Most people think of metabolism with respect to whether they are gaining or losing weight easily. In reality metabolism is a vast subject dealing with all the chemical processes that occur in the body to maintain life.
Metabolism is a series of sciencey chemical processes within cells that provides the energy needed to keep them alive and healthy. From a longevity perspective we want to understand what lifestyle choices we can make that will influence health and specifically the health of our skin. Influencing your skin's metabolism will give you healthier, younger acting skin for years to come.
Understanding how general metabolism affects your skin can also answer questions you have about why your skin is changing over time. So let’s put on our science hats and bear with me for a few minutes to discover what basic metabolism is and how it affects you and your skin.
Living organisms are unique in that they can extract energy from their environment and use it to carry out activities such as growth and development, repair and reproduction. It all boils down to being able to utilize three essential biomolecules. These biomolecules are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Each performs differently in sustaining reactions in our bodies (and our skin) that are essential for promoting life and longevity.
You probably recognize that it is the food we eat where we get these biomolecules. But it’s important to understand that although the plants and animals we eat contain proteins, fats and carbohydrates they don't necessarily come in the right configurations that our bodies need. So we break down these nutrients into their smallest components through digestion. Then we reassemble them to become more usable for us as humans.
The smallest sub part of proteins is called an amino acid. Our body breaks down proteins into amino acids through digestion. The same goes for fats which are broken down into fatty acids and carbohydrates which are broken down into sugars. One of the most common subunits of carbohydrates is glucose.
Why Amino Acids are Important for Skin
Amino Acids are exceedingly important for healthy skin. They are the building blocks of skin. When strung together they create peptides (short chain amino acids) and the larger proteins that make up our collagen and elastin. These are the fibers that structure the dermal layer of our skin. They work together with aquaporins (little ducts in cell membranes that draw moisture into cells) and keep your skin hydrated. Some amino acids help your skin produce antioxidants while others are antioxidants themselves. Keratin proteins make up the surface protective cells of the outer layer of the epidermis. Amino acids also help to strengthen your immune system and increase resilience for an overall healthy appearance. They protect skin from free-radical damage and reduce signs of aging. That’s why LONGEVITY by Elizabeth Renee has created several peptide based products including Peptide Firming Serum, Brightening Peptide Serum, Stem Stim and our peptide packed AGELESS Longevity Serum.
Peptides naturally occur in the skin but can be boosted by peptide based serums in your skincare products. Most of our clients search out peptides because they recognize that (like Vitamin C) peptides are an essential component for making collagen. More collagen means firmer, stronger, younger looking skin. Even dermatologists have started to recommend peptides to their patients who are concerned about aging skin. You may have seen collagen creams that claim to support the formation of collagen in your dermis. The problem with collagen proteins is that they are just too big to get absorbed into the skin. They are however, still a useful ingredient, as collagen is a water loving molecule that is very helpful for surface skin hydration. Peptides, with their shorter chains of amino acids, can often penetrate cell layers more easily. Peptides often break the Dalton rule, which says that for a substance to penetrate the skin’s barrier it must be smaller than 500 Daltons. A Dalton is a unit of molecular mass. Many peptides are larger than 500 Daltons. So how do they penetrate the skin?
One of the most compelling reasons for selecting to use peptides in your skincare regime is that peptides have powerful cell signaling abilities. Did you know that cells have the ability to communicate with each other by sending chemical signals that coordinate certain actions? For example, if you get a paper cut, a cell-signaling cascade of peptides is triggered to begin the repair process. Peptides can mimic certain cell-signaling processes. Specifically, peptides are incorporated into skincare products that mimic the same peptides you’d find when collagen is broken down. By mimicking these naturally occurring peptides, synthetic peptides cause your skin to “think” collagen is deteriorating and therefore it starts to produce new collagen. This shows that even though some peptides don’t penetrate the skin barrier, they still work effectively. Probably the most notable peptide for collagen stimulation is Matrixyl. Matrixyl® synthe’6 is a facial architectural peptide that supports 6 skin rebuilding essentials for a firmer matrix (dermis). That means a smoother, stronger, more volumized, line-free skin over a longer period of time. Here are some categories of peptides:
Not only can peptides stimulate the synthesis of collagen matrix proteins, but they can also augment levels of elastin, proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, and fibronectin. These are all important components in creating a healthy, well functioning dermis.
