Microneedling, whether done at home, by an esthetician, or a medical professional, results in thousands of microscopic perforations in the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of the epidermis. The result is the barrier function of the skin is greatly diminished making the skin rendered much more permeable to substances that are applied to it. This, in fact, is one of the purposes of microneedling with short needles – to enhance penetration of actives so that they enter the skin in higher concentration, and into deeper layers.
That is all well and good if the substances being applied are physiologic and something that is native to skin. Examples are hyaluronic acid, and growth factors or cytokines produced by laboratory culture of human cells. In the past few months, BFT has received photos of women who have developed significant allergic reactions following application of snail “growth factors” in conjunction with microneedling. It turns out there is scientific reason to believe this problem may be larger than what we previously thought. We may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg. The number of people allergic to snails is significant, and not for the reason you might expect.
ITS NOT BECAUSE OF THE APPETIZER
Allergy to snails can come about in more than one way. The most common, and one might assume the predominant way (among the French, for sure) is eating snails in the diet. Among the squeamish and less adventurous epicureans, one would therefore assume the incidence of snail allergy would be very low. Not necessarily. It has to do with cross reactivity.
Allergies to anything have to do with small molecules acting as “sensitizers” to cell membranes, setting the stage for release of biologically active substances whenever the offending substance is again encountered. That is why hay fever is so predominant during the time plants are in flower and pollen is wafting invisibly in the air.
What if there was a sensitizer that was not a snail, but whose makeup contained substances that essentially mimicked those of the snail, so that the immune system reacted to them, but also set the stage for cross reactivity with snails. That is precisely the mechanism that makes BFT anticipate more of those nasty allergic reaction photos following microneedling combined with topical application of products with snail derived “active” ingredients.
BEHOLD THE MINISCULE HOME DUST MITE!
Dust mites are one of the most common allergens encountered, particularly in people with asthma. They are tiny little things, no bigger than a grain of salt, and present in just about every home. Dust mites may be the most common cause of year-round allergy and asthma. About 20 million Americans have dust mite allergy. Dust mites are well adapted to most areas of the world—they are found on every continent except Antarctica. It may not be possible to rid your home entirely of these creatures, but there are ways in which you can lessen your allergic reactions to them.
Too small to be seen with the naked eye, a dust mite measures only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter. Under a microscope, they can be seen as whitish bugs. Having eight rather than six legs, mites are technically not insects but arthropods, like spiders. Mites are primitive creatures that have no developed respiratory system and no eyes. They spend their lives moving about, eating, reproducing and eliminating waste products. A mite’s life cycle consists of several stages, from egg to adult.
A female may lay as many as 100 eggs in her lifetime. Depending on the species, it takes anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks for an adult mite to develop from an egg. Adults may live for 2 to 4 months. Dust mites thrive in temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Faranheight and relative humidity levels of 70 percent to 80 percent. There are at least 13 species of mites, all of which are well adapted to the environment inside your home. They feed chiefly on the tiny flakes of human skin that people normally shed each day. These flakes work their way deep into the inner layers of furniture, carpets, bedding and even stuffed toys. These are the places where mites thrive. An average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day, this is enough to feed 1 million dust mites!
Household dust is not a single substance but rather a mixture of many materials. Dust may contain tiny fibers shed from different kinds of fabric, as well as tiny particles of feathers, dander from pet dogs or cats, bacteria, food, plant and insect parts, and mold and fungus spores. It also contains many microscopic mites and their waste products. These waste products, not the mites themselves, are what cause allergic reactions. Dust mite waste contains a protein that is an allergen—a substance that provokes an allergic immune reaction—for many people. Throughout its life a single dust mite may produce as much as 200 times its body weight in waste.
IgE IMMUNOGLOBULINS ARE INDISCRIMINATE – THEY ARE EITHER ON OR OFF
Once the immune system is primed to respond to exposure to dust mite waste, it will respond whether or not dust mite waste is present IF something similar to dust mite waste is present. That something similar is a particular protein found in the snail. The body is primed already, the IgE immunoglobulins just need the corresponding antigen to get them to cause the release of histamine and other mediators.
Because of the large number of people with allergies to dust mites, and the very common and significant cross reactivity of these same people with snails, it is more than probable that microneedling in conjunction with the use of topical skin product containing snail derived ingredients is going to be a growing problem. BFT anticipates more nasty photos headed its way and urges its readers who are contemplating having microneedling treatments to think long and hard before permitting their skin to be slathered with snail based topicals. Our recommendation: When in doubt, don’t.