WHAT IS SKIN AGING?
This is the result of the total combination of effects that an individual’s skin is exposed to from conception to death. These are mainly due to 2 processes. 1). Intrinsic Skin Aging Factors, from inside the body which cannot be altered, mainly due to genetics. 2). Extrinsic Skin Aging Factors, from outside the body and these may vary throughout the lifespan of a person from either, Atmospheric Factors – sunlight, radiation, pollution or Lifestyle Factors – diet, smoking, sleep patterns etc.
WHAT IS ATMOSPHERIC SKIN AGING?
Atmospheric skin aging refers to those factors in our environment that we are exposed to every day. Factors include radiation from the solar spectrum UVA/UVB, Visible light, Infrared-A (IR-A), Ozone (O3) and pollution (smog; particulate matter).
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF ATMOSPHERIC SKIN AGING?
This includes, but is not limited to, wrinkling, dryness, scaling and abnormalities in pigmentation (hypo or hyper-pigmentation).
WHAT IS THE SOLAR SPECTRUM?
The Solar Spectrum is divided into 3 broad segments based on the wavelength of the radiation: UV radiation; Visible light and Infrared as demonstrated in this diagram:
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE SOLAR SPECTRUM
UV Radiation only comprises about 7 % of the total radiation of the Solar Spectrum. UVA Radiation represents 95% of that 7%.
The damaging effects of UV Radiation on the skin has been documented very well. It causes oxidative stress, depletes the body’s natural antioxidants, leads to breakdown of collagen and causes inflammation in the skin.
In recent years it has now also been proven that Visible light can cause damage to the skin similar to that of UVA through similar processes.
This refers to all visible light and not only sunlight. Traditional sunscreens do not protect against the effects of visible light, but only against UV Radiation.
About half of the solar radiation reaching the earth is infrared. It is able to penetrate into the deep layers of the skin causing oxidative stress and a number of inflammatory responses with the subsequent effects thereof.
HOW DOES OZONE (Oᴈ) CONTRIBUTE TO SKIN AGING?
Ozone is not able to penetrate the skin, however, through indirect means, it is able to cause depletion of the skin’s essential antioxidants.
Ozone (Oᴈ) is also able to cause damage to the fats and proteins that are needed for the health of the outermost layer of the skin – the stratum corneum. In addition to these effects it also leads to the activation of inflammation in the skin which may present in various forms – for example: hives, eczema, skin rashes, etc. Furthermore, exposure to Ozone leads to a decrease of Collagen in the skin.
More Ozone is found in larger cities and large metropolises like Paris, Rome, Mexico City for example often have very high toxic concentrations.
The full effect of Ozone on the skin is complex and vast and investigation is ongoing to understand it all.
WHAT ABOUT POLLUTION
The main mechanism through which Pollution affects the skin appears to be the cause of inflammation.
High levels of air pollution have been proven to be a cause of hives as well as skin pigmentation – especially in darker skinned peoples. Soot (which frequently results from diesel exhaust) has been linked to DNA damage.
CAN WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT ATMOSPHERIC SKIN AGING?
Our skin is a very effective barrier against harmful factors in our environment when normal and healthy.
Our skin is naturally equipped to protect cells from the damaging effects of, for example, free radicals.
Multiple antioxidant and enzyme systems help to protect the skin; however, these are depleted with age as well as by the various intrinsic and extrinsic factors as explained above.
It is as important to replenish antioxidants by topical application as it is to replenish through dietary supplementation.
A very long list of antioxidants is available, however the best known are probably vit A, vit C and vit E. Research in this area is still ongoing and we are learning more every day.
Studies recently prove that the use of various antioxidants in addition to SPF can help counterbalance the effects of atmospheric aging.
To find out more talk to your doctor to find out which antioxidant and SPF products will provide you with the best defence against atmospheric aging.
The above mentioned environmental factors does not affect the skin only, but for the purposes of this article I have focused on skin only.