In preparation for my own video blog segment (debuting June 17!), I’ve been watching more online videos in my spare time. This one, featuring the facial changes of a man, JK Keller, every day for 8 years, made me wonder: What exactly makes someone appear older? And what can be done to delay or prevent the process altogether?
1.) UV light-induced skin damage (perhaps the most prominent).
2.) genetic factors;
3.) telomere shortening and chromosomal alterations;
4.) free radical generation (in excess of free radicals necessary for normal metabolism).
1. UV Radiation
UV radiation generates free radicals, which turn on matrix metalloproteinases (enzymes). In a 1996 study by Fisher et al., it was found that UV exposure increase MMPs (and hence collagen production) in three steps, as mentioned in Dr. Leslie Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology. One, UV exposure increases the production of the transcription factor c-jun. Two, the “extra” c-jun combines with another transcription factor already present in high concentration, c-fos, to produce activator protein, AP-1. Three, AP-1 activates the MMP genes, which produce collagenase, gelatinase, and stromelysin-1. It may further be noted that there are twenty-three human MMPs, and MMP-1 has been found in studies to be the MMP responsible for collagen degradation. And, similar to how natural antioxidants keep free radicals in check, the body naturally produces Tissue Inhibitors (TMPs) to keep levels of MMPs down. Unfortunately, however, as people age, MMP activity increases, while levels of Tissue Inhibitors (TMPs) decrease.
Matrix metalloproteinase activity can be stopped in two ways. The first is to prevent their production. This is best done with a sunscreen with high UVB protection (UVB has been directly liked to MMP production by Fisher et al.) Fortunately, the best UVB protection is easy to find: look for the sunscreen with the highest sun protection factor (SPF), a direct measure of UVB protection. The second method is to stop the degrading activities of the MMPs. According to Dr. Wexler, there are several substances that act as MMP inhibitors (MMPis): epigallocatechin-3-gallate (a derivative of green tea), retinoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), beta-carotene, DHEA (though this is controversial), polysaccharides, vitamin E, and vitamin C, and flavonoids. Research has shown all of these inhibit MMPs and increase TIMPs. Patricia Wexler’s MMPi Skin Regeneration Serum, available at Bath and Body Works stores, uses MMPis to inhibit MMP activity in skin cells by more than 80% (statistic from drpatriciawexlermd.com).
What you can do: Wear a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (I prefer 50+, even though there’s about a 0.8% difference per mg/cm2!) each and every day. Avoid UV light as much as possible between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. Stay protected on the airplane if you travel (UV light is incredibly strong on planes). And if you’re going to the beach, keep reapplying sunscreen at least every 3 hours!
2. Genetic factors
Skin aging is the result of genetic, as well as environmental, factors. In several lower species, genes that contribute to aging have been identified, and it is believed that corresponding genes may play a role in aging of humans.
What may delay these factors of aging: Studies in mice have shown that caloric restriction increases the life of the mice and the expression of sirt1 genes, which code for sirtuins that may be responsible for prolonging the life of cells by turning off unnecessary gene expression.
In human skin, caloric restriction has also been proposed to decrease contact dermatitis, decrease free radical formation, and potentially preserving the softened, youthful state of collagen by decreasing the formation of advanced glycation endproduct glucosepane. Still, even though most Americans are now overweight, aalways talk to your physician before beginning any sort of diet regimen.
3. Telomere shortening and chromosomal alterations
Telomeres are repeated patterns of DNA sequences (TTAGGG) found at the end of chromosomes. With each round of DNA replication, telomeres shorten. Older adults have shorter telomeres compared with younger adults and children; when telomeres reach a certain shortened length, the cell is no longer able to divide, and cell death occurs. In fact, according to this study, the size of telomeres found in adrenal (kidney) chromosomes shortens by about 0.24% per year of human life. The telomere theory of aging is also supported by patients with Werner’s Syndrome, a rare disease in which aging is accelerated. Although an enzyme, telomerase, is able to make telomeric sequences to replace shortened sequences, and the introduction of telomerase into retinal epithelial cells and fibroblasts has been shown in this 1994 study by Bodnar et. al.to regenerate telomeres, telomerase is also reactivated in cancer cells, and so the introduction of telomerase into normal human cells to fight aging is not in fact a sound therapy at all.
