The Science of Better Skin & Anti Aging

The skin is the largest organ of our body and is incredibly intricate, providing many functions crucial to our continued health and well-being:

  • Our body’s first line of defense against disease-causing microbes, toxins, irritants, allergens and radiation
  • Holds vital internal organs in proper proximity to each other and protects them from mechanical trauma
  • Provides thermal protection against temperature extremes and regulates our body’s internal temperature in response to these extremes
  • Interface that balances moisture levels between our aqueous internal environment and the dry, external atmosphere
  • Rids the body of excess fluids and certain waste products via sweating
As most of the 800 known skin diseases are visible manifestations of internal disease, your skin is a true reflection of the health of your body. If you are not healthy on the inside then the health of your skin will also be diminished. And the healthier your skin is on the outside, the better job it can do to protect your internal organs and health (C. Thornfeldt, 2010).

Skin Anatomy:
Structurally the skin consists of two main layers with a total thickness of 2 mm on an average adult. The epidermis is the outer thinner portion and contains four distinct layers. The epidermis is connected to the inner thicker dermis where collagen and elastin provide support of hair follicles, sebaceous fibers, oil and eccrine sweat glands, nerves and blood and lymph vessels. Beneath the dermis is a subcutaneous layer of fat, which acts as an insulator and attaches to underlying tissues and organs.

The Anatomy of Aging:
Although our skin is constantly aging pronounced effects do not occur until a person reaches the late forties: 

  • Epidermis thins and loses some protective function, while clearing less toxins from the deeper dermis (skin becomes more irritable)
  • Collagen and elastin fibers decrease, stiffen, fray and break forming wrinkles
  • The growth of hair and nails slows
  • The immune response is slowed in older skin due to the reduction of Langerhan cells
  • The decreased size of sebaceous (oil) glands leads to dry and broken skin that is more susceptible to infection
  • Melanocytes decrease and function less efficiently resulting in less UV protection, gray hair, and blotchy pigmentation (liver spots)
  • Blood vessels in the dermis become stiffer and less permeable, and subcutaneous fat is lost
  • Migration of new cells from the basal layer to the outer epidermis slows considerably so skin loses brightness
  • Dermis becomes thinner and weaker

Skin aging is generally divided into 2 categories:

  • Intrinsic (internal) aging accounts for only 20% of visible skin aging changes and is largely based on our genetic programming. It is unavoidable and beyond our control
  • Extrinsic aging (external) is environmentally dependent and accounts for approximately 80% of the way our skin ages. Several lifestyle factors including: sun exposure, diet, exercise, smoking, pollution, stress, harsh chemicals, topical and oral medications contribute to extrinsic aging

Daily and diligent sun protection will eliminate up to 85% of extrinsic aging. The highest recommended SPF sunscreen value has been increased to 50+, a change partially due to the incorrect application of sunscreen. The average person applies only 20-50% of the amount recommended and tested by the FDA. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends 1 oz of sunscreen for the face, neck hands and arms (1/2 tsp to each area) and 1 tsp to each site of the legs, front and back of the body (Thornfeldt, 2010).

The health benefits of exercise have been well established throughout the medical community, but the benefit to skin health is less frequently mentioned. Mild to moderate physical activity reduces inflammation, increases blood flow and blood vessel wall integrity, all of which improve immune and skin repair function. However, keep in mind that prolonged intense exercise reduces it (Sinatra, 2008).

It is well known that a poor diet contributes to poor skin health. To increase overall skin health reducing the consumption of processed sugars is critical. Intake of fresh fruits and vegetables should be increased. Most people cannot obtain the recommended daily intake of nutrients from food alone unless they consume more than 2.5 times the recommended daily intake of calories. Therefore a quality nutritional supplement should be considered including these essential elements to skin and overall health: omega fatty acids or fish oils, magnesium, Vitamin C, all B vitamins, resveratrol, probiotics, CoQ10, Vitamin K (C. Thornfeldt, 2010).

