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By: Paolo Giacomoni, PhD. Posted: 08/02/2016
Aging starts at birth and affects all of the body’s organs, most notably skin—in particular, the skin on our faces. With time, skin acquires the so-called visible signs of aging, associated with profound changes.
Aging is commonly thought of as what happens to our bodies as times passes. This definition, from a scientific point of view, is very poor because aging is actually the accumulation of damage. 2 This damage is molecular and it’s provoked by several phenomena as diverse as sun exposure, psychological stress, cold stress, infections, gravitational forces, hormonal imbalance, cellular breathing, alcohol consumption, physical strain, cigarette smoking, oxidative processes and more.
All these phenomena, which accelerate the rate of skin aging, trigger a micro-inflammatory reaction within the dermis3: Skin cells damaged by any kind of aggression secrete molecules, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which act as “molecular telephone calls.” They launch an inflammatory cascade and signal to the blood’s immune cells that something wrong is happening within the body—and that they must enter the skin to remove the damaged cells.
To reach each damaged cell, the immune cells must open a path across the walls of the blood vessels and migrate across the dermis. In doing this, the immune cells release free radicals, reactive oxygen species and proteases across well-organized elastic fibers. Yet rather than neatly open a path, the immune cells fray their way to the dermis, thus wreaking havoc: the original single-cell damage is multiplied by the oxidative process within the inflammatory response, damaging the skin’s structural molecules and leading to accelerated skin aging.
How does one begin to combat such aggressive, age-inducing skin damage? We can learn from “treatments” that accelerate or reduce the rate of aging by measuring damage before and after a treatment—such as exposure to solar radiation, with or without sunscreen. From these findings, a healthy course of skin care that promotes natural healing and well-being can be prescribed. For example, we know that solar radiation requires strong UV A and UV B filters to be applied—but the filters perform best when accompanied by antioxidants that protect the structure of the epidermis.
Effective skin care helps the skin age gracefully in its truest sense: It’s not just about removing the damage that’s already been done, but also preventing new damage. To help protect against the skin’s inflammatory response system as well as wrinkles and loss of elasticity (among other concerns), a scientifically proven skin care regime must be rigorously adhered to. To optimize such care, rely on products whose formulations use the strongest ingredients supported by science, not ones whose labels simply tout the latest fads, gimmicks, or media buzz.
1 A comprehensive analysis of skin aging is described in the Textbook of Aging Skin (Farage, Miller, Maibach editors), Springer Verlag (2010)
2 Giacomoni, P.U. (1992) Aging and Cellular Defense Mechanisms. Aging and Cellular Defense Mechanisms (Franceschi, Crepaldi, Garofalo, Vijg editors) Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 663: 1-4
3 Giacomoni, P.U., D’ Alessio, P. (1996) Skin Ageing: the relevance of antioxidants. Molecular Gerontology (Rattan & Toussaint editors), Plenum Press 177-192