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The Importance of Determining Root Cause

Liyuan Ji

Lead Formulation Chemist at Revea, Masters in Pharmaceutical Science

October 21, 2022

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What is Root Cause?

Much of the time spent looking in the mirror can feel utterly mystifying.

Imagine: it’s Monday morning. The alarm goes off, you stumble to the sink, and surprise, surprise—a bright red pimple to start the day. With a groan, you mobilize your groggy self, because it’s damage control time. You look over your arsenal of spot treatments: astringent salicylic acid toner, drying lotion, a benzyl peroxide acne cream… Or attempt a DIY extraction (OK, a squeeze) and slap on one of those zit stickers?!

You pray to the skin gods that one of these acne solutions will do the trick. But with this haphazard approach, how can you be sure if a product is actually working?

Skincare often feels like a blind game of whack-a-mole, where the best you can do is damage control. Because when it comes to actually trying to prevent acne, you’re at a loss.

You take your best guess at what spurred this recent eruption, blaming yesterday’s beers at the beach (dehydration). Or wait, could it be that lackluster new cleanser you’ve been trying (congestion, clogging)? But then again, you’ve hardly slept a wink this past week, nerves a-buzz over that upcoming job interview (stress, cortisol spike, inflammation)!

And on the flip side, what about those miraculous mornings when you wake up absolutely glowing? What if you could find a way to repeat those days? After all, it’s not just chance.

What if you could look at the roots, instead of the branches?

The Philosophy of Root Cause

Today, there is no reason for us not to address our skin as we do the rest of our body, with proper consideration given to that crucial first stage of assessment. Any effective treatment requires a proper diagnostic. Everything we do at Revea is grounded in the philosophy of getting to the root cause.

Skin is a dynamic biological tissue and very much alive. It responds at a cellular level to triggers from our environment, as well as to signals from within. Your genetics, lifestyle, sun exposure, diet, even emotional well-being—they all have an impact on the biology and health of your skin. Your genes may have given you a fabulous capacity to produce firm bundles of collagen, yet after late nights and prolonged stress, worry lines may be starting to appear. Why are monthly breakouts still happening, and what can we do about it? What we see on the surface is the result of a complex matrix of biological responses. It’s a reflection of the skin’s health state, a combination of things that we see—fine lines, spots, or rosy cheeks—and many things that we don’t easily see—sun damage your skin has accumulated, how well your skin barrier is holding on to vital moisture, where certain microorganisms are distributed on your face, or the levels energy supply, or oxygen saturation, is in the skin. Getting to the bottom of why your skin looks the way it does, regarding both its nature and its nurture, requires that we measure beyond the surface. Let’s go beyond that tired paradigm of dry-oily-sensitive—or, heavens forbid, “normal”!

The Intelligence of Your Skin

Our skin is highly intelligent, and proper credit is long overdue.

As a true biosensor, it’s adaptive, it’s changing, and it has its own rhythm. From the moment a baby is born, dynamic changes take place in skin composition and physiology to adjust to the new environment of ambient air and low humidity, relative to the womb1. This adaptive flexibility continues throughout infant development; the skin balances growth with thermoregulation and protective functions.

You may have noticed your skin’s dynamism even as an adult. Not only does the barrier function vary with the seasons, but it adapts to changes in environmental conditions within days2.

This is why we’ve developed a layer-by-layer skin analysis that goes beyond superficial symptoms to uncover the real factors influencing your skin’s health and appearance. With biological understanding of the skin parameters, we can tackle the root cause of your individual skin concerns. Take acne, for example. It’s crucial to understand the root cause to find a treatment that actually works. If we detect the presence of clogged pores or active acne lesions, a methodical approach is key.

A Root-Centered Approach (but make it high-tech)

We first measure sebum production to assess the role of oil levels in the issue. Too much sebum can increase the likelihood of acne, but excessively stripped skin with too little sebum can be a driver for inflammation and discomfort. We then measure the skin’s hydration level and barrier functionality, which can be contributors to sebum production. Using parallel polarized imaging, we evaluate factors impacting skin surface texture and smoothness to see if we need exfoliation and improvements in desquamation.

We measure factors that influence the skin milieu, which encompasses everything from microvasculature and localized inflammation to the presence of autofluorescent porphyrins that indicate the presence of specific bacterial strains.

Using Spatial Frequency Domain (SFDI) imaging, we measure your skin’s energy supply and see if your skin is getting enough nutrients and oxygen to defend itself from challenges like UV and pollution.

We scan the deeper layers of the skin with cross-polarized imaging to identify any predisposition to irregular pigmentation in skin tone, thus predicting the potential to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after acne lesions have healed.

By assessing the dermal fiber health, we can even evaluate vulnerabilities to scarring from more severe acne.

Then What?

With these parameters mapped out, we create a hyperspectral fingerprint of your unique skin physiology. It’s a logical approach: we apply every advanced technology available to identify the real root causes beneath the surface. This is the process we take to create each fresh formula. Precision Skincare Analysis leads to precise skincare products.


[1] Fluhr JW, Darlenski R, Lachmann N, Baudouin C, Msika P, De Belilovsky C, Hachem JP. Infant epidermal skin physiology: adaptation after birth. Br J Dermatol. 2012 Mar;166(3):483-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10659.x.

[2] Rawlings AV, Matts PJ. Stratum corneum moisturization at the molecular level: an update in relation to the dry skin cycle. J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Jun;124(6):1099-110. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1747.2005.23726.x.