Why does my skin age? The short answer: Oxidation and Glycation

In your thirties forties and beyond, you start to notice that your skin does not quite have that fresh shine of youth. It is less full, it is slightly dull and, when you compare it to your younger colleagues, friends and family it can be pretty annoying.

How is it that the skin of someone in their teens and early twenties  looks like it is glowing? The reason it looks like it is glowing is because it IS GLOWING, LITERALLY.

Young skin has a full complement of water drawing sugar molecules called HA’s AND the water drawing (and water retaining) proteins called collagen and elastin. These proteins and sugars create fullness, elasticity and bounce. Light enters youthful skin, bounces around and is refracted and reflected by the huge amount of water in the skin surface and as light exits from this plump young skin it gives the effect that the skin is ‘lit from within’.

Youthful skin glows, goddammit.

With advancing years, two processes, Oxidation and Glycation, create cumulative damage to the skin which reducs water carrying capacity and creates pigmenting end products that cause ongoing accellerated damage.

OXIDATION:
Oxidation is the process where dermal ( skin) proteins and sugars are damaged by things called Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS’s. ROS’s are created by UV radiation exposure and combustible byproducts created within the skin that are increased when exposed to toxic environmental factors. Simply put this damage is 90% caused by not protecting skin against UV radiation. It also occurs in people who over-exercise or who are continuously exposed to toxic oxidising chemicals like cleaning/ hair/ nail products.

GLYCATION:
Glycation is a process where sugar molecules link and fuse to collagen and elastin proteins in the skin reducing their elasticity and water drawing capability. The linking of sugars to proteins (Glycation)  is something we all understand. It occurs when you grill bread, steak or vegetables and brown lines form from the heat of the grill. These brown lines are sugars fusing with proteins.

Glycation of body proteins rendering them rigid, and less elastic happens not just in skin but in arterial walls. It is accellerated in diabetics and people who have high sugar intake and results in many of the conditions associated with ageing, including cataracts, macular degeneration, high blood pressure, reduced peripheral blood and nerve supply ( causing leg ulcers)and coronary artery disease. Simply put Glycation is BAD.

The end result of oxidation and glycation in the skin is the proteins and naturally occurring HA ( sugar) molecules that give skin its glow and bounce are twisted and damaged and then removed. What is left behind is nasty substances called Advanced Glycation End products ( AGE products)  that not only reduce your skin ability to function and create new sugars and proteins but also leave your skin looking like cooked toast…brown, dehydrated and wrinkled.

Isnt that a happy little tale? Dont be depressed. Skincare and cosmetic treatments have come a long way towards not only reducing skin ageing but actually reversing aged skin so it looks and functions like young skin.

You too can get back that glow of youth…lookout for my next blog when I will describe the myriad of ways you can achieve this.

Featured image: Ingrid Seaburn.