The Age Of Reason by Dr Des Fernandes

In the next few blog posts we will be taking excerpts from an article that was written by Dr Des Fernandes, founder of Environ Skin Care, for an article printed in Professional Beauty (www.professionalbeauty.com.au).

The Age Of Reason by Dr Des Fernandes

The Age Of Reason by Dr Des Fernandes

In the next few blog posts we will be taking excerpts from an article that was written by Dr Des Fernandes, founder of Environ Skin Care, for an article printed in Professional Beauty (www.professionalbeauty.com.au).

Most people want to keep their skin as young and healthy as they can as the years pass by, observes Dr Des Fernandes.

Skin is basically healthy when it is young and undamaged but as time passes, chemical changes take place and it starts to look old. You then have to ask: Is it possible to prevent or slow down ageing of the skin? The answer is yes; I know we have the ability to significantly slow down ageing of the skin and I will give you a brief story of the main ways to do this. It’s not the whole story of photo-ageing but it covers the most important points that may help you to slow down skin ageing. However, if you want to do this and keep younger looking skin, you must address the chemical changes that take place each second of every day of the year.

Ageing of the skin is a complex chemical cascade and we cannot easily explain it without delving into science that, at this stage, is not generally well understood by most people. I will try to make it a little less complicated but I need to define and explain some important scientific details.

In general, it is accepted that ageing of the skin is either due to natural (intrinsic) ageing or to the exposure of sunlight – what we call photo-ageing (extrinsic). The ageing you are aware of is actually photo-ageing that starts from the earliest time when we are exposed to sunlight. The typical signs of photo-ageing are:

  • Roughened surface and thickening outer stratum corneum layer of the skin.
  • Thinning of the inner living part of the skin.
  • Irregular pigmentation and blemishes.
  • Sallow appearance of skin due to damage to the superficial blood vessels.
  • Loss of elasticity.
  • Abnormal collagen resulting in wrinkles and lax skin.
  • Fragility due to hyaluronic acid depletion.
  • Development of comedones (blackheads) on the temples, forehead and nose as a result of severe solar damage.

Natural intrinsic ageing is responsible for much less skin ageing and has been explained by a number of theories. Broadly speaking, we age because of changes in our cells and they body structures caused by one or all of the following theories:

  1. Free radical damage to essential structural membranes or DNA and other important cellular chemistry. A free radical is the term used for an atom or molecule that lacks a paired electron in the outer electron circuit. Free radicals are generated in normal cellular activity and are essential for our protection from bacteria etc, but when in excess, they damage surrounding structures and DNA. The most important structure are the mitochondria that are the powerhouses of the cells and also a major area of the production of free radicals. As they become progressively damaged, they produce less energy.
  2. Inbuilt genes that switch off the production of hormones like testosterone, oestrogen, growth hormone and others. As we age, the blood levels of essential hormones drop to tiny fractions of what they were when we were young. That leads to loss of muscle, reduced production of collagen, elastin, inefficient cellular activity, weight gain and most of the typical signs of ageing.
  3. DNA damage or replication errors that are compounded as time goes by. Each cell multiplies by making a direct copy of the DNA and then splitting into two separate cells. Each of these cells has a blueprint copy of the original DNA created when the very first cell that becomes us, was formed. Nothing is perfect and so small errors occur in the replication process, and, as time goes by, our DNA changes very slightly and eventually cells start to malfunction.
  4. Shortening of the telomeres. Telomeres are found at the end of the DNA strands and have been likened to the cap that prevents fraying of a shoelace. Telomeres prevent unravelling of the DNA, especially at the time of replication. When the telomere is too short the cell cannot grow into more cells. Telomeres may explain the ‘Hayflick limit’ of about 50 divisions. Stem cells need active telomeres and so they usually have good supplies of the enzyme telomerase that prevents the shortening of the telomeres. As we age, our stem cells produce less telomerase. Cancer cells have the opposite situation: they make lot of telomerase and so those cells just don’t die.
  5. The accumulation of simple wear and tear injuries that impair the functions of an organ or structure. These can be chemical changes such as the accumulation of sugar-coated collagen, or clumps of chemical waste in our cells. Glycation is a common example, cross-linking of collagen fibres to another. These are complex phenomena and we won’t delve into them now.
  6. Inherited factors promoting either earlier or later onset ageing. There is no doubt that some people are born with more active natural antioxidant activity, or of longer-lasting high levels of hormones, etc. We don’t know enough about how or why this happens.

Each one of these theories applies to the skin, except skin has one major additional aggravating fact that makes it different to the rest of the body: it is exposed to light. Light energy increases the DNA damage, speeds up the shortening of the telomeres and, in addition, knocks out or changes some very important molecules in the skin called chromophores. A chromophore is a molecule that reacts to light. There are many chromophores but typical chromophores are DNA, pre-vitamin D (and paradoxically, true vitamin D), vitamin C, vitamin E, and most importantly, vitamin A. Virtually all the changes associated with photo-ageing are attributed to low levels of vitamin A in the skin. This is not surprising because the main role of vitamin A throughout biology is to control the growth of stem cells, programme differentiation of cells into specialised tissues and the maturation of those cells.

Simply put, vitamin A is the prime mover and shaker in the skin.

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