Skin, Aging & Science (Part II)

Talking skin, aging and science in my last blog, I highlighted the importance of preventive measures and lifestyle changes, which can significantly slow down aging. Today we will dig deeper and focus on: Why skin ages and how science can help remedy it?

So, Why Does Our Skin Age? To answer this question, we need to understand what happens to our body as we age. Over time, our DNA gets damaged and our built-in repair and regeneration processes slow down, until cells wither and can no longer function properly.

Talking purely skin aging and genetic programming, our skin stops making new collagen and elastin past the age of 20. Adding insult to this injury we are constantly subjected to lifestyle dependent degradation of collagen/elastin. When the regular degradation of skin matrix is not balanced by regular replenishment, wrinkles begin to appear and skin begins to sag.

Skin Aging Under The Microscope
Sun, smoke, pollution and various toxins promote formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as superoxide anion, peroxides, and singlet oxygen (oxidants.) These ROS damage DNA, cell membranes and most importantly collagen/elastin fibers. They also increase matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes, which cause further carnage and break down vital skin components.

Few studies have shown that there are low-grade inflammatory processes taking place in our bodies in response to ROS that are responsible for making us age faster.

How Do We Fight Cellular Aging?
Personally, I agree with the above schools of thought and feel antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents are both beneficial to stop the wear and tear processes in our body. Oral antioxidants like: CoffeeBerry, Resveratrol, Pynogenol, Acai, green tea, Vitamin C (Ascorbyl Palmitate version), and Nicomide do help in slowing down the wear and tear in our body.

Some research into the low-grade inflammation theory has indicated that Doxycycline in low dosage (40 mg a day) can work well in reducing skin aging. In animal studies it has shown to substantially decrease the amount of MMP's (bad guys) that cause skin matrix degradation (if it works in humans is still debatable though).

Tried & Tested Topical Collagen Boosters:
One sure way to produce collagen is to exfoliate skin. Exfoliation, removes the surface layer of dead cells, and stimulates the new skin cells turnover and new collagen production. Retin-A, Glycolic Acid based products, superficial peels and manual facial scrubs are all good ways to exfoliate the skin.

Retin A is the most researched, tried and tested collagen booster. Looking at similar products, Dermatology literature shows us that Tazarac works a little better than Retin-A. Differin 0.3 has yet to be studied in a comparative trial.

Retinol is not bad either. ROC makes a good and fairly stable one.

Alpha-hydroxy acids are similarly tried and true, glycolic acid being the best. (Neo-strata is a great brand.)

Peptides, especially the carrier peptides, which bring zinc and copper into the dermis, increase collagen production (Neova, Osmotics and Neutrogena's Visibly Firm).

While there is a lot of hype to other topicals, skepticism is healthy here, I feel that dermato-pharmacology has improved greatly and many of the ingredients, especially peptides and hyaluronic acid benefit our skin.

Radiofrequency and Laser Treatments are also beneficial antiaging tools. They work by denaturing the skin collagen by delivering heat into the skin and thus producing collagen fragments called the signaling peptides. These signaling peptide signals the fibroblast to make more collagen.

The Bottom Line
Based on currently available science there are two main approaches to preserve youth. One is to stimulate collagen/elastin synthesis, and the other is to inhibit their degradation. Topical agents, lasers and radiofrequency treatments stimulating matrix synthesis (particularly collagen boosters) are adequately researched and supported by clinical evidence. In most cases, it is reasonable to try them first. But, sometimes (particularly in older people) they have little or no effect. In those cases, one should consider taking steps to minimize matrix degradation by inhibiting or reducing the levels of MMP enzymes. Unfortunately, the methods to do that are still in emerging processes and still some distance away from the prime time.

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