The youngest Baby Boomers are now hitting 44 years of age. They are many in number and seem to be fighting the aging process every step of the way. Fitter, better educated and more financially savvy, many exercise vigorously, have super healthy eating programs and strive hard to keep their lives in balance. All good stuff. Interestingly enough, the same statistics apply to a younger generation between the ages of 25-35 years. So this article applies to both demographics – the Boomers and the Bloomers – and really to anyone interested in aging well.
In the skin department the battle is particularly fierce and even seems to be defying gravity in some areas. Options for looking younger and maintaining that radiant glow still include plastic surgery although face lifts are no longer the only choice. In fact, a recent survey done by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed a 19 percent decrease in plastic surgery procedures between 2000 and 2005. More men are seeking the cosmetic route to fight the aging process and less invasive procedures and injectables have become much more popular with both the male and female sectors. But science and technology have recently provided many more tools that we can all include in our daily lives. Terms like cosmeceuticals, photoaging, actinic keratoses, fibroblasts, collagen, pigmentation, ATP and MMP’s seem to be popping up everywhere in the media and on product labels like plum blossoms in Springtime. So what DO they all mean and how can we best utilize them in our own efforts to look the very best we can at any age?
Let’s first summarize how we age. There are two ways – naturally or intrinsically, or through sun exposure – photoaging.
The amount of sun you have been exposed to during your life plays an enormous role in how your skin ages. Photoaging is a term we have all grown used to hearing and was first coined in1986. It describes the damage done to the skin by UV (ultraviolet) exposure. We have learned to apply and re-apply sun screens when we are outdoors for extended periods of time but skin cancer is on the rise, partly because of the depletion in the ozone layer but also because we tend to overlook how much incidental sun we are exposed to every day when we run errands and go to and from work.
Daily, liberal application of a broad spectrum sun screen containing an SPF15 is essential. Ecamsule, marketed as Mexoryl, has recently gained FDA approval and is a good chemical block. Titanium and zinc oxides are effective physical blocks that reflect both UVA and UVB rays and help to prevent the formation of premalignant lesions, hyper and hypo-pigmentation, broken capillaries and small growths called seborrheic and actinic keratoses. Earlier, I mentioned MMP’s. These enzymes are activated by sun exposure and break down collagen – in other words, MMP’s are responsible for wrinkle formation. So don’t forget that daily SPF.
Intrinsic aging starts pretty much from the time we are born! Up to the age of thirty our skin cells turn over every 25 to 28 days but after thirty, skin turnover slows significantly, as does the production of collagen and elastin in the dermis – the second and deeper layer of the skin. Collagen, which comprises 90% of the skin’s total protein, is particularly important because it keeps the skin firm and plump. Because men shave every day the mitotic rate tends to work longer and harder and because they often have more oil glands in their skin to start with, men tend to age more slowly. But the news is not all bad for women. To maintain the production of collagen in our skin, we now have an interesting array of cosmeceuticals at our disposal – products that involve a good deal of cosmetic chemistry. Ingredients like peptides, which act as messengers between the dermis and epidermis, particularly Argireline, Matrixyl and Collaxyl, produce a variety of effects from triggering hormonal or immune system activity, healing and rebuilding skin tissue and stimulating the fibroblasts in the dermis to produce more collagen. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the human body. It is a super hydrator and especially calming for sensitive skin. ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) is a glucose type fuel that is stored in the mitochondria of each cell and helps fuel cellular energy. Sun and general aging diminish the ability of the cells to produce ATP so by adding this ingredient to skin care products, we help to re-energize the whole process. Oxygen kills bacteria and helps to lessen the appearance of pigmentation. Retinol (Vitamin A), texturizes the skin by stimulating collagen production, treating acne and diminishing fine lines. There are also many EPF’s (environmental protection factors) available that protect our skin against pollution and the damaging effects of free radicle activity. In particular, Green Tea, Pomegranate extract, vitamin C and red wine extract. EPF’s are best used during the day. All other actives are recommended for night time application because they tend to make the skin photosensitive – more prone to sunburn. The general rule of thumb is to be consistent once you have found a skin care regime that suits your skin. Cleanse, tone, hydrate and protect during the day and cleanse, tone and treat at night.
Hormones effect men and women lifelong – puberty and menopause don’t discriminate! Throughout puberty, surging hormones can cause break-outs and acne. As we age, the production of estrogen and progesterone diminishes which can result in dryer skin, wrinkles, more break-outs, uneven skin texture and hair loss. Estimates show that skin loses up to 30% of its collagen in the first five years after menopause and without intervention collagen depletion continues to affect the tone, elasticity and turgur of the skin. Hot flashes can cause redness and inflammation and inability to sleep is often apparent during this transition, which greatly affects the appearance of the skin because it is during sleep that the skin does most of its work. Lifestyle adjustments at this time should include:
* Increased Water Intake – drink half your weight in water.
* Minimal sugar intake – to cut back on break-outs and glycation.
* Intake of healthy oils – Fish oils and/or flaxseed .
* Plenty of Sleep/Rest/Relaxation. Not only does this give the skin time to use all those great actives you are applying but it also allows the brain to reboot and the digestion to settle. By the morning your whole body is ready to go.
The body and mind loves rhythm and rituals. All of the above suggestions can create a balanced approach to life no matter what age you are and that rhythm and balance will certainly show up in your clear, glowing skin.