GET TO KNOW YOUR HEALTH: (November 2015)

Skin Health and the Aging Process

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art” – Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s an irreverently attractive prospect; Youth.  Its good looks, carefree attitude and that pitiful excuse for that thing they claim to be a hangover make it easy to wistfully reminisce times since past, times with less of the many assorted burdens of the present.

But then I remember that the covenant of replacing youth for age is a trade.  As we lose youth we gain age related things like freedom of choice (and the knowledge to make better ones at that), understanding, and a sense of internal security that youth cannot easily provide (nor should it as imagine the hair/outfits of the 80s if the youth were self-assured!)  This balance is good as aging is (sorry to say) a certainty, its sitting right up there just below death and taxes….well sort of.  The destination is forgone but no one said anything about the acceleration of the train that gets you there.  On that note we start with a look at our skin and how it ages.

With the surface area of about 20 square feet, the skin is actually the largest organ in our body. It’s more than just a protective barrier too, as it helps with excretion of metabolic waste, regulation of temperature, and includes structures (receptors) that allow us to feel the world around us.  But depending upon a person’s genetic makeup and lifestyle, the normal physiological functions within the skin can decline by 50% by middle age.

The skin is made up of 3 distinctive layers, the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis, with each layer containing unique components. The outermost layer the epidermis contains keratin (strength), melanin (colour), and the stratum corneum (barrier).  Collagen (Superglue), Elastin (Rubber-bands) and glycosaminoglycan’s (Topsoil) make up the most abundant tissues within the dermis and provide it with strength and elasticity to function as we need it to.  The bottom layer of skin is the hypodermis (otherwise known as subcutaneous tissue).  This layer contains adipocytes (fat cells) that insulate the body and help to preserve heat.  Our skin also contains sebaceous and sweat glands which help to prevent dryness, protect our skin against bacteria, and maintain our core body temperature.

The health and appearance of your skin, like the health of your other organs, correlates with the lifestyle and dietary habits that you choose.   Premature skin aging can be the result of several factors which broadly fit into two groups, intrinsic and extrinsic

Intrinsic skin aging is determined primarily by factors including genetic predisposition (up to 50% of skin appearance is predetermined), hormonal status (menopause influences skin thickness, wrinkling, and moisture – also think about puberty!), metabolic reactions (Diabetic glycation) especially ones causing oxidative stress (free radicals ‘little bastards’ break down collagen, damages DNA, etc.)  The intrinsic ageing of the skin is exacerbated by extrinsic (environmental) factors, the most important of which is the skins exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation.  When this happens it causes a series of detrimental reactions within the skin; this process is otherwise known as photoaging.  In addition to UV radiation; smoking, pollution, alcohol intake, overeating and poor nutrition all contribute their bit to the skin feeling like, what can only be described as a well-worn leather bag.

This all means that at the skin level, aging is associated with loss of connective tissue, slower rate of cellular renewal, and less blood and other nutrient supplies. Barrier function that maintains skin hydration also becomes impaired leading to the subcutaneous tissue flattening, loosening skin particularly in the face, hands and feet.

Don’t run away yet, it won’t help anyway, remember….death and taxes.

Aside from fixing any of the factors mentioned above there are a few extra helping hands that exist in the fight against skin aging.  In addition to the well-documented role of a wholesome diet in maintaining the youthfulness of skin, we are also finding a relationship between specific nutrients and optimal skin health.  Maintaining glycaemic control (avoid processed sugars), increasing fatty acids (omega3/fish oil/good fats). Increasing antioxidants (fruits/vegetables/green tea/etc.), reducing sodium (control blood pressure), and not overeating (calorie restricted diets) have all been shown to have very beneficial effects on the skin slowing the aging process.

While this might be the time that I have to finish, it’s by no means the end.  If there is one point you take home from this topic, it has to be sun protection and to use sunscreen.  UV radiation is the single biggest factor that causes skin ageing! If you don’t believe me, just do the whitebutt test.  Have a look somewhere that doesn’t normally see the sun, then compare it to the skin on your face.  Yep….that’s called photoaging.  Now go put some sunscreen on.

As this topic ended up being slightly larger than I had anticipated, next month (just in time for Christmas) I will finish it off with an in-depth look at some more nutrients that also have a beneficial effect on ageing.  But MORE INTERESTINGLY the use and effectiveness of a range of common ingredients that are found in many of the more well known anti-aging creams will be covered.  As usual, if you want more information or just can’t wait, visit, feel free to drop into the pharmacy for a chat or see another local health care practitioner.

Written by Andrew Harvey

Dayboro Pharmacy,

Phone 3425 1435,

Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30pm

Sat 8.30am – 12.30pm  *

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