The stress hormone cortisol acts as a powerful steroid that shuts down one part of the immune system, which causes flare-ups of immunity-related skin conditions such as cold sores (along with psoriasis, eczema, shingles, and viral warts). Stress reduces the lipid (fat) barrier on the skin, allowing fluids to evaporate and leading to dryness. When the stress response becomes chronic skin cells take longer to reach the skin surface and flake off, allowing dead skin cells to build up and causing your skin to look dull. Hormonal surges due to stress can also increase breakouts of acne.

Lack of sleep causes an increase in the stress hormone cortisol as well as a decrease in human growth hormone, the hormone responsible for thicker skin and greater muscle and bone mass.

Exfoliants: Are a crucial component of a skin care regimen successful in combatting aging. Although much exfoliation is done manually a select group of ingredients have exfoliation properties and in a properly formatted product their efficacy for improving photoaging is well established. There are four types: Alpha hydroxy Acids (AHA), poly hydroxy acid (PHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and keto acids.

Retinoids and Vitmain A: Naturally the body uses beta carotene (pro vitamin A) and splits it into 2 retinols, further metabolizing the compound to form transretinoic acid, which is active in the skin. The gold standard of all anti-aging therapy is tretinoin (transretinoic acid) 0.05% and it was the first prescription product approved by the FDA to reduce fine wrinkling, mottled hyperpigmentation and tactile roughness resulting from extrinsic aging. Some of the mechanisms of action include increasing the number and thickness of epidermal cells, increasing dermal thickness and promoting collagen production. Retinyl esters (retinyl palmitate, retinyl propionate) are types of retinoids commonly used in OTC products as they are easier to formulate and keep stable. They are converted to retinol in the skin but have much weaker retinoid activity. Vitamin A and retinoids are known to modulate 1,200 of the 4,400 skin specific genes known to be involved in extrinsic aging (Thornfeldt, 2010).

Growth factors: Are proteins that regulate cellular growth and activity. Multiple growth factors are present in the skin and play an integral role in skin’s natural ability to repair damage caused by theeffects of aging (Werner, 2007).

Antioxidants: Many vitamins impact the skin using different mechanisms of action. The vitamins listed below have had critical review and science has established their efficacy but it is important to remember that not any single one of these vitamins is the only answer in the fight against aging:

  • B3 (niacin) increases the production of ceramide and 3 proteins.
  • B5 (panthenol) a component of CoQ10 it increases hydration and the stratum corneum barrier function.
  • Vitamin E is abundant in the stratum corneum layer of the skin and directly interacts with Vitamin C to reduce the damage cause by oxidation reactions. Vitamin C is an important topical skin ingredient as sunlight, pollutants, and certain chemicals deplete it.
  • Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is essential for producing clotting factors in the liver. In clinical trials it demonstrated decreased bruising frequency and severity when it was applied before and after laser treatment.
  • Vitamin C is considered an essential nutrient as your body cannot synthesize it. The majority of anti-aging experts to the skin believe that a properly formulated Vitamin C product will have benefit particularly if it uses L Ascorbid acid as the foundations. As this is a very unstable molecule the concentration of the ingredient and preparation are critical. Oxidation occurs immediately after manufacturing the product so it is imperative that the processing and packaging prevent air from interacting with the product.
  • CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) has been clinically proven in a .3% topical preparation to reduce depth of wrinkles around the eyes. It is a vital enzyme in cellular respiration, protects against UVA and UVB oxidation, and has been documented to slow the loss of hyaluronic acid.



    McCance, K. & Huether, S. (2014). Pathophysiology: the basis for disease in adults and children. (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby. 
    Thornfeldt, C. & Bourne, K. (2010). The new ideal in skin health: separating fact from fiction. Carol Stream, Illinois: Allured Business Media.
    Sinatra, S. (2008). Heart Health and Nutrition.
    Werner S, K. T. (2007). Keratinocyte-fibroblast interaction in wound healing. J Invest Dermatology.