Skin ageing – an inside and outside issue
What does “anti-ageing” mean?
Our skin is a living barrier between our internal tissues and the external environment. It protecting us from harmful materials in our everyday lives, such as air pollution, UV light and microbes, and physical injuries. But like all organs, it is subject to the same processes of ageing.
We first notice these changes on exposed parts of the body, such as the face and hands, as wrinkles around parts of the face that flex, such as corners of the eyes, forehead, nose and mouth.
The term “anti-ageing” is used in cosmetic products to promote a perception of youthfulness and the ability to “turn back” the biological clock. In reality, the biological effects of skin products is more subtle, and may help to slow down the process, rather than reverse it.
Supporting skin health from the outside can provide a way of creating a protective barrier, while delivering nutrients and other factors through the skin (trans-dermally). There is also growing trend to support skin and “from within”. This basically boils down to looking after your internal health and nutrition, because after all, the skin feeds off the same blood supply as all other parts of the body.
How does skin age and what accelerates aging?
Skin ages naturally as we get older by losing its structural integrity, including its elasticity, thickness and evenness of color . In post-menopausal women in their late 40’s and early 50’s, this is due sudden hormonal changes that result in lower levels of the hormone, estradiol, in the body. This normally controls part of the reproductive cycle, but it also controls the growth of skin, bone, connective tissues and blood vessels . In men, skin aging is less sudden, but more gradual with age.
Natural aging of the skin is subject to the main processes of aging we have already described [link to ageing processes]. There are several factors that may accelerate those process:
- UV light: the sun is a source of damaging radiation, one of which is UV light. Another source of more intense UV light is solarium beds. UV is important in small amounts, because it is a way the body uses to activate vitamin D. But it also can damage the skin’s cells and DNA with extended exposure, causing what is known as “photoageing” , which includes accelerated wrinkling and formation of brown spots. UV light promotes the production of free radicals in the skin, which may be combated by antioxidants.
- Nutrient imbalances: lack of some micronutrients can make the skin less healthy, which can also accelerate the natural aging process. Vitamins including A (retinol), C, E and D are all important for maintaining collagen, barrier functions and renewal. Minerals like zinc, copper and calcium are also important for keeping skin cells dividing. Omega-3’s and other long chain fats contribute to the moisture barrier and skin membranes. Lack of sufficient micronutrients can lead to dryness, eczema, blemishes and flaking 
- Dietary imbalances: people who do not have adequate micronutrients, or eat foods rich in fats, salt, protein, sugars and additives, may have compromised skin health. Foods high in sugars produce a type of factor in the blood called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) . AGE’s are associated with oxidative stress and cause collagen fibres to become brittle and tough, both in the layers and blood vessels of the skin. This is made worse by elevated saturated fats and cholesterol, which all work together to create blood flow blockages in the tiny arteries and veins in the skin, and increase inflammation.
- Emotional problems: emotional stress is an important promotor of age-related changed in skin, not just because of frowning lines, but because stress causes a hormonal response in the body. A stress hormone called cortisol, which is normally increased when we get up in the morning to help out body systems wake up, can be increased for longer times in people with chronic stress or worry, such as women during childbirth, adults working in stressful jobs or elderly people under adverse living conditions. One example is stress eczema, which flares up in some people when they experience stress .
- Alcohol and tobacco smoking: chronic use of these substances can accelerate skin aging, through several mechanism. Some of the main signs are dryness, broken fine blood vessels (e.g. spider veins), blemishes, redness (erythema) and fine wrinkles.
Can dietary antioxidants help?
Antioxidants are naturally produced in the body, but in aging skin, they may be decreased. There a few examples of antioxidant compounds that are consumed through diets, supplements or natural products that are believed to help with combating free radicals in the body.
