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Triple Threat: The Three Keys to Fighting Aging Skin

By Diana L. Howard, PhD
Posted: May 23, 2007, from the June 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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        Although most know that photoaging leads to the cross-linking of the collagen and elastin in the skin, it has only been in recent years that scientists have begun to understand more about this process. Collagen and elastin proteins are highly susceptible to an internal chemical reaction within the body called glycation. This is a nonenzyme-mediated reaction that takes place between free amino groups in proteins and a sugar, such as glucose. The same glucose that provides energy for the cells can react with proteins, such as collagen, resulting in the formation of AGEs and free radicals, which contribute to the cross-linking of protein fibers, the loss of elasticity and changes in the dermis associated with the aging process. When AGEs form in the skin, they activate a receptor site and form a complex known as RAGE (Receptor-AGE), which signals cellular processes that are related to inflammation and subsequent disease. Why is this so important? Because inflammation is detrimental to the aging process and occurs with many diseases. 
        For example, diabetics have uncharacteristically high levels of sugar in their blood and suffer from numerous health issues that are a result of the formation of AGEs in their body. Because of this, diabetes is considered a disease of accelerated aging. Muscle weakness, heart disease and many brain diseases also are associated with glycation. Scientists now believe that the reduction of AGEs can slow the aging process, as well as disease formation.
        Combating AGEs. Unfortunately, the list of ingredients that fight glycation is very limited due to the lack of research in this area. Look for products with specific Lys-Arg polypeptides, which have been shown to fight glycation, as well as soy isoflavonoids, which trap excess sugar molecules to prevent the formation of AGEs in the skin.

Educate your client
        Although it may seem like these three biochemical reactions are isolated occurrences in the skin, it is important to note that they are very interconnected and influence each other. Collectively, they contribute to premature aging of skin. Understanding these biochemical phenomena enables you to educate your client about the types of products needed to address their skin conditions, and to encourage them to have reasonable expectations in regard to addressing aging skin.