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Telomeres and Aging: How to Keep Clients Younger Longer

By: Tiffany A. McLauchlin
Posted: April 1, 2014, from the April 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Telomeres and Aging: How to Keep Clients Younger Longer

In an age of high-tech skin care, today’s clients are savvier than ever. As they have become accustomed to answers at their fingertips from smartphones and electronic devices, they expect similar convenience in other aspects of their lives, as well. These advancements may leave you wondering: How can you offer corrective skin care results with minimal downtime and without compromising the health of the skin cell? The answer can be found in telomere technology.

What are telomeres?

Each person is formed through a unique genetic makeup. This molecular blueprint—your chromosomes—is capped at the end with telomeres. Telomeres prevent chromosomes from unraveling or deteriorating, and also protect chromosomes from fusing together, avoiding malfunctioning chromosomes. A telomere is commonly compared to the protective plastic tip on the end of your shoelace due to these properties. Every time a cell divides—which is vital for new skin, blood and bone tissue reproduction—the telomere protects the DNA from losing essential gene information, but the telomere becomes shorter after each division. When it becomes too short, the cell becomes dormant, dies or may retain genetic damage that can eventually lead to mutations and cancer. Shortened telomeres have been associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Longer telomeres are linked to overall healthy living and longevity.

As chromosomes lose their telomeres throughout time, this affects skin’s aging. As you age, your risk factors increase due to a weakened immune system and naturally decreased cell division. “Telomere triggers” that can limit telomere repair and create telomere erosion are found throughout daily activities. Oxidative stress and glycation play a role by damaging and inhibiting DNA, lipids and peptides within the body. UV exposure limits telomere repair and can also initiate telomere-shortening.

A common factor within these telomere triggers is inflammation. When the skin becomes irritated or traumatized, it becomes inflamed. Too much inflammation can initiate an accelerated aging process leading to premature pigmentation, elastosis, and fine lines and wrinkles. These skin conditions can be addressed through exfoliation or peels.

Exfoliation concerns

Exfoliation practices need to be considered when addressing telomere health. Skin cells can be stimulated to divide for anti-aging benefits through exfoliation. The practice of skin exfoliation has been utilized for a youthful skin appearance for generations. Exfoliation techniques have progressed significantly, particularly during the past 50 years. Chemical peels are now a standard practice in many skin care facilities. Glycolic acid, salicylic acid and retinol are commonly used to stimulate cellular turnover. However, if improperly applied, they can initiate premature aging of the skin and, through inflammation, lead to shortening of the telomere.