Skin Aging: How It Occurs and How It Is Prevented

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Skin Aging: How it Occurs and How it is Prevented

From the earliest centuries until modern day, humanity has united in a common quest- youth. In the 16th Century, Juan Ponce de Leon set sail to present-day Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth. What would drive a man to commit in such pursuit? Isn’t aging a natural process that is, by definition of life, inevitable? Women across the world spend countless dollars on the “youth” that media advertises. One of the most valued signs of youth is beautiful skin, free from the painful effects of aging. Although there are some unavoidable effects of age on the skin through the process of time, there are different factors that contribute to our skin’s physical appearance and methods to prolong the youth of skin through preventative steps such as photoprotection and anti-aging supplements.

The theories of skin aging are cross-linking, wear and tear, free radical, somatic mutation, genetic, and the pacemaker theory. The cross-linking theory of aging is based on observations that proteins, DNA, and structural molecules develop cross-links to each other that cause the tissue to look older than it is (1). The wear and tear theory of aging suggests that years of damage to cells wear the tissues, organs, and cells out to eventually killing them, followed by the body. It also suggests that Telomerase shortens with each cell division and reaches such a short length that the cell cannot divide any longer (1). The free radical theory is defined as one that the free radicals cause DNA damage, cross linking of proteins, and the formation of age-pigments (1). The somatic mutation theory is one that cannot be reversed. Somatic mutations cannot be corrected and accumulate to lead to cell malfunction and death (1). The genetic theory is defined by the life span determining genes which are inherited. They are called longevity assurance genes, and they alone determine the process of aging. The pacemaker theory suggests that two biological clocks, the immune system and neuroendocrine system are set at birth to run for a specific period (1). Skin aging is considered to be a complex biological process that is usually classified as intrinsic and extrinsic aging (2). Intrinsic or natural aging is determined as a function of heredity, is inevitable, and results in cutaneous alterations (2). The intrinsic aging of skin is demonstrated by wrinkling, coarseness, atrophy, laxity, irregular pigmentation, and dryness (2). Three factors that are involved in determining the intrinsic age are ethnicity, anatomic variations, and hormonal influence. The difference in pigmentation accounts for the primary effect of ethnicity on aging. High levels of pigmentation are protective against the larger effects of photoaging, as African-Americans show insurmountable difference between exposed and unexposed areas. African American skin is more compacted that Caucasian skin, with a higher intercellular lipid content, which may aid in the resistance to aging (2). As for anatomic variations, skin rigidity is higher at the forehead than the cheek in post-menopausal women. In areas with higher blood flow like the finger, nasal tip, lip, and forehead, blood flow decreases with age. The decrease in epidermal thickness with aging is smaller at the temple than the volar forearm, which has been thought to be the effect of cumulative photoaging (2). Hormonal changes in the skin are responsible for the most changes of oestrogen levels, primarily of women. After menopause, collagen and water content decrease, and alter epidermal lipid synthesis (2). In the lab, Longo et al. (3) analyzed skin by confocal miscroscopy to determine the microscopic skin changes taking place in different age groups. Confocal microscopy is used as a new technique able to assess cytoarchitectural changes (3). These cytoarchitectural changes measure new arrangements of cells in the skin tissue. From the research conducted in this...
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