Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Can Science Really Reverse Aging Skin?

Given the fast pace of developments in both the pharmaceutical world coupled with the fast-paced realizations of the natural skin care products world, the question in the title is not totally out of the ordinary.  Don't you agree (you -- the reader -- participant)?  Recently, work has emerged from the scientific community that has been advertised as such.  Below, I will briefly introduce the idea published and the results -- which to me are surprising.

Anti-aging Products?

Seems almost contradictory from the standpoint of a chemist.  Although, when the subject is put into context, the developments seems positive.  At the same time, there is a strange part of listing a product as "anti-aging" in my mind that has never really resonated over the years.  Why?

Because, we are all born with the idea that from emerging from the womb, destruction is all down hill from there.  Our bodies being exposed to the environment spurs our immune systems along with every other defense mechanism available to signal the army -- "game on" -- lets get to work.

What do I mean by the phrase "game on" in the last sentence?

In the context of skin care products, the goal is to preserve the skin.  Really, the goal is to prevent degradation of the skin (or the top few layers of skin).  The three most destructive properties that contribute to the aging process are:

1) Exposure to the environment (chemical, irradiation, physical, etc.).

2) Aging, the natural process of skin shedding.

3) Treating the skin to prevent aging with skin care products.

Am I against skin care products?  Not at all.  But the natural process of aging is that over time, the exposure of the outermost layer of skin (or few layers) is going to cause aging -- which appears in the following visual manners:

1) Dry skin, flaky skin,

2) Saggy skin

3) pale looking skin

Should each of us be afraid of the inevitable appearance of skin?  No.

Should we try our best to preserve our skin from harm?

Of course.  That is unless the treatment is harmful itself.  In this blog post, I want to talk about a potentially harmful treatment that is being touted as a scientifically valid form of anti-aging treatment for our skin.  In the future, I will consult my colleague Sepi to discuss skin care treatment from the perspective of using her company's natural skin care product line -- "CT Organic."  First, lets look at the objective of reversing anti-aging skin.

Reversing The Aging Process Of Skin

In order to reverse the process of aging skin, from a scientists standpoint, a person would have to perform a procedure that involves programming genes in a patients body.  Since we are nowhere near that point, is there anything in the near future that can be done to restore or preserve our skin?  Yes, there are methods that can preserve (or prevent the aging process).

What are these methods?

First, lets look at the appearance of skin and the objective toward keeping the "young" skin active.  There are three main characteristics in skin appearance:

1) Skin tightness

2) Skin body (fullness)

3) Skin health (appearance -- dry or moist)

Am I right?

The goal is to have skin that appears healthy -- meaning has "body" and is moisturized along with the appropriate "tension"(not too tight or too loose).

How is this achieved with skin care products?

In order to back these assertions up, I thought that a good reference would be to look toward two sources: 1) the "Beauty Brains"  and 2) American Dermatology Association.

1) "Beauty Brains":

First, the "Beauty Brains" is a podcast hosted by two cosmetic chemists -- Dr. Perry Romanowski and Dr. Randy Schuller.  The purpose of the podcast is to analyze beauty products in the same fashion as the infamous "mythbusters" do with science.  How does this work?

Recently, there was a podcast specifically devoted to "anti-aging" skin care products.  In that show, the hosts discussed a new technology that involved a skin care patch that supposedly reversed the age of skin.  Fortunately, the Beauty Brains shot down the product and save the community the waste of time and effort.

What was interesting about the podcast in relation to the current blog post was the description of the aging skin and anti-aging products.  Here is an excerpt from the show - shown below:

  Crepey skin gets its name because it looks like tissue paper or crepe paper – the skin is loose and saggy and may have little bumps or ridges. It’s thought to be caused by a reduction in the collagen bundles that exist in dermis. Collagen loss occurs through the natural aging process but crepey skin can also be caused by massive weight loss or topical steroid use which thins the skin. There is no topical cure for this condition although if you can boost collagen production it could certainly help.

Crepey skin is equivalent to dry and loose skin.  I guess that the community likens this to crepe paper found in craft stores.  From the show hosts perspectives, there are products that give skin the appearance of younger skin.  There are some concerns associated with those products and should be reviewed before using them on your skin.  Why -- you might ask?

2) Academy of American Dermatology:

To answer the last question of consulting a physician or a skin care specialist about certain products, I will turn now to the Academy of American Dermatology for resources.  Both the "Beauty Brains" website and the Academy of American Dermatology websites are filled with a wealth of information regarding skin care products.

Collagen loss seems to be a large contributor to the aging of skin.  Although, up until a few years ago, the phenomenon was not known exactly.  There are still a large amount of unknowns associated with aging skin.  I found an article on the AAD website titled "New glycan creams, micronutrient creams hold promise for reducing the signs of aging skin" that discussed the popular use of glycan and micronutrient creams.  The article was an interview with Dr. Zoe Draelos, who is a Board-certified dermatologist, MD, FAAD, a consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. Here is an excerpt regarding the theory behind the use of such creams:

What is the theory behind glycans and anti-aging, and how do glycan creams work?
Dr. Draelos said a person’s glycan levels change during their lifetime. For example, one of the body’s most common glycans is glucose, and Dr. Draelos said glucose levels fall by about 50 percent from age 30 to age 60. In addition, existing glycans may not work as well as they once did.

