OXIDATIVE STRESS & SKIN AGING
As the largest organ of the body and protective barrier from our environment, skin is our initial reflection of our health and vitality. Skin aging is influenced by many factors including genetics, hormonal and metabolic changes, nutrient deficiencies, stress, lifestyle and environmental toxicities. Today there is substantial evidence linking certain toxicities or “stressors” that may play a central role in initiating and driving the signaling events that lead to cellular mutations that cause skin aging.
Oxidative stress is a major form of assault on the skin. We are exposed to oxidative stressors daily through diet, our environment, by products of metabolism, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and UV irradiation. Oxidative stress stimulates the production of unstable molecules otherwise known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) or “free radicals.” Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that are created as by-products of normal metabolism (intrinsic) and environmental stressors (extrinsic) and are responsible for cellular damage, particularly targeting cells which are rich in unsaturated fatty acids (the cell membrane,) and sensitive to oxidation reactions. The onset of degenerative disease (accelerated aging) may occur when the body is chronically exposed to this type of stress and overtime overwhelms our defense system.
Studies show that oxidative stress stimulates the production of free radicals that may denature proteins, alter cell cycles, and influence the release of pro-inflammatory mediators (ie: cytokines) which may trigger the induction of some inflammatory skin diseases. It is also established that free radicals may participate in the pathogenesis of allergic reactions in the skin. UV irradiation is a major source of oxidative stress on the skin. In addition to producing free radicals, UV irradiation negatively impact the skin’s antioxidant defense enzymes leaving it further vulnerable to permanent cellular damage (accelerated skin aging.) The concept of systemic photo-protection by dietary means is gaining momentum. As the skin is continuously exposed to UV irradiation and in the absence of topically applied SPF’s, the skin is dependent solely upon endogenous antioxidant defense systems. There is a growing body of research showing that specific micronutrients and antioxidants may potentially mitigate and destroy free radical activity produced by UV irradiation.
NUTRITION & SKIN AGING
Nutrition is the foundation toward optimal health. Antioxidants help to up-regulate and/or maintain healthy defense systems to ward off stressors (such as free radicals) that accelerate the aging process. Antioxidants found in diet, particularly in beans, deep colored fruits and vegetables, green tea, garlic, and herbs such as turmeric, cinnamon, or rosemary work synergistically to support immune defenses against oxidative stress. Being slow or fast acting, antioxidants through diet must be obtained on a daily basis as they are quenched quickly and absorbed by the potentially damaging free radical molecules.
To monitor antioxidant intake through diet, one tool utilized is the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) unit, or “ORAC score.” Developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health, ORAC is a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods. Although the exact relationship between the ORAC value of a food and its direct health benefit is yet to be established, it is proposed that incorporating foods higher on the ORAC Scale will potentially protect and slow oxidative stressors that contribute to accelerated aging and disease. When comparing ORAC Values, measurement units must be consistent when comparing different foods. For example, watermelon may show a lower ORAC value, but this is mainly due to the water weight. Likewise, herbs and spices may score high on ORAC, but they are generally applied in small amounts and not in the same amounts as food. This is one drawback of ORAC, and it has been criticized for those inconsistencies. However, it can be a useful tool to be aware of and incorporate those higher scoring foods rich in antioxidants.
Although we aim to achieve all nutrients through diet, the inconvenient truth is that we are often challenged with this on a daily basis. To complement diet, antioxidants through functional foods, beverages or supplementation are becoming a critical component in professional beauty and anti-aging programs. Coined as “beauty from within,” Nutricosmetics (Nutraceuticals) offer formulations that target oxidative stress to help protect the skin internally from damaging free radical activity. Combined with topical treatments, supplemental nutricosmetics help to bridge the gap in nutrient deficiencies to ensure the body can best defend itself from oxidative stressors.
Specifically, Nutricosmetics work to;
- Increase ROS scavenging activity
- Reduce inflammation
- Stimulate immunity
- Inhibit hyper-pigmentation associated with UVR exposure (through tyrosinase inhibition – enzyme that stimulates melanin production)
The body is exposed to numerous pro-oxidants in the environment capable of generating free radicals within the skin. Free radicals target lipid-rich membranes as well as cellular DNA and proteins to produce an array of toxic effects within the skin. As skin is the largest organ of the body and barrier from the environment, it is most wellness susceptible to oxidative stress and, therefore, endogenous and exogenous defense protocols should be considered for optimal skin health and protection.
Paula Simpson is the co-founder and one of the formulators behind the GliSODin Skin Nutrients Nutricosmetic Line. She is also a contributing editor to many of the leading medical aesthetic and beauty publications in North America. www.glisodinskin.com.