So, what is in a name?

Why are scientific names so complicated?

Chemical or scientific names are important because they accurately characterize a molecule or substance, animal, or plant. Plants and animals have a name and a surname that helps identify where they stand in the ecosystem. The binomial system identifies genus (first name in capital letter), species (second name, no capitals). For instance, we are Homo sapiens. Genus Homo, species sapiens. For plants, the first name, genus, designates the characteristic of the plants. One genus can contain many species. Sometimes one species can have several variants with different chemical characteristics. For instance, we could be talking about thyme. But which type? I could be thinking of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and you could be referencing lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus). There is also wooly thyme (T. pseudolanugenosus), creeping thyme (Thymus praecox), wild thyme (T. serpyllum) or even elfin thyme (T. serpyllum var. elfin). Yet another situation is I may know a plant by a name and in your local region you can call it by a different name! Look at all the different and valid names for lingonberry:


Mountain cranberry

Rock Cramberry


Dry ground cranberry

Northern mountain cranberry


Red whortleberry and so on.

Vaccinium uliginosum,

Often breakthrough knowledge in the field of genetics may get the scientist to update the scientific names. One example is Propionibacterium acnes, which is now known as Cutibacterium acnes. It is the same microbe but with a new name.

You can see that even when we speak the same language, there may be confusion. Imagine when people talk to each other across cultures and languages! Scientists talk to each other by using scientific names so that research can be accurate.

A similar system exists for chemical compounds. But while for animals and plants we have one system of classification and nomenclature, chemical compounds can follow several classifications. The American Chemical Society‘s CAS numbers assign a different number to each chemical compound, but being a number, it is not very informative of its structure. A more useful nomenclature system is the standard IUPAC system (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry). The naming system depends on who the audience being addressed. For instance, in cosmetics, we use INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients).

In many countries there are rules that need to be followed when packaging your cosmetics. We need to know if we can use cosmetics or not. Are you allergic to any ingredients? Does your philosophy of life preclude you from buying any type of ingredient, packaging, or advertising? We need to make sure we are aware of what is in the container we are about to buy. As informed consumers we need to make our choices wisely with the most accurate information and formulators and beauty companies have a standardized way of presenting information on labels.

Another reason names need to be fully accurate is that consumers, suppliers, formulators, and manufactures are “talking the same language” when discussing substances. When I want to buy shea butter for one of the products I may be developing, I will request Vitellaria paradoxa (old nomenclature: Buryrospermum parkii ).

In most countries, cosmetic labels are written in descending order of predominance. Botanicals are named using scientific (Latin) names. The common name can be added in parenthesis. Water can be named: Water, eau or aqua and is usually uppermost ingredient in most formulas. Flavors and/or fragrances can be named as perfum. Ingredients that are present in less than 1% can be named in any order. For color cosmetics, color can be added as “may contain” then the name of the color. This is because certain shades of the product may contain the color, while others may not. Allergens must be made notice of, after the list of ingredients. The EU has a list of these allergens and FDA follows the same guidelines.

To answer the first question: why are scientific names so complicated? The simple answer is they are not. We just need to understand the language of science!


Cosing: Cosmetic Ingredient Database of the European Union: Cosmetic ingredient database (

US Food and Drug Administration : Cosmetics | FDA

The Skin and Circadian Rhythm

And the importance of good sleep.

We all know of the importance of sleep but if you are like me, you probably abused your night rest by staying up and working and studying late. It’s okay, we say! We are young and strong. As time goes by we feel the lack of sleep more and wish we could have slept more!

Did you know that circadian rhythm affects most of our organs and the skin is no exception. Our master clock is in the Supra Chiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus.

The SCN is greatly influenced by light. Not surprising , night shift workers have a harder time falling asleep and now we know that night shift workers and flight attendants for instance are at increased risk of certain diseases, including some forms of cancer (1), The SCN controls by feedback looks and complex mechanisms the homeostasis of circadian clock genes and the proteins they produce in target organs. The pineal gland also works with the SCN by producing melatonin a hormone that controls sleep- awake cycle . New research shows how much more importante melatonin is, even having effect on the skin! (2) Melatonin has been associated with hair growth, wound healing, anti tumor effects and even modulation of UV light damage. Melatonin has antioxidant effects. No wonder our sleep is so important!

Skin’s Circadian Cycle (3)

During the day :

Highest skin protection

Highest skin thickness

Highest sebum production

Highest pH of stratum corneum

Lowest cell proliferation

At night:

Highest DNA repair

Highest cell proliferation

Highest skin temperature

Highest barrier permeability

Highest skin penetration

Highest itching

Highest moisture loss (this is TEWL, not sweating)

Highest skin blood flow

Lowest barrier recovery rate. The skin barrier is at its most delicate time.

