Lifestyle, Skin Health
5 Steps To Influence How Your Skin Ages
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Anti-Aging Research Is Evolving…and we may have more control over how we age than we think.

It turns out genes are not the all-powerful, written-in-stone determinants that we once thought they were. Inherited diseases like diabetes, acne, eczema or psoriasis can be lessened in severity or avoided completely by certain changes in diet, exercise and behavior. An ever growing body of studies is showing that daily exercise — even just 20 minutes of walking each day — can improve our health so much so as to extend our lives. Stunning new studies in epigenetics are showing how gene modifications might be influenced by our actions, too, and that these changes may even be passed along to future generations. While more studies need to be done, what is clear is that our choices can significantly impact our health, how we age, and possibly even help us live longer.

THE GENE-IE IS OUT OF THE BOTTLE

A fascinating study in the journal Nature and Neuroscience [1] shows how a mother rat’s nurturing can imprint her pup’s DNA with biological characteristics that can be passed on to future offspring. The Learn. Genetics™ Genetic Science Learning Center of the University of Utah breaks it down:

Through her licking behavior, a mother rat can write information onto her pups’ DNA in a way that completely bypasses eggs and sperm…Mom’s behavior actually programs the pups’ DNA…The epigenetic code gives the genome a level of flexibility that extends beyond the relatively fixed DNA code. The epigenetic code allows certain types of information to be passed to offspring without having to go through the slow processes of random mutation and natural selection. At the same time, the epigenetic code is sensitive to changing environmental conditions such as availability of food or threat from predators…So take heart — your epigenetic destiny is not written in permanent ink.” [2] 

 

We know that smoking, a poor diet, comedogens, allergens, pollution and sun exposure can influence skin by causing inflammation. An increasing amount of research shows that inflammation — from an infection, lack of sleep and stress (physical stress, such as with skin reactions or a fever, as well as emotional or mental) — is linked to several skin concerns from acne to eczema, psoriasis and, yes, aging. Skin can definitely be influenced, both negatively and positively. What makes the new epigenetic research so shocking is the suggestion that not only nutrition and environmental factors can impact genetic changes but that experiential stimuli such as nurturing, emotional trauma or stress can as well, and that such changes could be inherited by our children and future generations.

 

Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes,” another excellent article in Discover Magazine puts it this way. “Call it postnatal inheritance: With no changes to their genetic code, the baby rats nonetheless gained genetic attachments due solely to their upbringing — epigenetic additions of methyl groups sticking like umbrellas out the elevator doors of their histones, gumming up the works and altering the function of the brain….They found that inattentive mothering in rodents causes methylation of the genes for estrogen receptors in the brain. When those babies grow up, the resulting decrease of estrogen receptors makes them less attentive to their babies. And so the beat goes on.” [3].

 

The body of studies is growing. Researchers at the University of California, Davis and the University of California, San Francisco [4] showed a link between meditation and an increase in telomerase, an enzyme that is fundamental to the long-term health of cells, meaning their youth. In an interview with UC Davis, Clifford Saron, lead scientist for the meditation-telomerase study said, “The take-home message from this work is…meditation may improve a person’s psychological well-being and in turn these changes are related to telomerase activity in immune cells, which has the potential to promote longevity in those cells. Activities that increase a person’s sense of well-being may have a profound effect on the most fundamental aspects of their physiology.” [5].


The study further showed that participants had an increase in “perceived control (over one’s life and surroundings), mindfulness (being able to observe one’s experience in a nonreactive manner) and purpose in life (viewing one’s life as meaningful, worthwhile and aligned with long-term goals and values). In addition, they experienced decreased neuroticism, or negative emotionality.” [5] While we might have guessed that participants would feel better and less stressed after meditation, the idea that this might impact our physical health may have been less obvious. But this study shows that these positive “emotional” or “psychological” results can impact how telomeres behave, promoting their longevity, and thereby possibly prolonging our cellular health and youth, too. 

