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DNA Repair Mechanisms and the Skin

By: Michael Q. Pugliese and Peter T. Pugliese, MD
Posted: July 31, 2014, from the August 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma

Silently and efficiently, the cells of the skin work furiously to repair the damage that is incessantly assaulting your deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA). Without these repair mechanisms, life would be impossible.

The major manifestation of DNA damage on the skin is skin cancer. Clients who have red hair and are Fitzpatrick Type I are the most susceptible to this type of damage, but anyone who is exposed to high levels of sun exposure is a candidate for DNA damage. If serious, most DNA damage to the skin will manifest as some type of lesion. If skin care professionals notice actinic keratosis, multiple ugly, pigmented spots or any lesion that cannot be recognized, they should immediately refer the client to a dermatologist.

In this article, only the basic mechanisms of DNA repair will be covered for the skin care professional by answering four essential questions.

  1. How does the skin become damaged?
  2. What type of damage is incurred by DNA and other organelles in the skin?
  3. How does the skin repair this damage?
  4. What can be used topically to assist in DNA repair?

There are so many assaults on the DNA during the life of the average cell that, eventually, if an organism lived long enough, the cells would not be able to keep up the repair effort, and they would either die or become malignant. It’s important before proceeding into this complex subject that you understand the basic structure of DNA.

What is DNA?

DNA is a very long molecule that looks much like a ladder twisted into a spiral. The two uprights of the ladder are made up of a sequence of sugar and phosphate molecules, joined end to end. The two uprights are then joined together by pairs of four bases that make up the rungs of the ladder. Chemically, these bases are known as purines and pyrimidines.