Living healthfully requires us to monitor our diets, exercise appropriately, and reduce our exposure to toxins like cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants. But what can we do to keep our skin looking healthy beyond protecting it from excess sun damage? Collagen is the body’s main structural protein. Collagen makes up 70% of skin and gives skin both strength and elasticity. But collagen production begins decreasing at age 18. By the age of 40, the decrease is about 1% per year. For women, the decline equates to a loss of 7% of skin thickness every 10 years. Following menopause, the decline in thickness accelerates to as much as 1.13% annually, while skin elasticity degrades 0.55% per year. Therefore, as we age our skin gets thinner and loses elasticity, making us look older. There are many techniques to improve the quality and appearance of the skin, typically working to increase skin collagen content, thickness, elasticity and hydration.
From the Inside Out: Protein, Water, Nutraceuticals, and Bioidentical Hormones
Protein is the major building block of the body. You must eat enough protein each day to allow the skin to repair and regenerate. A typical woman should consume 100-120 grams of non-soy protein per day, and a typical man 150-180 grams, depending upon muscle mass.
Water is essential for skin health. Even if your skin is youthful, it will be more resilient when you are hydrated. Consider drinking about a gallon of water per day, and sometimes even more, depending upon your exercise duration and intensity.
Many nutritional supplements are helpful for skin quality. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and reduce the impact of sun and toxin exposure. Orthosilicic acid is a collagen stimulator, as well as a good promoter of keratin and elastin formation – two proteins that assist in skin elasticity and hair strength. Omega 3s help to strengthen the outer layer of the skin to help keep out external toxins.
Estrogen given both topically and systemically has long been known to provide an anti-aging effect to the skin. Estrogen has been shown in many trials to increase skin elasticity and thickness by improving collagen production and the synthesis of elastic fibers, limiting collagen degradation, and increasing production of hyaluronic acid. This also results in improved wound healing. Estrogen also alleviates skin dryness through increased water-holding capacity, increased sebum production, and improved barrier function of the skin.
Other hormones improve the quality of skin. Your pituitary gland makes a hormone called growth hormone, which turns on production of IGF-1, which causes improved hydration and elasticity of the skin. There are many things you can do to improve your own production of growth hormone, including exercise, low glycemic eating, and adequate protein consumption. Testosterone can also improve skin thickness and hydration in men, partly by its conversion into estrogen.
From the Outside In: Antioxidants, Hyaluronic acid, Copper Peptides, Estrogen, and Stem Cell-derived Growth Factors
Antioxidants also work when applied topically to help to neutralize damaging free radicals. Hyaluronic acid improves skin integrity when given topically. Copper peptides are cell-signaling molecules that stimulate collagen production, facilitate DNA repair, improve immune function, and regenerate the skin when applied topically.
One of the most important recent advances in skin rejuvenation is the use of topical human stem-cell derived growth factors. These tiny, critical chemicals promote human dermal fibroblast proliferation, increase proliferation and migration of human keratinocytes, and stimulate production of collagen and a variety of growth factors and cytokines involved in cell migration, causing increased blood flow, vascularization, and cell renewal. Stem-cell derived growth factors have also been shown to reverse the damaging effects of UV radiation to fight wrinkle formation, as well as to protect skin cells from oxidative stress.
Your skin will never look as good as it did when you were 10, but with faithful care of your body from the inside out, and of your skin from the outside in, using good sense and science, you can continue to look well and radiate health and vitality.