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Seeing Inside the Face: Imaging Sebaceous Glands with Ultrasound Tomography

Skin Care

Among the common skin complaints afflicting women are large facial pores and shiny or greasy skin. Sebum is secreted from sebaceous glands deep inside the pores. To analyze the cause of facial pore and sebum problems that arise, we need to examine changes not only in the sebum components but also in the size and shape of the sebaceous glands. Ultrasound tomography, which is widely used in medical examinations, offers a noninvasive option for seeing inside the skin, but until now the technology was oriented to imaging of large organs, such as the liver, and was poorly suited to visualizing tiny organs like sebaceous glands. At Kao, we developed advanced ultrasound technology with enhanced resolution, focal distance, and scanning speed and succeeded in visualizing and quantifying the structure of the sebaceous glands (in a collaborative project with Professor Yoshifumi Saijo of Tohoku University). Vertical section imaging revealed that the sebaceous glands of women in their sixties, which secrete less sebum, are diminished by comparison with those of women in their twenties and thirties. In addition, by stacking multiple vertical section images, we were able to obtain a horizontal section images. With this, we were able to measure the difference in average cross-sectional area of sebaceous glands for the first time using noninvasive methods (60s, approximately 290 mm2; 20s-30s, appr. 350 mm2). Sebaceous glands are also affected by such factors as diet, sleep and stress. In the future, we plan to study how lifestyles and the state of one's health affect the morphology of the sebaceous glands in order to develop new ways of addressing sebum and facial pore problems.

Seeing Inside the Face: Imaging Sebaceous Glands with Ultrasound Tomography

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