 

More research is needed but what is clear is that there are currently, right now, several things we can do to help us age better or, put another way, look younger for longer. Some of the best proven in multiple published studies include the following 5 STEPS:

 

1) DAILY SUNSCREEN USE, EVEN INDOORS

In an interview with CNN, Mayo Clinic professor of dermatology Dr. Lawrence Gibson notes, “photoaging is not part of the natural aging process — it’s avoidable.” [6] A recent study [7] published in the Annals of Internal Medicine proves that daily sunscreen use “protects against photoaging: wrinkling, spotting and loss of elasticity.” [6] Why year round? Because sun damage is cumulative. The incidental exposure you get from eating outside at a café or crossing the street counts. Damaging UVA rays pass through glass and windshields. Plus, visible and infrared light from indoor sources such as halogens, fluorescents and even computer screens, saunas and stoves are proven to cause melasma and other dark spots which increases the aged look of skin.

 

2) USE AN ACTIVE SKIN REGIMEN DAILY 

Well studied, proven active ingredients can improve the skin’s health and make the skin look younger, more firm and more vibrant. Actives in high concentrations such as dermatological procedures are a good option but cannot be done every day. The best results are seen from the consistent use of such actives on a daily basis plus occasional higher-concentration procedures with your dermatologist. What should I expect from a good anti-aging treatment?

What should I expect from a good anti-aging treatment? As these photographs show (taken at baseline and week 4 of using an anti-aging cream with unbuffered glycolic acid, kinetin, virgin coconut oil and antioxidants in a regimen), at a minimum, you should expect to see brighter, more vibrant-looking skin. Fine lines should appear less pronounced and possibly deeper wrinkles as well. The skin should feel and appear more firm and youthful. With the right actives in the appropriate concentrations, many people report noticing improvements almost immediately. Continued use and proper prevention can deliver more dramatic results in as little as four weeks. And as with exercise and a healthy lifestyle, consistency continues to pay off.

Actives like unbuffered glycolic acid, retinoic acid, and mandelic acid as well as virgin coconut oil and antioxidants like green tea are some of the best studied and most reliable age fighters. 

Click here for more on Re-Everything, the topical anti-aging system from which these photographs were taken. 

 

3) CONSIDER REGULAR FACIALS — for skin benefits as well as stress management — OR DERMATOLOGICAL PROCEDURES 

Facials provide skin with a deep cleaning, concentrated treatments, and can also help reduce stress. Therapeutic facials should provide steaming and proper pore extraction. Facials normally also include prolonged time with a therapeutic mask, usually with higher concentrations of actives, and in a formulation that provides barrier therapy, intensive hydration and heightens the absorption of actives. A dermatological procedure such as a chemical peel or laser procedure monthly or quarterly can also provide significant clarity in terms of dark spots and a more dramatic, visible tightening to the skin.

 

4) PRIORITIZE STRESS MANAGEMENT 

As the Telomere and Meditation and Maternal Behavior studies both show, stress reduction can influence our proteins, cell behavior and possibly DNA. Stress and lack of sleep are proven to be linked to inflammation and a rapidly growing body of research is showing strong links between inflammation and multiple skin and health concerns from depression to obesity, acne, psoriasis, eczema, even cancer and, again, aging. Do not forget the physical stressors of the skin as well. Irritations, rashes, pimples, allergy flare-ups, itching, severe dryness, or reactions to products are all types of inflammation and are skin stressors. Whether or not you already have sensitive skin, avoiding known allergens can help prevent irritations (even subtle irritations which may not yet be obvious) which can thin and stress the skin and contribute to aging. 

Prioritize sleep: aim for 7 to 8 hours a night. It might be a challenge but lack of sleep alone accounts for multiple skin, mental and physical damage. Make stress reduction a priority, too. Meditate, keep a gratitude journal, practice yoga, pray — experiment with what works best for you and your lifestyle. A quick side note: do not rely on alcohol as a means to relieve stress as it is pro-inflammatory.  

