Our skin should look that of our butts.... a little bit saggy, but no wrinkles, red discoloration, nor dark age spots. This speaks to the theory that sun exposure causes the rest of our skin aging throughout our lives. Less collagen support lends itself to the sagging, but many other skin aging effects come from the UV exposure. This UV exposure is not the only culprit, however. Let us investigate this in detail. A baby is born with snowy white skin without moles, wrinkles, or discolorations. The skin is plump with a thick fat pad under the dermis. The turgor, or water pressure, is great within the skin layer. Opposingly, how could we describe aging skin? The skin gets rougher. It also gets crepe-like and thin with a lot of slack. It becomes transparent. It is prone to bruising easily since even our vessels get more fragile. Aging skin also starts developing moles and benign tumors, so we are not born with spots, but we die with them!
The dermis is the layer just underneath the top surface of the skin. It is full of the collagen and elastin fibers needed to keep the skin taut and supported. It also contains the sweat glands and hair follicles (in those hairy portions of the skin). The dermis also contains a rich supply of blood flow, and within that blood supply belongs a plethora of immune cells. Yes, indeed...the skin is a large immune structure that keeps toxins out and sends toxins to the surface if the body is trying to detoxify a sinister entity out of the gut or circulation. The "glue" that bonds the epidermis and dermis together also loosens. This visible wrinkling occurs because it does not hold water as well as it used to at that juncture. This is commonly referred to in the aesthetic world as loss of the "barrier protection." There is much discussion about advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which is pronounced in diabetic and smoking skin. These products refer to a lipid or protein being glycated, meaning sugar or aldehyde binds with the protein or lipid. These AGEs have been implicated with many age-related problems in the body. The production of AGEs in the body may be considered a normal process of aging. Is it? Sugar and carbohydrates are broken down in a process that leads to a formaldehyde product that is hard to clear in the collagen and fibrin. This accumulation is not just happening at the skin levels. It happens with bones and our vasculature. The accumulation of AGEs will disrupt the protein structures, build up, or trigger inflammation. This can cause osteoporosis, arthritis, muscle loss, and skin aging.
As the skin age advances the number of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) decreases. The remaining melanocytes increase in size. Pigmented spots ("liver spots”) may appear in sun-exposed areas. The subcutaneous fat layer thins as we age so we have less insulation. This lowers your ability to maintain body temperature. Because you have less natural insulation, you can get hypothermia in cold weather. You can bruise easier because of this loss of fat pad under the skin surface. As this skin ages the oil glands secrete far less oil, lending itself to lots of dryness. Skin that is aging is prone to skin tears and prolonged time to healing.
So, what can we do about our skin? Going back to our butts that have not seen much UV exposure, more than 15-20 minutes of sun exposure per day should be avoided. Stop smoking! Cigarette smoking directly harms the collagen and elastin fibrin network. It also constricts the microcirculation to the skin and deprives it of a good oxygen supply. Smoking also lowers the skin immunity explaining why there is an increased of squamous cell carcinomas (skin cancer) in the smoking population. Avoiding alcohol works because alcohol really dehydrates our skin. Sunscreen can be a double-edged sword, so I caution to consider sun shirts, hats, and clothing layers. If your face needs sunscreen choose the sunscreen very wisely as some of the poorly made brands have preservatives that may behave as accelerants to worsening the UV exposure to the skin. As we continue the prevention path, it stands to reason that we really need to avoid the ingredients to make AGEs by staying away from sugars, fructose, and dense carbohydrates that will add embers to the fire of these end products fueling the inflammation. If we can alter our diets to prevents worsening skin aging, it is worth it to avoid expensive treatments to reverse our bad skin habits! One of the best free habits we must enhance our skin health is restorative sleep. Growth hormone is secreted at night which will power up the skin rejuvenation while we sleep. Blood flow improves with sleep and dark circles go away with the more sleep you have. Melatonin, which is secreted at night, is a powerful antioxidant and immune modulator. This paired with lower cortisol levels at night quiet down inflammation at the skin level.
Once the skin starts to show signs of aging, this would be the time to ramp up hydration practices. Hormonal support may also help with the oil glands as well as the collagen and elastin network. Supplementing with biotin and collagen as well as anti-inflammatory foods including fish oils, turmeric, vitamin C has been postulated to have some benefits, although more research is needed to confirm this. There has been some good evidence that retinol products, which are vitamin A derived,
help neutralize free radicals to boost the production of elastin and collagen. The skin plumps back up. At the same time, retinol has an exfoliating effect on the epidermis, which will lead to a smoother appearance in skin. Copper peptides are known for their ability to support the regeneration of aging skin. They do this by enhancing the production of glycosaminoglycans like hyaluronic acid. Topical application of these peptides is used very often in the plastic surgery world to promote wound healing, graft healing, and after-laser care to quiet redness and inflammation. Advanced skin care lines carry copper peptides as well as B5 for hydration. There are many treatments of aging skin when tumors, cancers, and moles are unwanted. We simply cut them off! There are good laser and energy-based techniques to go after the brown color and red vessel breakdown. Laser will go after the color to provide and light technology to remove the end-products of aging. Many times, the laser can stimulate collagen and elastin growth as well. Immune modulating prescriptive creams can repair damaged cells and prevent actinic lesions from becoming squamous cell tumors. Chemical peels, laser-resurfacing, peptide, and hyaluronic injections may work, but these techniques never quite restore the contour of your skin's original structure. We will all get older, but can we make the aging process optional?