“The theory is that glycan change and loss that occur with aging lead skin cells to not recognize or communicate with each other with the same vigor they did in their youth,” said Dr. Draelos. “This may be why aging skin doesn’t heal as well or make collagen as readily as it once did,” said Dr. Draelos.

Dr. Draelos said the goal of glycan creams is to provide sugars or transform existing sugars to allow older cells to behave like younger cells. In theory, this would allow the skin to produce more collagen and heal better after injuries, including burns and cuts. Dr. Draelos notes one added benefit of glycan creams is that they are considered safe to apply to the skin because sugars are the body’s fuel.

However, Dr. Draelos notes current research has not shown if glycan creams can impact the skin to the extent that skin cell glycans begin to act more youthful. “The theory behind glycans’ impact on anti-aging is very much in its infancy,” said Dr. Draelos. “Currently there are other more proven treatments on the market, such as retinoids, but new research will provide additional targets for anti-aging strategies.”

Furthermore, Dr. Draelos goes onto comment on the use of "micro-nutrients" to prevent aging skin:

What are the most promising micronutrients for anti-aging?
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are essential for human survival. While necessary in our diet, Dr. Draelos said micronutrients are also popular additives in anti-aging skin care products because micronutrients play an important role in the body for healthy skin by preventing oxidative damage. There are recommended daily allowances for each of these micronutrients, but no evidence exists that increased consumption has anti-aging benefits. While vitamins A, C and E are commonly included in anti-aging products as antioxidants, Dr. Draelos said some anti-aging creams now include metals, such as copper, which is necessary in collagen production, or selenium, which functions as an antioxidant through an alternative pathway.

“While research has shown that metals such as selenium and copper have skin benefits when included in our diet, effectively adding these metals to a skin care cream can be a challenge because applying micronutrients to the skin may not be as effective as when consumed,” said Dr. Draelos.

Dr. Draelos recommends people see a board-certified dermatologist if they have questions about choosing anti-aging products. “I tell all my patients that protecting your skin from the sun is the best way to prevent the signs of aging – wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, seek shade and cover up,” said Dr. Draelos. “There is as much diversity in anti-aging products as there is in people’s skin. A dermatologist can provide personalized recommendations.”

Reading the excerpts above should drive home the point of taking care of your skin with natural products.  Be careful of products that advertise too much in too short of time.  Contact a dermatologist for further information.  Understand the type of skin (oily, dry, rash, etc.) that you have to ensure that the product is good for you.

A large amount of products claim to replenish your skin with nutrients that your body is deficient in.  Beware of such claims.  Consult the Academy of American Dermatologists website links for further information on the following topics:

How to create an anti-aging skin care plan

How to select anti-aging skin care products

How to maximize results from anti-aging skin care products

The "Beauty Brains podcast series located here!

Last but not least, I want to discuss a new scientific finding that might claim to be "anti-aging" but could in fact be dangerous to your health.

Elastic Skin

Recently, I was surprise to open up the prestigious scientific journal Nature to see a "News & Commentary" brief article titled "Transparent film smoothes sagging skin back into shape" in the current issue (now a few weeks old).  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Materials scientists working with cosmetics firms have developed a transparent film that, for the first time, mimics the skin’s youthful elasticity. The silicone-based coating can be smeared onto the face or other areas of the body through two gel applications. Once hardened, it clings closely to the skin for more than 16 hours, says Robert Langer, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who co-led development of the material.

The film — which Langer’s team dubs ‘second skin’ — can reduce the appearance of bags under the eyes and wrinkles, and can increase the elastic recoil of skin when it is pinched, he and colleagues report in a paper published in Nature Materials1. It also acts as a barrier that prevents water loss from dry skin, they report, suggesting that besides its cosmetic use, the film might offer an alternative to greasy ointments for people with skin complaints such as eczema, although it hasn't yet been trialled for that idea.

 After reading the brief commentary, I decided to go look at the article in the research section of the journal myself.   Sure enough, here is the research article titled "An Elastic Second Skin" with the following abstract shown below:

The invention is real.  If you read the introduction, the authors list several reasons why a person would be interested in using elastic skin.  The most important is to have healthy looking (not dehydrated) skin that gives off the appearance of health and wellness.

The above comments are not to suggest that the new product or invention is of no use.  Elastic skin could be of use to the film industry, cosmetic industry for modeling, the health industry for burn victims or patients with persistent skin diseases.  What I worry about is the fact that the average person will come along and use the product without thinking about possible cautions that could turn into disasters.  What might those be?  Take a look at the product shown below from in the picture from the article:

Source: Melanie Gonick

Elastic skin might be good for a patient with the listed conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis.  What the consumer should understand is that the skin is a major pathway for the body to excrete toxins through sweating.  The invention could claim that the product might help dry skin or help moisturize a person with persistently dry skin or flaky skin.  True, but also, if the elastic skin is worn over the old skin, there is no room to breathe and release toxins.

Conclusion . . .

Skin care is a multibillion dollar business.  Who would not like to look great with healthy and non-aging skin? The inevitable aspect of aging is that our bodies do get exposed to the environment.  As I suggested above, through the links to various websites with comments, there are pathways to reduce the damage to your skin.  Contact your dermatologist.  Or just practice simple measures such as hydrating your body enough.  Keep your skin moisturized.  Consult a skin care specialist to save yourself money by not over spending on skin care products that have outrageous claims.

Until next time, have a great day!

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