Other chromosomal alterations reported by Dr. Susan C. Taylor in Cosmetic Dermatology include a defective DNA helicase, which is the enzyme used to uncoil DNA prior to each round of replication. It has been found that a mutation in DNA helicase is responsible for Werner’s Syndrome and the premature aging symptoms that result. In another disease resulting in accelerated aging, progeria, a misregulation of mitosis has been identified as the major cause.
What you can do: Not much. It has been found that two people of the same age may have vastly different telomere size, but little difference in their apparent skin physiology. Apparently, 0.001 mm does not measure the same in everyone on a DNA scale! With that said, no skin care technologies or therapies have ever been proven to delay the shortening of, or to regenerate, telomeres.
4. Free radical generation
The free radical theory of aging has existed since the 1950’s by Denham Harman. The theory essentially states that free radical processes cumulatively lead you to age. Free radical generating processes include UV exposure, environmental pollutants, and smoking, and also mandatory processes, like respiration and metabolism. As respiration and metabolism are necessary for life to continue, it is impossible to eradicate free radical production in the body completely. For this reason, it has been proposed by deGrey in Ending Aging (amongst others) that free radicals are a natural byproduct of life that should not necessarily be neutralized with antioxidants. According to Dr. Jeannette Graf in Cosmetic Dermatology, newfound technologies like “spin traps” have been developed to eradicate only the rare free radicals that are created when an aberrant electron “spins” out of its orbit. (Spin traps, being developoed by Dr. J. Carney and his associates, are not yet available in skin care products.)
What you can do to prevent free radical generation: Most experts emphatically recommend the use of topical antioxidants, with support from numerous nutritional studies that demonstrate eating antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables helps to prevent aging and certain diseases. As topical application of an ingredient results in a maximal absorption of about 33% of the ingredient, according to this 2002 study by Briggs et. al., so applying topical antioxidants and consuming them through the diet should have synonymous effects. In addition, while studies at MIT have suggested that oxygen free radicals do not contribute to a shortened lifespan, another study has demonstrated that oxygen free radicals can damage the DNA of cultured skin cells. As such, free radical-induced aging seems to be one of the only causes we can treat: eat a diet rich in antioxidants and apply a multitude of topical antioxidants to eradicate free radical production.
To eat as many antioxidant-rich vegetables as possible, according to this 2006 study by the American Botanical Council, vegetables were found to retain 80% of their raw antioxidant capacity when steamed, but just 30% when boiled. Also, of 27 vegetables, those with the highest antioxidant capacity were artichokes, beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, red chicory, red chili, and yellow pepper, so eat up!
To maximize the benefit of topically applied antioxidants, use products with network antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 and glutathione), and/or strong antioxidants, such as coffeeberry, idebenone, vitamin E and kinetin.
Why Does this Video Look Familiar?
Turns out this video has been the culprit of a phenomenon known as “lifejacking,” in which users are tricked into clicking links that mark the clicked site as one of your Facebook “likes.” These likes then show up on your profile and Facebook News Feed so your friends can see the link and click it, allowing the vicious cycle to continue.
It seems many of the visible signs of skin aging really can be delayed with vigilant application of sunscreen, rigorous ingestion and topical application of antioxidants, and the use of retinoids and other skin care ingredients that stimulate the skin to renew itself. The same thing that makes aging so tricky – the fact that it happens so gradually – can be used to your advantage as you do just a little every day to delay, prevent, and even reverse a few signs of the process.
What are your favorite anti-aging tricks? Let us know in Comments below, and be sure to visit the FutureDerm.com fan page, where all questions are now answered!
Founder and CEO Nicki Zevola started FutureDerm as a medical (M.D.) student studying to be a dermatologist. She is an award-winning scientific researcher and writer. She currently is concentrating on FutureDerm and developing FutureDerm's one-of-a-kind products. She can be found on Google+ and Twitter.View all Nicki Zevola posts.
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