Skin & the Rete Pattern – what’s that all about then, & why should I be bothered?

You may never have heard the word ‘rete’ (I hadn’t until a few weeks ago), but the ‘rete pattern’ is an integral part of healthily functioning skin and is really important. Let me explain:

The picture is a microscopic shot of the layers of the skin – the very dark blue/purple area on the outside is the outermost layer of skin (epidermis). The thin dark lines coming off at the top are the dead skin cells shedding off the surface. This layer is really important as it keeps your body together and protects you. 

The pinkish area is the dermis – the ‘engine room’ of the skin, where all the hair follicles, blood vessels & sweat glands are, that work hard to keep your skin in top condition. This is where there is an exchange of products – the blood vessels bring oxygen and nutrients to the skin, and take away the waste products and toxins which build up.

The little black arrow points at the rete pattern, which looks like lots of little fingers projecting down and is between the dermis & epidermis. These fingers all lock together, giving a huge surface area so the exchange of products is very efficient. Because they are locked so tightly together, they also keep the two layers in close contact, and the skin looks smooth.

As we age (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), the rete pattern flattens out. This has two main results – the efficiency of the oxygen, nutrient, toxin exchange is reduced, and the two layers start to become unstuck – the epidermis starts to slide rather than remain where it should be, and the result is wrinkles!

That’s all very well telling me, but what can I do about it?

•    Get plenty of sleep, and eat & drink well – poor eating habits result in poor skin, fluid is essential for skin hydration, and sleep is essential for the body to function efficiently
•    Use skin products with AHAs (alphahydroxyacids) in them – AHAs actually help the rete pattern to regrow….
•    Key words to look for include lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid
•    Examples of products that contain AHAs:
Boots No 7 Protect & Perfect
Olay Regenerist
Clarins Plus Brightening Peel
•    Products that you buy direct from beauticians may have higher levels of the active ingredients
•    ‘Cosmeceutical’ products, obtainable from medical aesthetic or medical skincare clinics, will have the highest levels of active ingredients, and may contain the more effective BHAs & PHAs

Sarah Buckley, By Appointment Aesthetic Medicine  2 Feb 2017