Let’s start with the Basics: The anatomy of our skin. Our skin consists of three layers. The Epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous layer. The epidermis is basically our protection against water loss and the dermis supports the epidermis and enables our skin to thrive. Each layer has a lot of sublayers with important functions but I don't want to go Into too much Detail. It’s important to know that our skin constantly protects us from our environment and adjust to us when we grow or change. It’s not only scientifically important but also socially since good skin can have a positive influence on peoples’s social behavior. So how can we give some love back to our skin and protect it from aging? First we have to know what causes our skin to age. So let’s dive into that:
WHAT MAKES OUR SKIN AGE?
Skin aging is characterized by features such as wrinkling and loss of elasticity. This occurs since there are structural and functional changes in our extracellular matrix components such as collagen and elastin who keep the skin firm. There are two different factors responsible for this loss:
- Mechanical Aging ( wrinkle causing behaviors)
Intrinsic again is an inevitable process that results in thin skin and humanities biggest enemie - wrinkles. This biological aging is often genetically determined and occurs naturally within the body. Photoprotected skin ages because of intrinsic factors. The basal cell layer the proliferation of our cells reduces which reslults in the thinning of our epidermis. Therefore the contact surface area between dermis and epidermis reduces which is responsible for a smaller nutrient exchange which further weakens the basal cell proliferation. This process of decreased proliferation ( of keratinocytes, fibroblasts, melanocytes) is called cellular senescene. Collagen and elastic fibers are als fewer in photo protected skin because type 1 pro collagen is reduced because of downregulation of the TGF ß which is a regulator of collagen expression.
Extrisnic aging means that our skin aging is influenced by our environment such as air pollution, smoking, alcohol, bad diet/ poor nutrients and sun exposure. Extrinsic factors results in coarse wrinkles, loss of elceacity and a rough textured appearance. Photoaging (long-term sun exposure) is one of the primary factors of exrtrinsic skin aging. When exposed to sunlight, we can observe changes in our extracellular matrix components like collagen, elastin, proteoglycans who provide strength, elasticity and hydration to our beloved skin. Photoaging is responsible for 80% of facial aging. Opposite to the intrinsic reduction of the epidermis the thickening of epidermis occurs in the UV- radiated process. The outermost layer , stratum corneum, , is affected the most when the UV radiation is reacting on the skin. A failure of degradation of corneocyte desmosomes takes place and thickens the skin. The expression of type VII collagen and many more markers and surface proteins are also decreased due to sun exposure and results in wrinkly, saggy, uneven skin tone.
Other factors influencing Skin Aging:
- Diet/Glycation - some studies revealed that eating a diet which contains a large amount of sugar and carbohydrates rates can damage our skin. The process of attaching sugar to a protein is called glycation.
- Alcohol and caffeine intake - Those two dehydrate our body. Overtime this can cause our skin to sag and lose its shape.
- Cigrattes - also increase free radicals and probably decrease collagen and elastin.
- Pollution - the skin barrier is being exposed to the toxins and pollutants which causes pigment spots and wrinkles. Free radicals are produced more and amplifying the effect of aging.
- Weather - like wind can reduce skins moisture which leads to
- Stress - is an inflammatory response in our body which age our body faster.
- Oxidative Stress - also called ROS plays a critical role in dermal extracellular matrix alterations. It is caused by all the factors above.
Extrinsic factors which age the skin are all associated with the result of free radicals circulating in our body. Free radicals are unstable molecules who damage proteins, lipids and Dna within cells and accelerate the biological aging process. Oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. But electrons want to be in pairs, so these atoms , called free radicals, search the body to find other electrons to pair with. Whereas Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT AGING:
- Antioxidants - neutralize ROS that already formed. We can uptake them trough diet. Berries are very antioxidant rich, but also basil, orgenao, tumeric, kidney beans, pecans, ginger and dark chocolate.
- Avoiding Ultraviolet Light - Avoid tanning, stay out of sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, Apply broad spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen year around.
- Mechanical - squinting, thinker stance, sleeping on your side or stomach, unbalanced diet and lack of sleep , pursing the lips while smoking or drinking from a straw.
- Stem Cell Therapy - adipose tissue transplantation could improve skin quality at the recipient site in addition to increase skin volume.
- Retinoids - are chemically similar to vitamin A. It inhibits AP_1 , therefore preventing the degradation of of collagen. An increase in epidermal thickness and the anchoring of fibrils is observed.
- Hormone replacement therapy - During menopause, hormone replacement therapy is used to slow down the aging process. It provides skin thickness, collagen content, and elasticity and it enhances hydration.
- Diet restriction - Antioxidant rich to neutralize ROS, less alcohol and sugar to decrease free radicals.
- Avoiding triggers like stress and polluted citys.
We can to some degree stop extrinsic skin aging and support our skin with a healthy lifestyle and retinoid treatment.