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The Science of Aging Skin

By: Lydia Sarfati
Posted: June 1, 2009, from the June 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Sun exposure. Absorption of ultraviolet (UV) and visible light occurs due to melanin granules in the epidermal cells. Melanin protects the skin from the damaging effects of sunlight. Exposure to sunlight, especially UVA and UVB radiation, stimulates the production of melanin resulting in a pigmentation increase, otherwise known as a tan. Although this is the defense mechanism to protect skin from UV damage, it is also a sign that harm has occurred. UV rays generate free radicals, highly unstable molecules that damage cellular material. They are capable of altering DNA and may affect membranes surrounding the skin cells, destroying or altering enzymes and proteins required for cellular metabolism. This can result in the formation of sun-induced skin cancer, and the hastened breakdown of collagen and elastin leads to thinner skin and wrinkles.

Smoking. Smoking reduces the body’s supply of vitamin A and absorption of vitamin C, which are both vital in protecting skin. Additionally, because smoking shrinks the size of capillaries, blood flow becomes more restricted, and vitamins and oxygen are not delivered to the skin. Smoking increases production of the enzyme that breaks down collagen. One cigarette contains 4,000 chemicals. Why spend money on skin products when you are ingesting poison?

Improper skin care. The natural pH balance of the skin has an acidic level of about 5.5. Many soaps and cleansers raise that balance to somewhere around 10, leaving the skin tight and dry. One of the skin’s most important functions is to retain water, and your clients’ skin care regimens should work to reintroduce moisture and minerals to skin, which is best done if products closely mimic the skin’s composition.

Lack of sleep. During sleep, the body repairs and replaces damaged tissues and cells, including the skin. Without enough sleep, the repair process is slowed and cortisol levels are raised, which can impede collagen production and accelerate water loss. The result is dry skin and wrinkles. Lack of sleep increases the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. During sleep, circulation is increased. A lack of sleep impacts circulation and those not getting enough might appear paler, increasing the visibility of dark circles, which can be attributed to dilated blood vessels under the eyes where the skin is thinnest. According to The Better Sleep Council, the average person needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but this varies from person to person.

Poor nutrition. What a person looks like on the outside begins on the inside. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are vital for nourishing and hydrating skin, protecting it and aiding in repair and protective functions. Poor nutrition leads to decreased cellular repair, dehydration and a decrease in collagen and elastin production.