Research such as this has direct implications and applications in skin care product formulations. “We use this kind of research directly to help design future skincare products,” Tom Mammone, vice president of skin physiology and pharmacology at the Estée Lauder Companies research and Clinique laboratories, tells Cosmetics Design.
“For example, this research has a clear application for Clinique’s cleansers and exfoliators,” says Mammone, going on to explain that, “based upon the damage pollen can cause to the epidermis, one important strategy is to effectively remove it from skin.”
“The purpose of this study was to evaluate the physiological effects of pollen exposure on skin, specifically, evaluating changes in skin barrier function, inflammatory response, and collagen levels, as well to determine if treatment with antioxidants could mitigate any harmful effects,” explain the researchers in the introduction of their Society for Investigative Dermatology (SID) poster presentation.
The full team comprises Mammone as well as Nora Ruth, Vasile Ionita Manzatu, Jaimie Jerome, and Shannon Sanacora. “We were all very surprised that pollen was damaging to skin,” Mammone tells Cosmetics Design.
Taking the learnings from this study and hypothesizing about what they may mean about allergens in general, Mammone says, “I think the next question that many have asked is do other skin sensitizers or allergens cause this type of direct damage to skin?” And this question will likely be the foundation of future research: “We plan to explore what other common allergens do to damage skin as well as approaches to mitigate that damage.”
Through testing on reconstructed skin models exposed to allergenic Kentucky Bluegrass pollen, the researchers found that exposure impacts skin in three ways: It impairs skin barrier function. It results in a reduction of collagen. And, it increases skin’s inflammatory response. “Pollen is well known to release proteases, which are very noxious, so these are likely the initiator of skin damage,” Mammone tells Cosmetics Design. “Inflammation that arises from this irritation causes aging in skin that is similar to the effects we see from photoaging.”
Through further testing he and the rest of the team found that antioxidants, especially pure vitamin C, can limit these effects. “We were actually surprised anti-oxidants had a mitigating effect, since the damaging proteases released by pollen weren’t really thought to have a free radical element to their pathology,” acknowledges Mammone. “However, we speculate that secondary to these proteases effects on skin would be their activation of free radical production in an oxidative pathway in the skin.”
These new findings will likely find their way in to not only anti-pollen skin care but anti-pollution skin care more broadly since antioxidants can address many pollution-related skin concerns as Mommone notes, “in our experiments on a variety of environmental damages like IR, UV, and pollution, we demonstrated, as have others, that antioxidants can have a protective effect.”