecular bonds between individual collagen strands are broken down into a form that rearranges more easily. Gelatin melts when heated and solidifies when cooled again. Together with water, it forms a semi-solid colloidal gel, and its chemical composition is, in many respects, closely similar to that of its parent collagen.
Other sources of gelatine are from the root of the Kuzu, a large vegetable root native to Japan. An alternative substance is called Agar-Agar, which is derived from seaweed. Some Kosher gelatine are made with agar-agar, most are not. Some vegan replacements for gelatine are: guar gum and carrageenan.
Although gelatin is 98-99% protein by dry weight, it has less nutritional value than many other protein sources. Gelatin is unusually high in the non-essential amino acids glycine and proline, (i.e., those produced by the human body), while lacking certain essential amino acids (i.e., those not produced by the human body). It contains no tryptophan and is low in isolucine, threonine and methoionine.
The values shown in the chart below vary, especially the minor constituents, depending on the source of the raw material and processing technique. For decades, gelatin has been touted as a good source of protein. It has also been said to strengthen nails and hair. However, there is little scientific evidence to support such an assertion, one which may be traced back to the 1890s, when it was advertised that gelatin contains protein and that lack of protein causes dry, deformed nails. In fact, the human body itself produces abundant amounts of the proteins found in gelatine.
In addition, gelatine is one of the few foods that cause a net loss of protein if eaten exclusively, and in the 1970s several people died of malnutrition while on popular liquid protein diets. With this knowledge one would quickly come to the conclusion that as a supplement for the skin and to assist in collagen production, it is entirely unsuitable.
Cosmetics may contain a non-gelling variant of gelatin under the name hydrolyzed collagen.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA) as a Collagen Supplement
Hyaluronic acid is a large component of the glycosaminoglycans that make up the dermis, found in virtually all tissues and fluids of the body, especially in synovial (joint) fluid, the eyes vitreous fluid and in skin.
HA plays a critical role in maintaining healthy joint synovial fluid and preventing the degeneration of ageing joints. HA has high daily turnover, so large amounts may be needed to maintain normal steady-state levels. HA is also a regulatory molecule influencing cell movement, phagocytosis and blood vessel formation. HA also serves as a free radical scavenger and antioxidant, and may be particularly important to protect the skin from the ageing effects of excessive sunlight exposure.
HA is critically involved in healthy wound healing. HA stimulates DNA synthesis and fibroblast cell division, essential for healthy skin and cartilage maintenance. By the time a person reaches age 30, his or her HA becomes disorganized from skin collagen protein, compared to the interweaving of HA and skin collagen in a nine-year-old, and is even more disconnected in the skin of 60-year-olds. Given the importance of HA for healthy skin and joints, its high turnover and normal decrease with ageing, an effective, absorbable source of HA is highly desirable.
Hyaluronic acid in skin supplements is derived from chicken sternum as type II collagen. A patented, purified, enzymatically hydrolysed (partially digested) type II collagen supplement, derived from the sternum (breastbone) of young chickens.
Native collagen, which has not been pre-digested, also provides HA, but in the form of giant molecules that are too large for absorption.
Glucosamine as a Collagen Supplement
Since glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, and glycosaminoglycans are a major component of the dermis and joint cartilage, supplemental glucosamine may help in the support of the dermal matrix and to rebuild cartilage.
Glucosamine is often sold in combination with other supplements such as chondroitin sulphate and methylsulfonylmethane.
Clinical studies have consistently reported that glucosamine appears safe.
Since glucosamine is usually derived from shellfish, those allergic to shellfish may wish to avoid it. However, since glucosamine is derived from the shells of these animals while the allergen is within the flesh of the animals, it is probably safe even for those with shellfish allergy.
The benefit of glucosamine sulphate is likely the result of a number of effects including its anti-inflammatory activity, the stimulation of the synthesis of proteoglycans.
The loose connective tissue of the dermis is primarily made of collagen type 111, and hyaluronic acid is a major component of the supporting glycosaminoglycans.
Would taking a supplement that was high in HA stimulate the fibroblast enough to make more collagen type 111? I doubt it; however, by supplementing the supporting glycosaminoglycans I could see the benefit in taking a supplement that contained Hyaluronic Acid if only to lengthen and protect the life of existing collagen fibrils.
Will taking glucosamine help build collagen?
Because glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans and GAGs are a major component of the dermis, I would say that yes, it is probably worth trying.
The benefit of glucosamine sulphate is likely the result of a number of effects including its anti-inflammatory activity and the stimulation of the synthesis of proteoglycans.
Would Hydrolysed Collagen stimulate the fibroblast enough to make more collagen type 111?
The only benefit that I can see from using Hydrolysed Collagen as a supplement would be to obtain the amino acid content, but again the target is more of joints and cartilage (type 11), not collagen found within the loose connective tissue of the dermis (Type 111).