Ubidecarenone (Coenzyme Q or CoQ10) is a naturally occurring coenzyme present in all tissues with its largest concentration in high-energy requiring organs such as the heart. It plays a vital role in energy production and protection of blood vessels , however also functions as a free radical scavenger and antioxidant that can remove harmful ROS from the body . Adequate levels CoQ10 depend on our body’s own production, but with the ageing process the biosynthesis is significantly reduced, predisposing our skin to oxidative damage.
Scientific research has shown CoQ10 supplementation can significantly increase skin hydration by reducing ROS levels and DNA damage [7, 9, 10]. More recent clinical evidence shows that CoQ10 supplementation can reduce the presence of skin wrinkles and microrelief lines, increase antioxidant capacity, and improve skin smoothness, highlighting its role in maintenance of healthy skin and its youthful appearance [11, 12]. CoQ10 also enhances the synthesis of major skin structural components, providing the potential for repair of old skin and rejuvenation of new skin [13, 14]. Most importantly, CoQ10 is able to combat against oxidative stress-induced damage and increase antioxidant defense , serving as a true knight in shining armor for your skin. One of the most important antioxidants in our body with potent radical scavenger abilities is the ‘superhero’ antioxidant, superoxide dismutase. However, its enzyme activity is significantly lower in ageing patients, putting these innocent civilians at risk when their superhero cannot offer protection. However, intervention with CoQ10 is able to increase superoxide dismutase activity, empowering the good guys (i.e. antioxidants) and ridding the villains of the skin (i.e. ROS) [16, 17].
Another well-known protector of our skin goes by the name of Vitus vinifera, or more commonly referred to as grapeseed. It contains a high concentration of compounds with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Grapeseed has been used historically as a traditional remedy to treat skin irritation and in Ayurvedic herbal medicine as a cardiotonic . However, it is also used extensively for its antioxidant and detoxification effects in skin [19-21]. Based on its ability to reduce free radical formation, grapeseed protects against the destructive effects of UV radiation that can give rise to skin cancer over time [22-24]. Melasma is another common skin problem which presents as a grey-brown patchiness on the face, but can also appear on body regions exposed to lots of sun like the forearms and neck. Clinical evidence shows that grapeseed extract possesses unique compounds that can reduce skin hyperpigmentation in women with this condition .
Grapeseed’s anti-inflammatory effects may also serve as an important factor for prevention of skin damage. Inflammation signals the body to initiate the healing process, and is a necessary part of skin rejuvenation in chronic conditions. However, inflammation can negatively affect your health and even accelerate the formation of wrinkles, enlarged pores, puffiness, bloating, itchiness or reddening of the skin. A simple solution to this problem is to maintain a healthy balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators, by taking supplements such as grapeseed that have the 2 in 1 effect of combating both inflammation and oxidative stress in the skin.
Skin is just another part of the body, but we associate it with the signs of ageing because we look at it all the time. Remember, while there is no magic bullet to skin aging, looking after skin health involves a holistic view, looking at overall health and lifestyle as we get older.
- Park, S., Biochemical, structural and physical changes in aging human skin, and their relationship. Biogerontology., 2022. 23(3): p. 275-288. doi: 10.1007/s10522-022-09959-w. Epub 2022 Mar 15.
- Wilkinson, H.N. and M.J. Hardman, A role for estrogen in skin ageing and dermal biomechanics. Mech Ageing Dev., 2021. 197:111513.(doi): p. 10.1016/j.mad.2021.111513. Epub 2021 May 25.
- Chen, X., C. Yang, and G. Jiang, Research progress on skin photoaging and oxidative stress. Postepy Dermatol Alergol., 2021. 38(6): p. 931-936. doi: 10.5114/ada.2021.112275. Epub 2022 Jan 7.
- DiBaise, M. and S.M. Tarleton, Hair, Nails, and Skin: Differentiating Cutaneous Manifestations of Micronutrient Deficiency. Nutr Clin Pract., 2019. 34(4): p. 490-503. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10321. Epub 2019 May 29.
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