If you have eczema then you should know what filaggrin is. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it, I’ve had eczema since 1992 and I only just really read up properly about filaggrin and its role in eczema. But in about 2013 a clever professor discovered the importance of it and this had lead to more research, which hopefully will mean positive things for those of us with eczema in the future.
What is Filaggrin?
Here’s the science bit, “Filaggrin (filament aggregating protein) is a filament-associated protein that binds to keratin fibers in epithelial cells.”
And it, “is vital for skin cells to mature properly into the tough, flat corneocytes that form the outermost protective layer of our skin … also helps to form part of the natural moisturising substance of the skin and may be important in our immune defence mechanism of the skin.” See this website for more details.
So basically it is a very important part of keeping our skin healthy, moisturised and working as a protective barrier. Latest research has found that those with eczema and other problematic skin conditions have a genetic filaggrin deficiency in their skin (we already know that eczema is genetic – it runs in families). For those of us with eczema, our skin is missing this important element that keeps the protective barrier working, and we are more susceptible to our skin getting damaged by environmental factors, because the barrier is more likely to breakdown.
Dryness, which is a symptom of most eczema, is the sign that our barrier is not working properly.
Once the barrier is broken and dry, environmental factors are much more likely to get into and irritate this damaged skin. This is why eczema sufferers need to be incredibly careful what they use on their skin or near their skin (i.e. soaps, bubble baths, suntan lotions, washing powders, perfume, all the things I’m always banging on about, see my eczema page). Once the already damaged barrier is further irritated, eczema can get out of control and become worse and worse.
This is the vicious cycle of eczema that many of us are familiar with, and we scratch the itchy skin which just causes more and more damage.
What does this research mean for the future of eczema?
Here’s hoping that the discovery of filaggrin deficiency may lead to some groundbreaking treatment for eczema. At the moment, you can’t cure filaggrin deficiency and you can’t take a supplement of it. However there are researchers working on ways to re-introduce it to the skin.
But in the meantime, you will just have to continue doing all the things I suggest to keep eczema under control – eating a reasonably clean diet with plenty good quality oils, particularly omegas, a good pro-biotic to keep your gut working properly, lots of anti-inflammatory foods, and being very careful what you use on your skin in terms of toiletries and beauty products. My famous Scratchy Balm helps because it contain ingredients that help to recreate the skin’s protective barrier, like cocoa butter and beeswax, whilst introducing much needed moisture.
If you want to know more about all my thoughts on keeping eczema at bay then check out my book.
I hope you found this helpful and learned something new.