If we take the knowledge that gelatine is produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen (bovine, porcine or fish) and that it has been found to have no nutritional benefit whatsoever, wouldn't hydrolysed collagen also have little nutritional benefit?
About the Author:
New Zealand born Florence Barrett-Hill is an internationally acclaimed dermal science educator, practitioner, researcher, and author with a vast experience covering all aspects of professional aesthetic therapy and paramedical skin care.
Many leading icons in professional skin care recognise Florence as one of the few people uniquely capable of taking beauty therapy and aesthetics in to the realms of scientific skin care, and her expertise is sought by organisations internationally. Florence is the creator of the internationally recognised Pastiche Method of advanced skin analysis, and spends her time travelling the world teaching and presenting to skin treatment therapists, practitioners and medical professionals.
Perhaps the most significant development in black light (UV) skin analysis devices since their inception in the 1930's has been made recently by a enterprising Dutch inventor with a passion for technology.
What he and his team have developed will change the way we visually analyse skin forever....
It is widely recognised that the biggest stumbling blocks of traditional black light skin scanners and woods lamp type devices is that the light sources have been less than optimal due to variable qualities of the fluorescent tubes being used, and the discomfort for the clients being in a claustrophobic environment for the 5-10 minutes of the analysis with the device.
The use of precision LED's, high resolution digital cameras and special software has changed all this.
Special narrow band light sources and filters have enabled never seen before clarity of UV imaging, and reduced the time the client is being examined under the cover of the device to under a minute.
This 21st Century technology is the brainchild of Dutch inventor Walter Arkesteijn, who has named his device appropriately the "Observ".
Walter was aware the principles of skin fluorescence had been widely accepted in the professional skin care community for decades, but understood why conventional Wood’s lamp technology could never release the full potential of fluorescence based skin diagnosis.
Walter made it his personal "mission" to develop a technology that could release the full potential of fluorescence based skin analysis, and with a devoted team of engineers, realised that goal 8 years later.
Not only did the team succeed in developing a technology which brings out hidden skin conditions with a distinction and contrast as never seen before, but they also made sure that the technology could be used in conjunction with one of the most popular mobile computer technologies available: the iPad.
The use of the iPad as the image capture/processing device makes the examination much faster, while gathering client data and all analysis imagery to a proprietary software app in one short session.
The high resolution images can be examined in great detail with a number of specialised filters and zoom functions to provide both valuable diagnosis information and a superb communication tool for client consultations.
The Observ communicates with the iPad via wireless Bluetooth, allowing all of the manual controls to be adjusted via the iPad.
For therapists and clinicians who wish to use a conventional examination approach (Non-software assisted), the Observ can also be used totally manually; just like a conventional skin scanner by looking through the viewing port.
The major benefits compared to conventional skin scanners in the manual mode is that there is total control of the light type (Daylight, Woods, True UV, Parallel/cross polarized) and intensity, along with a timer. Features never before found on skin scanner devices.
The secret of the Observ device is the use of low intensity, but very pure UV LED light sources.
Via an ingenious system of optics and computer-calculated mirrors, invisible UV light is projected into the facial skin in a much more uniform coverage than conventional skin scanners.
The rays travel through all layers of the skin, deep into the dermis, and because the cells in the human skin tissue have the natural capacity to turn these invisible rays into visible light, different cells and skin tissues in different conditions create different fluorescent illumination patterns.
Consequently, skin impairments and conditions which previously could hardly be seen by the naked eye, now clearly stand out from normal healthy skin tissue.
The new technology also allows the instant switching to a clinical daylight illumination and special modes bringing out the surface texture of the skin and pigmentation or vascularity hidden beneath the surface of the skin.
In the short period the client is under the hood of the Observ, the client can be viewed under six different light sources. These include:
• Daylight (For the clinical evolution) The skin as seen in an controlled natural daylight environment. Perfect for before/after photos)
• Cross polarized (Look into the skin) With the skin’s surface shine suppressed, you can obtain an unobstructed view of dermal structures, vascular conditions, inflammation, pigmentation etc.
• Parallel Polarized (Show the surface texture) An enhanced view of the skin’s surface; fine lines, microrelief, wrinkles, texture and pores.
• Simulated Woods lamp (Modernised) The light dermatologists and skin therapist are familiar with. By adjusting the spectrum, the distribution of skin secretions is revealed in colour.
• True UV (Fluorescence skin analysis) The new LED light source that is 3 times more effective than conventional tubes has enabled this analysis that shows not only skin abnormalities on the skin’s surface or in deeper skin layers but creates distinguishable fluorescence patterns that stand out from surrounding healthy skin.
• Complexion analysis (Irregularities revealed) Normally found on devices costing over ten thousand dollars, the complexion analysis reveals in homogeneities in skin tone, pigmentation irregularities and irritations.
The software on the iPad uses the camera images to show comparison side-by side pictures across combinations of all the light sources. (Example shown above) This is very useful for communication skin conditions etc to the client.
