- Aging & Longevity
Skin and Ageing
Anti Ageing Skin Care
Skin and Ageing
Everyone's skin ages. We accept this as a natural process and something that we can't do anything about. This is partly true however it only needs you to compare the skin on the outside of your arm with the skin on the inside to realise that actually the skin on the outside looks older. Why is this?
The answer is quite simple, the main reason the skin on the outside of your arm looks older, more wrinkled or rougher isn't the age of the skin but the fact its been exposed to far more sun than the skin on the inside. This skin damage is called photo-aging and can damage the skin in a variety of ways causing wrinkles, darker skin and dark spots. In general it results in a less youthful appearance.
This damage is caused by the UV radiation which reduces the number of dermal blood vessels that supply nutrients to the skin.This also damages collagen and elastin which are both essential in maintaining skin tone. The two types of UV radiation are UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are thought to be responsible for ageing skin whilst UVB rays are shorter length and are thought to be responsible for sunburn and tanning.
This is not the entire story however. Natural ageing, regardless of sun exposure means everyone gets thin lines or wrinkles and sagging skin and this is largely determined by something we can't control, which is genetics. Unfortunately there is not a great deal you can do about genetics so much of the focus has been on how we repair the damage done by the skin.
There is now a huge market for anti ageing products. The best way to reduce the signs of ageing are to quite simply keep out of the sun, however this is either impractical or too late for many people so I have examined some of the many different types below.
Types of anti ageing products
One of the newest and most controversial of products is 'botox' or botulinum toxin injections. This is a neurotoxin that temporarily paralyses the muscles involved in wrinkle formation. This can last for 3-4 months and although side effects seem to be rare there have been a number of botched injections that have left many people wary. Long term side effects for using these injections is also unknown.
Another form or skin improvement is exfoliators which peel away the top layer of the skin which exposes the newer, younger looking skin. These can take the form of salt scrubs which remove the top layer manually or natural acids such as glycolic, lactic and citric acids. Uncovering new skin however can make the new skin even more susceptible to further sun damage.
Because these products fall between nutraceuticals and cosmetics so they have been termed cosmeceuticals. Most cosmeceuticals are topically applied however more are being designed to be taken orally.
Cosmeceuticals can work in a number of ways. Some act as moisturisers and introduce moisture into the skin and then help to prevent it from leaving the skin. The most common type are occlusive moisturisers which are normally oily or waxy that act as a barrier on the skin and simply prevent the moisture from leaving.
The most interesting development in cosmeceuticals are the products that not only aim to keep moisture in the skin but actually introduce beneficial nutrients that aim to rejuvinate the skins appearance.
Many common products include Vitamin A derivatives which cause structural changes in the skin by removing the top skin layers of the skin and form new collagen which theoretically improves the overall appearance of the skin and improving the smoothness. Although these are now widely used there are no long term benefits and once they are stopped the skin gradually returns to the way it was before the product was used. Vitamin A is also a fat soluble vitamin so caution needs to be taken as too much Vitamin A can accumulate in the body. Vitamin E is another common ingredient in skin products and as this is also a fat soluble vitamin the same care needs to be taken when introducing it orally.
Antioxidants are a key component required to prevent oxidative damage which is caused by UV radiation. Vitamin C is thought to be essential for collagen synthesis and tissue repair however taking it orally may mean not enough is absorbed into the skin. Topically applied Vitamin C may be more effective and many products contain Vitamin C in other forms such as Rosehips.
Other antioxidants that can be used are alpha lipoic acid, green tea for its high polphenol content, acai and many more.
One of the newer ingredients that seems to show very positive results is a blue-green algae called Aphanizomenon flos-aquae or AFA. When combined with a range of other natural products this seems to reduce the signs of ageing by a significant amount. This also has the benefit of being non toxic and totally natural.
Paul Boland BVSc MRCVS