Doctor Jaén, The Wise Man Of The Skin: "today We

Doctor Jaén, the wise man of the skin: “Today we are paying for sunburn from 30 years ago”

“Melanoma is planted on the skin at one age and is picked up at another” / “Gestures of sadness give us an older look than a smile” / “Anti-hair loss shampoos are of little use”.

Dr. Pedro Jaén, head of the Dermatology service at the Ramón y Cajal Hospital and director of the Pedro Jaén Group.

Head of the Dermatology service at the Ramón y Cajal Hospital, full professor at the University of Alcalá (UAH), president of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, and author of more than 500 scientific publications and more than 600 communications at national and international conferences . Pedro Jaén’s resume is overwhelming. But nevertheless, one of the most prestigious dermatologists in our country shy away from flattery. His thing, he says, has to do with working on something that he is passionate about. Also with surrounding yourself with “valuable” companions. “You have to interact with many people of a high professional level, and that means many hours of work,” he says from an office on the third floor of 143 Calle Serrano in Madrid, where the Pedro Jaén Group clinic is located, which he himself founded.

These days, Jaén is in luck. presents A skin for life, the book that he has just published with the Espasa publishing house and in which he offers the keys to take care of the largest organ of the human body. Nearly 300 pages in which this doctor with a friendly and serene look debunks some of the most deeply rooted myths in the collective imagination, talks about diseases such as vitiligo or psoriasis, the best acne treatments or hair transplants, as fashionable in recent times. This son of a merchant seaman, at 64 years old, admits that he does not understand life without full dedication to medicine. And that patients, in the end, are “the greatest reward”.

Interview with dermatologist Pedro Jaén
Carmen Suarez

– Where does your vocation come from? Why did you decide to become a dermatologist?

-In my family I am the first doctor. My father was a merchant seaman, but I’ve always been interested in science. Also the people. I have also been sick at a young age. At the age of 10 I had extensive psoriasis. At that time you were a bit orphaned. My mother took me to the doctors and I thought: “If these doctors could put themselves in my place, and could have a treatment for what happens to me, it would be a wonder for my life.” That marked me a bit and encouraged me to head towards medicine.

-I’m going to ask you the question that everyone expects you to answer in this interview: what is the elixir of eternal youth?

-We don’t have it yet. We have means to disguise the signs of aging, and there is a very large portfolio of products and techniques to make a person who is not look young. From surgery to cosmetic procedures. The fan is huge. If I had had this fan when I started with the specialty, my patients would look much younger than they already do. However, we do not have many treatments to make the skin intimately younger. Most of the treatments are based on taking advantage of the regeneration capacity that our skin has to stimulate it so that it regenerates and can stay younger. The intimate analysis of the age of the skin is conditioned not so much by treatments as by genetics. He who is long-lived by genetics ages more slowly, unless he has health setbacks. And the same thing happens with our skin. Those who have ancestors who have aged well, age well.

-I read in your book that laughter is a bad companion from a dermatological point of view.

-There are gestures that mark our face. They are carving it throughout life. Thousands of daily movements in certain areas produce wrinkles, sagging… But a much worse companion is sadness. The gestures that mark sadness throughout life, anguish or depression, give us a more aged and tired appearance than a smile. It is true that the smile or the mimicry marks wrinkles, but they are expression wrinkles, more ascending. Those of tiredness, sadness, depression, are descending wrinkles.

-The world of cosmetics is full of products that promise things that they do not offer? We go to the supermarket and see everything from repairing shampoos to anti-cellulite or anti-wrinkle creams.

-There is misleading advertising. Although cosmetics cannot be used to improve diseases, the texts with which cosmetics are promoted allow the user or the buyer to understand a message in another way. The hair shaft can be given a brighter appearance, but it cannot be changed. You can decorate it but it is what it is and the one that came out of its root a year before, or two years before, or six months before, but no external agent is going to change it at this time.

-The anti-loss shampoos, then, do not help much.

-Anti-hair loss shampoos are of little use. The contact with the active ingredients of the shampoo is very short, you apply it and then wash it off, so these types of products are not very effective.

-To what extent does our diet influence the health of the skin?

