How is youthful skin lost?


By Shawna Akin-Wiesner


The Etiology of Photo-aging; understanding how youthful-looking skin is lost!

In order to devise a scientifically based strategy for preventing and/or treating photo-damage, we need to know exactly what sunlight does to the skin. Pigmentation, redness, wrinkles, and lax skin are not just the natural consequence of the passage of time, but the sum of years of chronic light exposure. We can, therefore, do something about photo-aged skin if we have a better understanding of its etiology and have the right tools to address it.


Essentially, light enters into the skin and photon energy (little ‘packets’ of energy) interacts at either the molecular or subatomic level. At the molecular level, photons are absorbed by chromophores in the skin (e.g. vitamin A, nucleic acids, amino acids, urocanic acid and melanin). Chromophores such as melanin, for example, protectively absorb ultra-violet photons while other important molecules, such as vitamin A, prevent certain chemical responses that position our skin for photo-damage but are rendered inactive by UVA radiation. DNA is destroyed by UVB radiation and other critical skin nutrients, like vitamin C, are damaged by visible, blue light.


All of the above, year after year, leads to deleterious effects on the health and appearance of our skin.At the subatomic level, the absorption of energy can also result in electron changes with a generation of free radicals. This initiates a destructive chain of chemical reactions, involving tens of thousands of molecules in a fraction of a second which may result in damaged DNA and cell membranes or, even worse, become a superoxide free radical, which is the most aggressive free radical.


In essence, the various signs of photo-aging are attributed to structural and DNA damage to the keratinocytes potentiating the development of skin cancers, melanocytes resulting in excessive amounts of melanin being produced, fibroblasts making less collagen and glycosaminoglycans, and damage to vascular loops making redness and broken capillaries visible menaces.


If we understand that sun induced changes in the skin happen because of free radicals and UVR insidiously damaging essential molecules normally found in the skin, as well as, compromising individual cell structures, we can then educate our customers and strategize effective treatment plans. In sun exposed areas we can supplement bio-active topical formulations of vitamin A, vitamins C & E, as well as carotenoids at high enough doses, we can reliably prevent and reverse photo-aging.

The ‘fountain of youth’ is really in the knowledge of how it is lost!