These peptides inhibit the production of enzymes called MMPs (Matrix Metalloproteinase). MMPs dismantle collagen fibers due to sun exposure and inflammation. Your skin breaks down when radiation increases MMPs. This process is beneficial for younger skin because new collagen is then produced to fortify the dermis. The problem is where older skin is concerned. The breaking down from MMPs still happens but the newer fibers are less likely to regenerate. This leads to looser, more flaccid skin. Peptides that inhibit MMPs leave the existing collagen in place. This is not a perfect result but studies reveal that the skin remains firmer. Enzyme inhibiting peptides are found in soybeans, glycosaminoglycans and rice proteins. Also, Mung Bean Sprout Stem Cells are great at protecting collagen and the extracellular matrix that is destroyed by MMPs. They rescue and protect UV-damaged fibroblasts and reduce the signs of photo-damage induced inflammation that is at the very root of wrinkle formation.
Neuropeptides are compounds included in skincare serums that mimic the action of botulinum toxin (Botox). Essentially, they inhibit acetylcholine release which impedes the muscles ability to contract. This reduces the lines caused by habitually contacting the same muscles over and over again (such as the elevens between your brows). Note: This ingredient is not Botox, it is best when used as a preventive. The best known of these is neuropeptides is acetyl hexapeptide which can be found in our AGELESS Longevity Serum and Stem Stim.
Carrier peptides such as palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 in StemStim - Growth Factor Serum help stabilize and transport trace elements such as growth factor molecules and anti-inflammatory cytokines which are essential to activate reparative stem cells found in your skin.
When choosing a peptide serum it is sometimes best to look for a formula that contains multiple peptides.
How Fatty Acids Help Your Skin
If you’re skimping on fat to lose weight you’re not doing your skin any favors. Your skin needs fats, more specifically essential fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 to make healthy cell membranes and an intact lipid barrier. These fats are called "essential" because your body can not make them. You need to eat them and include them in your skincare products. If you’re not getting enough fat in your diet your skin can become dry, inflamed and prone to blackheads and whiteheads. Some of the best sources of EFAs are oily fish, nuts like walnuts and macadamia nuts, avocados, olives and olive oil. Did you know that fat is also good for your brain? The brain requires cholesterol (which is a type of fat) to help neurons form connections with other neurons. These neuron connections are the vital links that underlie memory and learning.
Omega fatty acids like those found in fish and various plant oils are well known for their remarkable nutritional benefits. It is generally recognized that Omega 3 and Omega 6 should be consumed in equal proportions, but most people get plenty of Omega 6 but are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids. Since Omega 6 tends to be inflammatory while Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory you should focus on getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids. This is especially important when considering the pro aging effects of inflammation on your skin.
How Fatty Acids Benefit Skin?
Omega fatty acids are truly remarkable ingredients. They serve as essential components between cells in the epidermis, creating protective surface layers important for a smoother, more even, younger-looking, and healthier complexion, no matter what your age or skin type.
Here are some of the ways topical application of omega fatty acids can help skin:
Reinforces and smoothes skin’s surface
Increase hydration without feeling heavy
Calm signs of external stress, including redness and sensitivity
Eliminates flaky, dehydrated-looking skin
Visibly strengthens skin against environmental damage
Deliver antioxidants to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles
Adds to the barrier which allows some things to pass through while keeping out unwanted substance like toxins, bacteria and irritants.
All of these benefits mean that applying products rich in omega fatty acids to skin lead to visible rewards you’ll love. Omegas have a natural affinity for skin and are especially beneficial when combined with other skin-loving ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol, and humectants.
Best products with fatty acids to add to your skincare routine.
Kukui Cleansing Milk is based on a nut native to Hawaii. Besides being rich in Vitamins A, C and E, Kukui nut oil contains healthy fatty acids like linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help calm the skin and reduce inflammation. This is particularly helpful for skin that is sensitive, prone to eczema or showing signs of severe dryness or aging.
