Written by Linda Banta, M.D. Published in NSIDE Magazine
Aging occurs naturally due to genetics and environmental factors. These two processes are biologically different, but together, they lead to changes associated with aging. We can control some of these to a certain degree.
Skin is equipped with an antioxidant system that protects it from oxidative changes that lead to aging and cancers. This system can be compromised, and it can deteriorate with age.
As the largest organ of the body, the skin is bombarded with chemical and physical pollutants. UV rays are an important generator of stress to the antioxidant system.
Aging is also accelerated by the damage of smoking. This can easily be seen when comparing the skin of someone who sunbathes and smokes to someone who doesn’t. The smokers and sunbathers age faster.
This aging is caused by free radical production in the skin – oxidative stress. UV from tanning beds is considered a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
Both topical and oral antioxidants have been shown to protect the skin. To help with skin damage and aging, skin needs nutrition from the outside, as well as from the inside. The “nutrition” of the skin can be defined by a pyramid similar to the old food pyramid.
The very basis is sun protection. A broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with a physical blocker provides the safest and best coverage (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide).
Daily routine exposure to the sun, even in small doses, can lead to long-term effects. Exposure is also present on cloudy days.
Applying sunscreen first thing in the morning is recommended. Medical-grade sunscreens provide cosmetically elegant, safe and effective coverage. Ask a dermatologist for recommendations. Sunscreen should be worn daily and reapplied every two hours while outside.
The next steps in the pyramid are tretinoin (retin-A) hydroxy acids and antioxidants. Some product lines combine glycolic and antioxidants. The glycolic acids help exfoliate the skin and allow for penetration of the active ingredients.
Antioxidant treatment can come in the form of a cream, serum or liquid. Over-the-counter products may or may not perform as advertised. Most have not undergone studies to show they are truly effective. Product lines sold only in doctors’ offices have shown to be clinically effective. These should be used after consultation with a skin specialist.
Many antioxidant treatments combine various antioxidants topically. It is also recommended that these be obtained through diet or supplements. Of these, vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants. It is found in fruits and vegetables. Berries and citrus contain the highest amount.
Vitamin E is found in many foods, including asparagus, avocado, nuts, oils, leafy green vegetables, eggs and milk.
Other antioxidants include green tea, coenzyme Q10, plant-derived polyphenols and ferulic acid.
In addition to antioxidants, growth factors are shown to hinder the aging process by growing new skin more rapidly. They are components that act as messengers between cells, turning on and off a variety of cellular activities. Growth factors play a role in cell division, new cell and blood vessel growth and collagen and elastin production.
There is an array of products available, and there are many price ranges. The very cheap products probably do not perform as well as some of the medical-grade product lines.
On the other hand, just because a product is outrageously expensive does not mean it is much better. A good skin care system can be obtained within budget.
It is best to get professional advice on what is best for your skin and your goals. Preventive care pays off in the long run with better appearance, less risk of skin cancer and fewer costly doctor visits and treatments.
Protect the skin you are in!
Dr. Linda Banta is a board-certified dermatologist in solo practice at Stone Oak Dermatology (109 Gallery Circle, Ste. 135). After 17 years of practice in Houston, Banta relocated to San Antonio. She graduated from UT Austin and the military medical school, USUHS. She completed her dermatology training in San Diego and finished her Navy service as a commander.
Banta provides personal care in a private office setting. To make an appointment, call 210-494-0504. Insurance accepted. Bilingual – German.