Surprisingly, a practice that can help you reduce brain and skin stress: a facial! Check out Book A Facial For Your…Brain? for more on the multiple (and surprising) health benefits of a spa hour.

 

5) EXERCISE DAILY AND IMPROVE YOUR NUTRITION 

Stress management includes reducing the stress that the body experiences from poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Poor health shows externally in the form of acne, dull skin, dry skin (which can lead to loss of elasticity and a more aged appearance) and even hair loss. The good news: a healthy body is reflected in glowing, younger-looking skin.Talk to a nutritionist if you’d like help understanding portion size and if you need assistance choosing healthier alternatives to your favorite foods. As a general rule, cut out junk food altogether — the chips, candies and pre-packaged juices and sodas. Load up on fish (particularly small fish rich in omega-3s), nuts, healthy oils like organic virgin coconut oil, and fresh vegetables. Forego processed, “white”, and pre-packaged food and drinks; choose their brown, “rawer” alternatives. Get antioxidants from fresh fruits to help combat the oxidative processes that are huge contributors to aging. 

Exercise is vital for your heart, metabolism and pretty much every aspect of your health. Plus, it’s an excellent stress reducer and mood lifter. In addition, new studies are showing that it’s not about extreme exercise three times a week. Constant activity is the new objective. Some studies are even showing that sitting down for more than a few hours at a time is extremely unhealthy — set a timer, get up, and walk around the block if you have to, but get moving: 

• Mix it up: cardio one day and weights the next, yoga or pilates another day, then perhaps a hike outside. Mixing it up keeps it interesting and keeps your body challenged.

• Aim to work out 7 days a week — again, even just walking 20 minutes a day can have a tremendous, positive impact on your overall health and possibly extend your life.

• If you’re traveling or for very busy weeks, try the Scientific 7-Minute Workout [9] which a published study shows can give you maximum results in minimum time. [10]

• On very lazy days, do not succumb to doing nothing: bike slowly on a stationary bicycle while watching your favorite TV shows or take the slowest walk around one block. Just commit to getting some level of activity in each and every day. 

For more on how to achieve and sustain younger-looking skin, check out Stress, Inflammation and Skin: Acne, Aging, Hair, Obesity, Infection, Eczema, Psoriasis or enter “aging” in the search field above. 

 

References:

  1. Weaver, I.C.G, Cervoni, N., Champagne, F.A., D’Alessio, A.C., Sharma, S., Seckl, J.R., Dymov, S., Szyf, M., & Meaney, M. (2004). Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior. Nature Neuroscience, 7, 847-854.
  2. Lick Your Rats. Teacher Resources and Lesson Plans, Learn. GeneticsTM Genetic Science Learning Center, The University of Utah, 2013. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/rats/
  3. Hurley, Dan. Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes. (Trace Vs. Fate). Discovery Magazine. May, 2013. http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes#.UfnNFxbwO-I
  4. Jacobs, T.L., et al., Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators. Psychoneuroendocrinology (2010), doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.09.010
  5. Positive psychological changes from meditation training linked to cellular health. UC Davis News and Information. Nov. 3, 2010. http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=9669
  6. CNN.com. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/04/health/sunscreen-aging
  7. Hughes M.C., Williams, G.M., Baker, P., Green, A.C. Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(11):781-790. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-11-201306040-00002.
  8. Susan Orlean, American Chronicles, “The Walking Alive,” The New Yorker, May 20, 2013, p. 44. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/20/130520fa_fact_orlean
  9. Gretchen Reynolds, The Scientific 7-Minute Workout, New York Times, May 12, 2013, p. 20. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout/
  10. Klika, B, Jordan, C. High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment. Health & Fitness Journal. 2013; 17:3. Accessed May 10, 2013. http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx