An actual question from a reader (btw, this is why I adore my readers, they’re so smart!):
I’ve been researching the topic of facial subcutaneous fat, ie ways in which it can be preserved but also the possibility of finding a way to regenerate lost fat from age/UV damage. I think that fat loss is often overlooked when it comes to preventing and treating symptoms of superficial aging, so I’m always on the lookout for anything relevant to the this topic.
I’ve come across relatively new research suggesting that bone morphogenetic proteins influence both collagen production as well as production of fat. Specifically inhibition of BMP-2 has been shown to have a collagen-boosting power 6x that of retinoic acid. Other research also shows that upregulation of BMP-4 can convert myofibroblasts into adipocytes. With your scientific background do you know of any substance relevant to skincare that might potentially downregulate BMP-2 or upregulate BMP-4 when applied topically to skin? I’ve read that Vitamin K2 blocks BMP-2 receptors in certain parts of the body, but am curious if other things have been known to do the same.
Do you know of any other research that relates bone morphogenetic proteins to skin, or research regarding preservation and formation of subcutaneous fat?
This is a great question.
First, your assumption that a loss of subcutaneous fat as you age makes you look older is very true. As you can see from the diagram below, when we’re young, we tend to have high cheekbones, full cheeks, and a defined jawline. These items create a “triangle.”
But as we age, there is drooping in the cheek area, flattened cheeks, a sagging jawline, and fullness between the neck and chin. The tip of the nose also appears to get larger because of the loss of fat surrounding the nose, and the tip of the nose may also droop somewhat.
On the one hand, there are four other major factors that contribute to skin aging:
1.) genetic factors;
2.) telomere shortening and chromosomal alterations;
3.) free radical generation (in excess of free radicals necessary for normal metabolism);
4.) UV light-induced skin damage.
But preserving and supplementing subcutaneous fat is another way that can help your skin look younger, yes. (As some friends of mine put it, “You either get your ass or your face as you get older — you choose.”) One rather obvious way to preserve your fat is to gain and lose weight very slowly, or to keep your weight as stable as possible, so as to avoid rapid fat loss from the center of the face, which is hard to replace later.
So, now for the less-obvious, scientific part of your question. Are there ways to inhibit BMP-2? Truth be told, not BMP-2 specifically, at least not yet. But because BMP-2 is a protein, you can help to preserve it and its production by using anti-inflammatory ingredients, inhibitors of pro-inflammatory molecules like eicosanoids, and by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
One product I like in particular lately with anti-inflammatory properties is SciaEssentials Delta-5 Serum; its sciadonic acid has been shown to have the ability to decrease chronic inflammation in the skin. It does this by working very early in the inflammation cascade. Specifically, it competes for incorporation of the typically pro-inflammatory fatty acid arachidonic acid into specific classes of phospholipids (membrane lipids that help in barrier function and also downstream inflammation). Arachidonic acid is a precursor to typically pro-inflammatory molecules known as eicosanoids (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and others). So the overall effect of sciadonic acid is to decrease levels of these pro-inflammatory mediators in various cells including immune cells (Food and Chemical Toxicology) and also in invading pathogens (Prostaglandins and Other Lipid Mediators). Although DELTA- 5™ is currently being developed as a cosmetic ingredient, initial results show accelerated healing of burns and abrasions, suggesting it may also benefit acute inflammation.
Other than using anti-inflammatory, anti-“pro-inflammatory” molecule skincare like SciaEssentials Delta-5 Serum, by keeping your weight stable (or by gaining/losing very slowly), and by adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, there’s not much else I can tell you at this time about preserving subcutaneous fat.
Hope this helps,