Phytolipid Recovery Cream contains a cocktail of plant derived lipids including olive oil that helps calm skin and repair the lipid barrier. Results of a recent large French scientific study showed that the signs of skin photo-aging were significantly lower in people who consumed olive oil. The study's authors hypothesize that olive oil may be uniquely beneficial to skin because it is rich in polyphenol antioxidants and squalane. Like Resveratrol (found in red wine) studies show that olive oil’s unique monounsaturated fatty acids may have the same anti-aging effects by activating the anti-aging genes known as sirtuins. When formulated with humectants these lipids hold onto moisture, reduce inflammation and encourage skin healing.
Environmental Protection is a serum that you wear over your other skincare products. Just a couple of drops acts as a protective shield against dry arid air and dry winter heating systems. This product is based on an oil blend of hazelnut, borage, kukui nut, rose hip seed and evening primrose, all rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that calm the skin. Borage and Evening Primrose oils are particularly well known for calming inflammation.
Carbohydrates - Sugars that are Good for your Skin??
Carbohydrates provide an energy source for your body. But, when you eat lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, bread and pasta, levels of blood sugar (glucose) in the body become too high. As a result, sugar molecules permanently bond to proteins, including the collagen in the skin. This process is known as glycation. It produces a chemical reaction in the skin, that makes it more stiff and inflexible, leading to premature wrinkles.
But are carbohydrates in skincare products always bad for your skin?
There are carbohydrates in skincare products that do not cause glycation. They do not cause the negative reaction linked to eating the refined white stuff. These sugars have two powerful skincare benefits. The first is as powerful humectants. Grabbing onto moisture and drawing it into the skin to keep skin hydrated. The second is their ability to support the dermis.
The dermal layer of skin has three primary components: collagen, elastin, and the dermal matrix which is largely made up of glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans or GAGs are also known as mucopolysaccharides and are long chain sugar molecules. GAGs offer many health benefits for your skin, from keeping a youthful glow to repairing scars and wrinkles. GAGs generally decrease in the skin as we age, which is why they are most popular in anti-aging formulas. GAGs do more than just hydrate the skin. Studies show that formulations containing GAGs have improved skin elasticity over time. GAGs aid in scar and wound healing by helping rebuild collagen. So whether you’re looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and scars or just want to hydrate your skin a product with glycosaminoglycans can help.
The most notable of the GAGs is hyaluronic acid which can hold up to 100 xs its weight in water and is considered a super hydrator. There are other sugars that are excellent hydrators.
Skincare Products with GOOD Sugars
Rainwater Toner has an extensive collection of bio-sugars that contribute to the natural moisturizing factors of the skin. It hydrates dry skin in seconds with this refreshing blend of Bio-Sugars, healing Panthenol, and a biocompatible copper complex. Rainwater leaves skin soft and comfortable, ready to get the most out of your moisturizer. It’s formula includes mucopolysaccharides such as glycerin, sorbitol, hexylene glycol, fructose, glucose, sucrose, dextrin and lactic acid.
Glycolic Acid Serum Not very many people realize how hydrating Glycolic Acid is. Glycolic is a sugar molecule derived from sugar cane that breaks the bonds between old surface skin cells allowing them to be sloughed off, creating effective exfoliation while leaving skin hydrated. It’s important to know that one should always follow a Glycolic Acid serum with a moisturizer. While glycolic will initially grab onto moisture, in a dry climate that moisture needs to be sealed in or it could evaporate and end up making you drier.
Hydraessence is our ever popular hydrating serum based on hyaluronic acid. The same is true as with glycolic acid in that you need to seal that initial moisture reservoir in with a moisturizer to avoid dehydration. That being said, Hydraessence is extremely popular, especially among those with oily, dehydrated skin because it is also oil free.
STEM STIM is also rich in hyaluronic acid making it extremely hydrating. Beyond hydration, it's also fortified with growth factors that are super anti-agers for mature skin types. The GAGs in hyaluronic acid has the benefit of being excellent carriers to penetrate these important anti-agers deep into the skin and stimulate fibroblasts to go into healing and repair mode.
This is of course not a complete guide to skin metabolism, but understanding the basic macronutrients is an important first step. The next area you might want to delve into is the all important area of energy. The energy needed to power these metabolic functions to happen. Well, that is a story for another day. Feel free to comment below with your questions.