What happens to our skin when we age?

Photoaging does not only affect skin aesthetics. Our skin also suffers from the decline of its physiological functions, such as thermoregulation, protection, cushioning, lubrication and elasticity.
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You may not imagine it, but the skin's functions go far beyond aesthetics and beauty. The skin is the largest organ in the human body and, being in direct contact with the environment, it is constantly bombarded with external aggressions that weaken the skin tissue and accelerate premature aging.

“Seven of these aging markers have an intense relationship with blemishes, wrinkles, sagging, but they are also linked to the weakening of the skin's physiological functions. They are: sun, sugar, stress, sleep, skin care, smoking and biological molecular aging itself”, says dermatologist Dr. Claudia Marçal, a member of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology.

Each in their own way, they cause damage to collagen.

“In general, the sun is the main responsible for the aging of the skin. However, some individuals are even more susceptible to photoaging, which is when the skin ages prematurely due to excessive sun exposure. For example, some individuals may have a variant of the MMP1 gene that leads to greater production of the MMP1 enzyme, which in excess degrades collagen, a very important constituent of the skin, leading to the formation of wrinkles”, says geneticist Dr. Marcelo Sady, Post-Doctor in Genetics and Multigene Director General.



“In the case of food, the unhealthy diet does not only affect your waist, but also your skin's immunity. Eating lots of foods high in fat and sugars is able to trigger inflammatory signaling in the skin, disrupting the Interleukin-23 pathway, a pro-inflammatory messenger that contributes to the development of dermatitis and accelerates the aging of the skin", says the medical nutritionist Dr. Marcella Garcez, professor and director of the Brazilian Association of Nutrology.

These aggressors are responsible not only for visible aging (appearance of blemishes, wrinkles and sagging) but also for accelerating the decline of five skin physiological functions: thermoregulation, protection, cushioning, lubrication and elasticity. Below, the dermatologist explains these physiological functions better:



Thermoregulation. The skin is a part of the integumentary system, which among its functions is to regulate body temperature. As it is also an excretory organ, the skin secretes sweat to promote thermoregulation. Thus, the stimulation of the sweat glands when secreting sweat will cool the skin according to the normal body temperature. On the other hand, the skin contracts the vascular system in the dermis to conserve heat.

“However, with the decrease in sweat glands resulting from the aging process and together with the loss of fat in the subcutaneous tissue, there is an effect of difficulty in adjusting body temperature over the years (and the sequence of attacks)”, explains the dermatologist.



Protection. The epidermis is essentially made up of a main cell, the keratinocyte, responsible for the production of keratin. “Keratin due to its resistance and impermeability is responsible for protecting the skin. There are also other cells in the skin, melanocytes, which are responsible for the production of melanin, whose main function is the protection of the skin, through the production of pigment. The epidermis also has cells responsible for immunity: Langerhans cells”, he explains. "But with the thinning of the skin, the reduction of defense cells and vascularization, resulting from constant aggressions, especially the markers of aging, there is a weakening of this protective capacity and a greater risk of increasing infections".



Cushioning. Fat cells form the subcutaneous tissue located below the reticular dermis and are also responsible for forming a defense layer, a kind of cushion that acts as a shock absorber, protecting muscle tissue.

“In addition, fat forms a tissue that is highly donor of growth factors, and it also has, dermatologically, the issue of being a heat reservoir, in relation to the protection of the organs below it, such as the muscle and the organs of the cavity , keeping the heat internally ”, explains the doctor. “With the loss of the fat pad and decreased vascularity, resulting from the natural aging process and external agents, there is a decrease in this damping effect”, says the doctor.



Lubrication. The hydrolipidic mantle, formed by a layer of oil and water, lubricates the skin and hair. “This layer of sebum and sweat makes the skin more resistant to infections. Fungi or bacteria in the air are more difficult to penetrate the skin and cause disease. Likewise, this natural lubrication and hydration of the skin is a reinforcement against the harmful actions of external agents such as pollution, smoke, wind and solar radiation”.

But the lack of hydration of the skin, added to these aggressors, help to decrease the work of the sebaceous glands. As a consequence, the skin becomes drier, also favoring the appearance of wrinkles and sagging, in addition to facilitating entry for pathological organisms.



Elasticity. The elastic capacity allows the skin to return to normal after being stretched. “Collagen fibers, on the other hand, provide greater resistance to the skin, forming a network that supports other structures, such as the skin attachments: hair, nails, sebaceous glands and sweat,” explains the doctor. These two supporting proteins, collagen and elastin, are responsible for the firmness of the skin and are strongly involved in the healing process of the skin. With biological aging, and mainly by photoaging caused by UVA, UVB, Infrared and visible light, damage occurs that culminates in the loss of the skin's elastic capacity.

“The action of InfraRed rays is sufficient to reach the deepest dermis - the reticular dermis - where the skin's anchoring and support fibers are. And this causes a very important damage, with less elasticity and a worsening in the general aspect with the destruction of the skin archetype. In addition to a greater potential for cancer.” It is for this reason that wrinkles and sagging appear.




According to the doctor, to preserve cell function and allow skin functions to be exercised effectively, it is necessary to follow a skin care routine and have healthy habits - it is estimated that 80% of aging is related to style of life and the rest has to do with genetics.

“Therefore, it is necessary to sleep seven to eight hours a night, follow a lean protein-rich diet, plenty of water to stay hydrated from the inside out and, as we often perceive the difficulties of some people's bodies in absorbing all the nutrients they need. consume, we recommend supplements with Vitamin C and Vitamin E (both with greater scientific support) and primary antioxidants including superoxide dismutase (Glisodin), in addition to Vitamin D. Other antioxidants and important nutrients such as Resveratrol, Exsynutriment, Bio-Arct, FC Oral , Glycoxil, peptides, amino acids and biotin should also be used depending on the patient's needs.”

In skin care, the dermatologist recalls that photoprotectors and antioxidants are highly necessary in topical formulas, since they prevent or reverse damage to cellular DNA promoted by the sun. “Likewise, we must remember the entire beauty ritual daily. Cleaning, toning, hydration and photoprotection must be done routinely and always with dermatological guidance to choose the best assets and vehicles for the patient's needs”, he concludes.



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