Stories are with us when we are children and we become stories, as we experience the ups and downs, the excitement and the tragedies that is life - and your skin comes with you through the journey. Like us, your skin has a memory.. 3 types of memory to be exact:
Stem cell memory
A long time ago, I started wondering about the memory and story of my skin and how it influences the condition of my skin today and in the future.
I'm sure you've uttered to yourself (as I have many times) "if only people were able to hear what's going on in my mind right now!" That might be followed with "I would be in so much trouble!" or even "they have no idea what I go through." I wish we could ask of our skin, to show us the story it has seen over our lifetime, and show us what that might mean for the future. Well, luckily for us, through skin's own memories, we can. And once we have the information - we can do all that we can, to change the story for the better. So, to understand how we do this, let me explain what these types of memories our skin possess.
I'm sure by the time you read this, you could look back and find instances where your own immune system has taken a hit. From the common cold, to influenza and of course, Covid-19, as well as auto-immune and immune compromising disorders - your immune system has definitely been challenged. Meanwhile, your skin has taken notes! The events that your immune system has suffered through appears to enable barrier cells, including your skin's own barrier cells, rapidly to recall those events and as developing research suggests, has the ability to aid in a greater defense when these immune events come around again. It is an exciting area of dermatology research because it suggests that your skin's own barrier cells, with this memory, is well prepared to fight for you!
Much like your skin's immune memory, your inflammatory memory works much the same way, in that it remembers past inflammatory events and 'bookmarks' them for future battles. The cells draw from prior experience to respond more efficiently, even to threats that they have not encountered before. Did you know that skin heals a wound faster if it was previously exposed to an irritant, such as a toxin or pathogen; immune cells can attack new viruses after a vaccine has taught them to recognize just one virus. Now, I'm not suggesting to you that the inflammatory reactions you get from specific skin issues (such as allergies) would be worth going through so your skin becomes less sensitive, but in my 18 years experience, I have often found those with sensitive or even sensitised skin, eventually are able to use products that they first wouldn't dream of using. Stem-Cell Memory
I think this is one of the most exciting developments in dermatology and in medicine today, because stem cells, can renew themselves. Stem cell research has looked at ways we can take stem cells that have a specific purpose, and wipe their memory, to turn them into a cell of another kind. And yet, skin stem cells know they are skin stem cells and they operate differently to others. The function of skin stem cells is for would repair and fitness but as this stage, unlike breakthroughs with other types of stem cells, the skin's stem cells aging process can not be disrupted and reversed. Regardless of how these incredible cells work at self-repair, our skin is destined to age. But what we can learn from all of this is that our skin, with it's extensive memory / story, still requires from us, the external help of skincare and protection. We don't live in the world our skin was made for. We live in a world of high UV radiation, pollution and dietary and lifestyle choices that can overload our skin's own mission to defend and protect. Who knows what will be discovered in medicine in the future... but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the skin will keep doing what it does regardless. As long as we can participate in our own skin's story by looking after it the best way we can.