The Observ provides clearer, more detailed viewing and images than conventonal ﬂuorescent tube UV devices, and the use of precision, narrow band LED polychromatic LEDs means that there are no lamps to replace-EVER!
All illumination modes are digitally adjustable for intensity, so safer than conventional BLB UV light sources.
Of course there is also a a magniﬁed client mirror, so your client see what you do when inside the device.
The Observ comes in it's own travel friendly case and is light weight, (6.5Kg) for easy transportation and has a universal power adapter. (All outlet types and 120-240v)
Packed with useful features, smaller, lighter and very portable, the Observ will become the preferred visual analysis tool for the discerning skin care practitioner of the new millennium who understands that a thorough skin analysis is an essential part of any treatment and product advice that is to meet their client’s needs and expectations.
For more information visit www.observ-diagnostic.com
About the Author
Ralph Hill is technology writer, illustrator and editor for Virtual Beauty Corporation. He has a background in science, electronics and electro-mechanical devices, but enjoys researching and writing on a myriad of skin care related topics including cosmetic chemistry and anatomy & physiology.
There is no doubt that skin scanner or “Woods Lamp” UV skin diagnostic devices are a valuable asset in the skin treatment professionals skin assessment toolkit. There are many brands to choose from and prices can vary by as much as 30-40%.
The question is of course, do the lower priced units work any better than devices with a higher price tag?
Most skin scanner devices feature the same basic fundamental design, and this is a housing containing a UVA (Black light) light source with a viewing port on one side and a large aperture for a person to position their head. There is an adjustable curtain on the larger opening that helps control ambient light bleed.
Physical design differences are usually limited to the aesthetic appearance of the housing, with the molded of sheet metal, and while perhaps not looking as pleasant as the rounded housing, are strong and functional.
Some devices feature fans to circulate air and increase the patients comfort while in use, and this will generally incur a cost premium.
The construction and comfort features aside, there is one single parameter that either makes the skin scanner a valuable tool or a frustrating ordeal for the user. This is the quality of the UV light source. Most devices use fluorescent “black light” tubes as their light source, and it is the type and quality of these tubes that make or break the functionality of the device.
There are essentially two types of black light tubes available and unfortunately it appears some manufactures of skin scanners don’t seem to know the difference. They are:
These tubes emit UV rays of highest intesity of around 360nm and attract insects into insect traps, are used in mineralogy, military, criminology, medical and pharmacy industries, to monitor photochemical reactions, examine jewellery and the verification historical relics etc. The spectral output of these tubes however, is relatively wide, with secondary peaks around the 520 and 540nm regions.
These tubes are made with Wood’s glass and also emit UV rays of 360nm at high intesity and are commonly used to detect counterfeit currency, special stage effects, dermatology and other applications similar to blacklight Lamps.
The difference is that spectral ourput of these tubes is much more “focussed” around the 360Nm region, with virtually no unwanted seconday spikes.
As you can see by the two spectral charts, plain Blacklight has energy spikes in other parts of the spectrum that really spoils the ability to accurately display the skin emitting light energy of specific frequencies when exposed to UV radiation.
The different colours emitted (and viewed by the therapist) correspond to a variety of biological ecosystems, and consequently skin conditions.
Because the wide band UV from the Blacklight tubes has frequencies we don't want, the detail that shows what is occuring in and on the skin is "washed out" with the additional unwanted light. Everything looks "too blue", without the subtle colour differeintation.
The images to left are examples of the extremes of tube quality.
You will note the cheaper tubes are almost useless as a diagnostic device due to the "bleed" of unwanted blue light from the upper spectrum.
The higher quality tube provides more difinition with a subtle "sharpness".
With the higher quality tube, the oil flow on the upper cheek is visible, as there is the correct part of the UV spectrum at the right intensity.
The correct bandwidth of light also shows the underlying pigmentation that is washed out by the cheaper tubes.
High grade tubes are made from special blue glass that filters out most of the visible light, letting only the UVA ultra violet light pass through. Cheaper, less efficient (spectral bandwidth and energy output) tubes are internally coated with a dye that makes the tube glow blue.
The latter has a much wider spectral output, but little usable energy in the important 360nm range, providing generally poor results as a diagnostic tool.
These types of tubes are mainly used for display and theatrical purposes. Unfortunately, some lower cost skin scanners come from the factory with these tubes fitted. The good news is that they are easily replaced with better quality tubes. An example of what to look for on the labels of the tubes is below.
The black light skin scanner can be a useful diagnostic tool if fitted with quality Black light blue tubes. The higher the quality the tube, the "tighter" the bandwidth of the light source.
More recent technologies that use precision narrow-band LED's as their light source are quickly making the fluorescent black light tube skin scanners obsolete however. Check out this amazing technology here....
About the Author
Ralph Hill is technology writer, illustrator and editor for Virtual Beauty Corp. He has a background in science, electronics and electro-mechanical devices, but enjoys researching and writing for a myriad of skin care related topics including cosmetic chemistry and anatomy & physiology.