This explains why people with itchy skin conditions like eczema suffer more at night. Knowing the circadian physiology of the skin, may also help with better therapeutic approaches to skin conditions.

These are relatively new knowledge that scientists and doctors have discovered. There is still so much more to learn. It is interesting how melatonin or lack of melatonin affects our immune system , dysregulating it and perhaps leading to disease states. It was found for instance that people with psoriasis tend to have lower melatonin levels. Cause and effect has not been proven, but it is an interesting association. (4)

With this knowledge we have even more reason to try to have a healthier sleep.

We know that sleep deprivation for prolonged periods of time or accumulated poor sleep can slow down our mental faculties as if we were intoxicated in the extreme cases. with a society demanding action and constant connection, we lost the art of slowing down and turning within.

What can we do to sleep better?

Experts say we are too wired to our electronic gadgets. One simple action is to disconnect from electronics at least 1 hour before our set bed time. Having a regular bed time routine and schedule is imperative for a restorative sleep. Having a designated place to sleep is also one of the requirements that we are fortunate enough to have. Avoid bringing work to the bedroom and avoid television and other sources of bright light in the bedroom. Some people do well with calm music or white noise, while others prefer complete silence. If you suffer from tinnitus , white noise may actually help, so you don’t hear the constant buzzing in your ears when there is completely silence. One important message here is : too much light does not allow the pineal gland to produce physiologic levels of melatonin at night and that can have significant health implications. It’s interesting that the modern Homo sapiens has to pay attention to sleep in order to have a good sleep!



(1) Schermanhammer ES, Kroenke CH, Laden F, Hankinson SE. Night work and risk of breast cancer. Epidemiology. 2006;17(1):108-111

(2) Kleszczynski K, Hardkop LH, Fischer TW. Differential effects of Melatonin as a broad range UV-damage preventive dermato-endocrine regulator. Dermatoendocrinol 2011;3(1):27-31

(3) Lyons A.B., Moy L., Moy R., Tung R. Circadian rhythm and the skin: A Review of the Literature in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Sept 2019; 12 (9):42-45.

(4) Mozzanica N, Tadini G, Radaelli A, et all. Plasma melatonin levels in psoriasis. Acta Derm Venereol. 1988;68(4):312-316.

Nurtia, The Etruscan Goddess of Time

Dancers from the tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia. World History Encyclopaedia.

As you don’t know me yet, you are not aware that I love history . Not much is known about the Etruscans, but one fact seems to be certain: they did value their women as much as their men. The Etruscans occupied the central region of Italy, between rivers Arno and Tiber river, with some outpost reaching the Po river. The Etruscans eventually assimilate Roman culture but before this happened they were an evolved civilization with many accomplishments but unfortunately little is left behind but some of their beautiful art.

Nurtia or Nortia/Nursia is the Etruscan Goddess of time or fate, and some compare her to the Roman Goddess Fortuna or the Greek goddess Minerva. She is the patron goddess of Velsna, a city that was eventually destroyed and no one knows where it was located. The custom was to put a nail into the wall of her temple to signify the ending of an year. This is a symbolism of Fate. This was a custom that was passed on to the Romans. Nailing down the fate of her charge, Nurtia was an important female figure in Etruscan culture.

Our society does not value wisdom and experience of women as much as it does of men’s. This is especially true as women pass menopause. Medical books were initially written by men, even in subjects that they had no personal experience of. Menopause was seen as a loss, end of productivity and usefulness. Our voices were not considered as important as others’ . The concept of female beauty is closely linked to youth and inexperience and we get constant reminders of this from ads, movies, books. Few heroines are older women.

As I approach menopause and see myself in the mirror, I need to learn to love this new Eliana that stares back at me. She has a hint of sadness and pain, but also SO MUCH LIFE! She has a lot more experience, wisdom and despite the tribulations, she is still that person full of dreams. Dreams that will be realized! I have so much vitality, so much willingness to learn and discover that the 24 hour day is too short for me. I believe most women our age feel the same, but society still sees us as less than perfect. They should not define who we are. Our own grandmothers were fighting to change this and we should carry on the work to value ourselves and other women, not only for ourselves but for our daughters and granddaughters.

In the next blogs we will talk more about what is menopause, physiological changes that happen during menopause and what is happening to our skin and hair. We will have more topics dedicated to health and dermatology as well as more balanced lifestyle. We can also talk about historical perspectives of beauty and cosmetics.

Like Nurtia, the new woman takes charge of her own destiny . Menopause then ceases to be a time of loss, but a time of confidence and empowerment. Like Nurtia, we are mistresses of our own destiny. The soul is timeless.

Lartia Seianti, terracota sarcophagus. World History Encyclopaedia.

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