What is the Biggest Cause of Skin Aging?

Okay, I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. Having great skin is more than just applying moisturizer and staying out of the sun. Really good skin involves adopting a lifestyle that supports healthy skin tissues that endure the test of time. We all struggle with this but I am here to encourage you. The following lifestyle habits don't just benefit your skin, they also bring about better health and well being for your whole body as well as increasing mental clarity and resilience.

For over forty years I have been doing facials and observing how skin ages. You may think these adverse changes are just related to sun, but "What is sun doing to your skin that triggers these negative changes?" Some clients who haven't spent an exorbitant amount of time in the sun still show the evidence of skin aging like thinning skin and loss of tone. Those under considerable amounts of stress develop deeper lines on their face and those whose diet consists of high amounts of sugar develop cross linking of collagen which leads to line formation, mottled pigmentation and loss of tone. Another ager of skin you should be aware of is being exposed to toxins from living in a polluted environment or ingesting "non-food" junk foods. These toxins can eventually show up on your skin as mottled pigmentation or age spots. So, what do these skin agers have in common?

The common denominator here is inflammation. Combating inflammation in the skin should be your top priority. This is why using varied and large amounts of antioxidants both in your diet and in your skincare regime is so important. Antioxidants, especially polyphenols, have significant anti-inflammatory properties. This is because they readily donate electrons to unstable molecules (free radicals) to stop an inflammation cascade. This means that one molecule that loses an electron from damage (say from the ultraviolet rays of the sun) is looking to fill that outer ring with a lost electron. It goes to the next molecule and then steals their electron to fill their electron ring requirements. This becomes a domino effect which leads your immune response to take action, resulting in inflammation or sometimes referred to as "inflammaging". This is the root cause of skin dysfunction including hyperpigmentation, suppression of collagen production, premature loss of tone, redness, itching, psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis; all connected to the inflammation cascade.

Why do we have inflammation? Inflammation is actually designed to protect us. It's how the body signals the immune system to stimulate healing and repair damage. The inflammatory cascade starts when the body detects an irritant and releases a signaling chemical that activates white blood cells to move from your general circulation to the site where there is damage. They then produce pro-inflammatory cytokines that signal your body's immune cells to fight the problem. As the body heals, inflammation is supposed to subside.

There are two types of inflammation:

Acute inflammation is triggered by internal or external exposure to irritants, including UV radiation (think sunburn), extreme pollution, allergens, radiation, perfumes or aggressive skin care products or treatments (think medical grade acid peels). This type of inflammation comes on strong and then is supposed to go away after the problem has been addressed. It is also the result of treatments such as microneedling that trigger short term inflammation that ultimately stimulate your skin to go into repair mode. The inflammatory response should go away relatively quickly. When the repair mode kicks into action your skin reconstructs damaged tissues like faulty collagen fibers and reorganizes surface layers for a smoother skin. Initially pro-inflammatory cytokines start the healing process by dilating capillaries, allowing white blood cells, stem cells and other repair factors to travel to the injured area and stimulate repair. Later anti-inflammatory cytokines come in to calm everything down and complete the healing cycle. When we did microneedling in the spa we helped things along by introducing mesenchymal stem cell extracts during the treatment to provide the molecules needed to swiftly build back healthy skin. The important thing here was to give enough time in between treatments to allow an uninterrupted and complete repair cycle. This is the premise of including retinol and other exfoliants into your skincare regime. Retinol in particular, incites inflammation that then can be calmed with the use of anti-inflammatory serums that aid in the healing and rebuilding response. This is also why we don't recommend retinols every night. The pro-inflammatory response may be undetectable, but it's there. When used properly retinol will stimulate a repair response that creates a thicker, firmer, plumper dermis and a smoother more organized epidermis (outer layer) over time.

Chronic inflammation is when the inflammatory response persists within the skin. It is often undetected, but damaging nonetheless. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are triggered by the immune system but sometime they do not dissipate over time as they should. Chronic inflammation destroys healthy tissues, causing a thinning of the skin and making it more fragile. When chronic inflammation is under the radar you may be unexplainably sensitive and even think you are becoming allergy prone. Things like using a soapy cleanser (containing sodium lauryl sulfate) or ua Vitamin C formula that containing L-Ascorbic Acid (a stingy version of the vitamin) or products containing essential oils might cause a reaction to your skin. Often a result of using a stronger exfoliant than recommended