-It has a lot of influence. However, on the skin, as it is highly exposed to environmental agents, what we apply to the skin has more influence. One of the common mechanisms by which the skin suffers aggression is by the production of reactive oxygen species, a modification of oxygen molecules by ultraviolet radiation, by exercise, stress… which are the ones that really damage the structure . And this is conditioned by genetics and also by the use of products or substances that could counteract this situation. Proper nutrition helps, but daily topical care helps more. There are foods that we eat that represent a protection factor against the sun. In fact, there are sunscreens that have some efficacy but do not come anywhere close to what a topical sunscreen achieves.

Doctor Pedro Jaén during the interview at the Grupo Pedro Jaén clinic in Madrid.

Doctor Pedro Jaén during the interview at the Grupo Pedro Jaén clinic in Madrid.
Carmen Suarez

-What is your opinion of the ‘boom’ of hair transplants in Turkey?

-In Turkey there are good professionals and bad professionals. But the safety of the transplant patient, the regulations where they have to be carried out, is not the same in our country as in another. The safety environment that a patient who undergoes a transplant in our country has is not the same as that which is performed in other countries.

-Have you had patients with problems after these transplants?

-Yes, with problems, with setbacks and with little result. It is one thing for x follicles to be extracted and implanted, and another for those follicles to live. Sometimes they are poorly extracted. Transplant survival varies greatly between some teams of professionals and others.

-For some time now it seems that Botox has become fashionable as a treatment to eliminate wrinkles. Is he being abused?

-It is a medicine that is used to relax the gestures of the face. I started with the first patients in 1995. It does not have a permanent effect. We know him very well. The teachers I learned from used doses three times higher than what I use today. Now, we have gone on to accompany the patient’s gestures, to modulate them, and this has a very beneficial aesthetic effect because the result is natural. The results we were looking for 25 years ago in Spain were very different and currently the trend is towards natural results.

-There are reports that indicate that in the last decade the annual cases of melanoma have increased by almost 50% with more than 280,000 diagnoses per year. What’s going on?

-Melanoma is planted in the skin at one age and is picked up at a very different one. We know this from countries like Australia, whose growth in melanoma was the highest in the world. That curve is already flattening. That means melanoma prevention takes effect years after it’s started. Surely, we are still seeing a growth of melanoma. How is it possible if habits have changed? Because today we are paying for sunburn from 30 years ago.

-The saying that “the skin has memory”, is it true?

-It is an unquestionable truth. And not only in melanoma or skin cancer, but also in the case of other problems related to sun exposure.

-You have also promoted a project to improve the medical and human conditions of people with albinism in Africa. What have you learned from your travels to this continent?

-That there is a first world and a third world. And access to health in the third world is sometimes very difficult. It is very difficult to understand when you see it in the first person and you feel unable to help as much as you would like. In the case of doctors, I believe that we become better when we have this opportunity. On the other hand, you see that the experience of the disease is different. They are very serious diseases that end with the death of the person, sometimes at a very young age. They understand that death is natural, and suffering and illness is also natural.

-Why did you decide to undertake this work?

-That is something that, when you are a doctor, you carry inside. In my case it was by chance. A colleague worked in Africa and invited me to accompany him on a trip. It was an opportunity to see that the knowledge that I had was useful, specifically in Tanzania, in albino patients who have skin cancer at a very young age. They were not operated on there and they died at the age of 20. One thing that in the first world is inconceivable to happen.

-What is the main challenge that dermatology faces?

-It has a very important challenge in immune diseases that affect the skin and other organs. The therapy of these diseases is progressing and the challenge is to make these treatments more accessible to all these patients, ranging from psoriasis to eczema or dermatitis… and more complex autoimmune diseases. On the other hand, advanced cancer, advanced melanoma was a relative death sentence until not long ago, a brutal shortening of the life of patients who had this disease. Currently, the paradigm is changing. We are going to have medicines that are going to make it possible for these patients with advanced disease to survive in good conditions and for a long time. Even that his illness disappears, something that seemed impossible a few years ago.

-And you, do you have a challenge to meet?

-To get highly qualified professionals to work together, you need a critical mass. You need to have a place where these highly valued professionals want to work because they are done professionally. It is what I am most excited about right now, in the prelude to retirement, when I have just turned 64. Right now that is what is changing us. We are a group of professionals, both at the Ramón y Cajal Hospital and in our dermatological group, who make it possible for talent to come together and to continue bringing together talent. And this is very exciting. Being able to learn every day from your colleagues, whom you can ask about anything because they are experts in the field, is something that I did not imagine we would achieve. This is a daily stimulus. We are the most qualified group of professionals in different fields in Europe and that speaks of the high level of Spanish dermatology.