Skin And Your Environment: Reverse The Aging Process

It’s the body’s largest organ – around two square meters – and makes up around 16% of our body weight. So, why do we neglect our skin?

Dr Sly Nedic, a physician board-certified in anti- aging medicine by the World Organisation of Anti- Aging Medicine, aesthetic specialist and founder of 8th Sense Spa, explains that environmental factors can have detrimental effects on this organ.

They can induce:

  • premature aging,
  • hyperpigmentation,
  • inflammatory reactions such as eczema, and
  • may even cause acne.

Nedic says a significant 80% of photo-aging is related to UV radiation. “But in addition to this, environmental factors such as ionizing and infrared radiation, thermal heat, air pollution, persistent organic pollutants in our food and water, household cleaning products and different plastics, fragrances, cosmetics, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, dioxins, phthalates and chlorine are all responsible for accelerating photo- aging.”

These elements, she says, affect our skin through various mechanisms. For example, they can cause excessive shortening of telomeres, which can accelerate the intrinsic aging process. “Since this affects skin-cells in each layer, the skin’s renewal will be affected, leaving it thinner, drier, finely wrinkled and dull-looking.”

Prof Ncoza Dlova, chief specialist and head of the Department of Dermatology at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, concurs. “There is strong scientific evidence confirming the influence of environmental factors like solar radiation, smoking and air pollution on the skin’s aging,” she says.

Your skin, as the outermost barrier, is in direct contact with various air pollutants.

Notes Dlova: “Particulate matter (PM) exposure and the occurrence of prominent skin aging signs (pigment spots and wrinkles) have been reported as a result of air pollution on the skin. The mechanism by which ambient PM exerts its detrimental effects on the skin is through the generation of reactive oxygen species which damage collagen. Furthermore, particles can serve as carriers for organic chemicals and metals that are then deposited in the skin cells’ vital organs (mitochondria), leading to skin aging by mitochondrial damage.”

And then genes come into play.

“In a few susceptible individuals with the CYP 1B1 gene, high exposure to environmental xenoestrogens can lead to the up-regulation of melanin biosynthetic enzymes, which could cause hyperpigmentation and melisma,” says Nedic.

“Those who have zero GSTM1 gene activity have a low detoxification capacity, and are unable to detoxify solvents, epoxides, heavy metals and herbicides. Consequently, they can develop premature skin aging more easily than those who have normal gene activity. These patients would benefit greatly from supplements that increase glutathione production.”

If you are in a perpetual state of stress, you will age quicker.

However, the growing presence of environmental toxins increases the need to be more specific in preventing their harmful effect, warns Nedic. “This further proves that using our genetic make-up to create a personalized nutritional and skincare regime is an effective method.”

The key to a healthy skin, she says, is to adopt a personalized medical approach that uses nutrition plans, supplements and skincare products that are tailored to each person’s unique needs. Click here to find out why the skincare routine of dark-skinned women can often be toxic.

Men vs women

Aside from the obvious, there are intrinsic structural difference between men’s and women’s biggest organ, says Dlova. “Androgen (testosterone) stimulation causes an increase in skin thickness, which accounts for why a man’s is about 25% thicker than a woman’s. In addition, a man’s skin texture is also tougher.”

Pascal Piedimonte, international training manager from the Bioderma head office in Lyon, France, suggests that these intrinsic differences make a man’s skin physiologically more resistant. However, this doesn’t mean men should forgo a skincare regime. A good face wash, moisturizer and eye cream (when those fine smile lines start appearing) are vital.

Suffering from acne? Click here to find out how you can treat it successfully.