The Secret to Skin Anti-Ageing

By Linya Thng 

Characterized as the most voluminous organ of the body, the skin is not subject to intrinsic and extrinsic ageing. Briefly summarizing, intrinsic aging is defined by an individual’s genetic background and is dependent on time whilst extrinsic aging is influenced by environmental factors such as sun exposure, air pollution, smoking, alcohol abuse, and poor nutrition. The distinct features of skin ageing include wrinkling, rough-textured appearance, loss of elasticity and laxity. Cutaneous ageing, by definition, is induced by extrinsic and intrinsic factors.  The processes of ageing are often accompanied by phenotypic changes in cutaneous cells, along with functional and structural alterations in extracellular matrix components. These changes are fundamental to provide the skin with tensile strength and elasticity to the skin. The gradual loss of skin elasticity results in the phenomenon of sagging. There are countless anti-ageing regimens, but which holds the most promise? The article aims to provide a comprehensive overview on skin ageing, research advances of the molecular mechanisms leading to such changes, and the treatment strategies aimed at preventing or reversing skin aging.

The skin is truly a biological universe, incorporating our body’s major support systems – together, they help maintain homeostasis of the mammalian body (Krutmann et al., 2017). Given its strategic location at the interface of the body, skin ageing is defined as a complex biological process influenced by an amalgamation of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, together leading to cumulative structural and physiological changes in each individual skin layer (Baumann, 2007). In addition, the cumulative effects of these factors affect the changes in skin appearance, especially in areas exposed to the sun. The skin is generally subjected to hormonal and genetic influence as well as environmental factors, principally UV radiation (UVR) and chemical changes. Notably, long term exposure to UVR is the primary factor of skin ageing and is often referred to as photoaging (Bayer, 2005). In the perspective of extrinsic ageing, it is the main causative agent of coarse wrinkles, dyspigmentation, skin laxity, and xerosis. Mechanisms for ageing skin encompasses mitochondrial DNA mutations, the actions of reactive oxygen species (ROS), hormonal changes, and many more. 

In the perspective of treatment strategies, recent insights evaluating the stress sensing capacity of the skin has allowed dermatologists to assess the effect of age on key axes. The ‘successful ageing’ paradigm penalizes a healthy lifestyle, countering in line with the traditional conceptualizations of ageing as time of disease. Viewed from this perspective, preventive aesthetic dermatology revolves around treating or preventing certain cutaneous disorders through invasive procedures, and instrumental devices (Bayer, 2005). The model for therapeutic anti- ageing treatment consists of a continuous, step-by-step process, involving a combination of skin bio- revitalization, rejuvenation, augmentation, and restoration of each individual skin layer.  The skin anti-ageing strategy attempts to reverse dermal and epidermal features of chronological- and photo-ageing (Mykytyn, 2006). This consists of a wide spectrum of approaches, ranging from cosmetological care, systemic agents (such as hormone replacement therapy) to preventive medicine.  

Does skincare help? A healthy and functioning skin barrier is imperative when fighting dehydration, allergens, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and radiation. Having a daily skin-care routine positively increases skin regeneration, smoothness, and elasticity. There is currently a range of products available which promotes the natural synthesis of structural constituents such as collagen and, elastin (Krutmann et al., 2017). Natural sources of antioxidants include green tea and aloe vera which are reducing agents believed to relieve skin ageing via the neutralization of ROS. The primary structural components of the dermis, collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) have been the main subjects of a multitude of anti-ageing research and efforts for aesthetic-anti-ageing strategies pertaining to the skin, from “anti-wrinkle creams” to various filing agents (Mykytyn, 2006). Another vital approach in actively preventing the formation of wrinkles is the reduction of inflammation by topical or systemic antioxidants. These are often incorporated with sunscreens and retinoids which enhances their protective effects. 

Whilst natural ageing is genetically determined, there are preventive measures available. Aesthetic dermatology contributes to “healthy ageing” in terms of cosmetic means, but also  in combination with the knowledge of local and systemic therapies, and is emerging as a key field of ageing research. The contradiction between humans’ desire for an eternally youthful appearance and the irreversibility of skin ageing still remains., As our cosmetic demands increase, research efforts will heighten to elucidate the molecular basis of the deteriorative changes during skin ageing. 

References: 

Krutmann, J., Bouloc, A., Sore, G., Bernard, B. A. & Passeron, T. (2017) The skin aging exposome. Journal of Dermatological Science. 85 (3), 152-161.

Baumann, L. (2007) Skin ageing and its treatment. The Journal of Pathology: A Journal of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 211 (2), 241-251.

Bayer, K. (2005) Cosmetic surgery and cosmetics: Redefining the appearance of age. Generations. 29 (3), 13-18.

Mykytyn, C. E. (2006) Anti-aging medicine: Predictions, moral obligations, and biomedical intervention. Anthropological Quarterly. 5-31.

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