With the help of confocal laser scanning microscopy, skin changes can be accurately documented and analyzed
Skin exams include, for example, sun damage and skin aging, pigmentation, epidermis thickness, dermatitis, as well as wound and scar healing.
Numerous companies and research organizations from the cosmetics industry have been working with CLSM devices for many years. Users can take advantage of a comprehensive training program.
Production and research enterprises use the confocal laser scanning microscope for test studies. The effectiveness of different substances can be checked in vivo without subjecting test persons to a skin biopsy. The range of applications for CLSM in cosmetic research is also numerous.
Sun Damage and Aging
An in vivo exam with CLSM is advisable with risk groups so that gentle, non-invasive monitoring can be started early on. This makes it possible to detect and treat early any possible serious skin damage.
Since CLSM devices are also able to help researchers observe and track the penetration depth and skin response to cosmetic active substances, they significantly contribute to targeted research and development of this product group.
If a reduction of pigment is desired, confocal laser scanning microscopy can be used following other therapies (e.g. intense pulsed light) to detect changes in the melanin content of skin.
The reflectance due to melanin decreases following successful treatments and assessment with a CLSM device therefore constitutes a safe and easy to use monitoring tool.
Measuring Epidermis Thickness
Epidermal changes such as epidermal hyperplasia, especially increased thickness (acanthosis) of the stratum corneum, were observed numerous times after artificial or natural UV exposure.
However, in vivo examinations of skin are not possible with standard histological methods. The skin trauma caused by tissue excision and the artefact effects of preparing the specimens make a comparison with living skin impossible.
Confocal laser scanning microscopy, however, is able to generate high-contrast images of different epidermis layers and papillary dermis in vivo and non-invasively. Especially the stratum basale and the stratum spinosum are depicted well due to their high content of melanin and keratin.
Thickness changes are easily visible and can be recorded quantitatively by creating confocal image sequences with high chronological resolution. The extent of photoadaptive processes can thereby be assessed reliably.
Differentiating between irritant and allergic forms: clinical studies may take up to six weeks before results for a clear diagnosis are available.
In ideal situations, confocal laser scanning microscopy can deliver a result within 24 hours.
In conjunction with a patch test, it is then possible to determine and successfully avoid the irritant or allergen in question.
The early symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis are a disruption of the superficial epidermis, followed by an inflammatory reaction. The confocal image depicts the disruption of the stratum corneum - the clear sign of irritant contact dermatitis.
While the symptoms of the irritant variant progresses top down (first visible by problems of the horny layer), allergic dermatitis progresses exactly the opposite way - from the bottom up (vesicles in the spinous layer). The onset of allergic contact dermatitis is preceded by sensitization to an allergen. The confocal images illustrate that allergic dermatitis tends to exhibit early signs of spongiosis and edema, whereas irritant dermatitis, on the other hand, does not exhibit these characteristics until much later.
Wound and Scar Treatment
Wound healing may take longer depending on the individual case, especially with older, multimorbid patients. Confocal laser scanning microscopy can facilitate monitoring even complex and problematic wounds and checking for epidermal regrowth.
If a scar is removed due to aesthetic reasons, an examination with the CLSM helps the aesthetic provider to check the progression and success of the therapy.
When examined microscopically, cellulite does not exhibit any adipose cell or vessel inflammation. However, cellulite is usually associated with lymphostasis and excess interstitial water.
Even early stages of cellulite can be detected the images generated by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Although CLSM does not provide a view into the deepest skin layers, images of the upper skin structures provide plenty of useful information due to the effect of the adipose layers pushing upward on the epidermis.
Scalp hair can be examined with CLSM devices and then depicted in individual structures - the different hair colors, hair fullness and thickness, as well as hair loss can be assessed.
Hair fibers which are not attached to the skin can also be imaged repeatedly over time to evaluate outcomes of different cosmetic products and ingredients. The effectiveness of anti-dandruff shampoo, in terms of where the active ingredients are deposited on the skin and how long they remain for, can also be evaluated with the confocal image.
Wrinkles and age spots are a natural result of the biological aging process. The effects are especially visible in the upper layers of skin and destroyed collagen and elastin fibers in the reticular dermis are also a symptom of this process.
There are two different types of melanin: Eumelanin is a brown to black pigment. The amount of eumalin in skin determines a person's skin type and with that skin color. Pheomelanin is red to yellow and creates a reddish to yellowish undertone depending on quantity but especially in lighter skinned people.
The dermis of women is more elastic and more finely structured than men's skin; lower skin layers have more adipose cells. Collagen fibers responsible for skin tone (tear strength) are aligned parallel to each other in women while they have a mesh structure in men. This means enlarging adipose cells can push in between and press the upper layers of the skin towards the surface where they become visible.