The quest for longevity has fascinated humanity for centuries. I gained an interest in longevity after hearing my dad, also a physician, talk about the importance of diet, exercise and sun protection as a way to live longer and healthier. He was always ahead of his time and understood that food was the best medicine, exercise was the best way to reduce the functional decline of age, and sun protection was the best way to keep your skin looking youthful over time. He always said, “we should all die young, at an old age,” and he certainly lived that way as well. He was walking 8-10 miles a day into his 90’s, practiced intermittent fasting for at least 18 hours a day, avoided alcohol and always took precautions to protect his skin from the sun. He also took quite a few supplements and was always studying new treatments and technology to help himself and those around him, age younger.
One of the biggest myths around longevity and the skin is that after a certain age, like your 20’s, it doesn’t matter how much sun you get, the damage is already done. The reality is that while it’s always better to start younger, you can help improve the health and quality of your skin at any age. Even something as simple as not insulting your skin- in other words, properly protecting it from UV rays- will help your skin help itself undo some of the damage. When we add in specific ingredients, treatments and supplements, we can accelerate and improve on that process.
As we strive to extend our lifespan and improve our overall quality of life, one often overlooked aspect of this journey is the health and vitality of our skin. While we may be familiar with the idea that a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management can contribute to a longer life, the role of our skin in longevity deserves a closer look. Measuring longevity is complicated because aging is not considered a disease, yet, and, as humans we live for a very long time relative to most other creatures, so any proper longevity study will take many decades. We sometimes use genetically modified animals as models, and we now also have some technology that can help measure the fascinating connection between skin health and longevity, and we can start to uncover some essential strategies to maintain youthful, vibrant skin for years to come.
The Skin: A Reflection of Internal Health
Your skin is not just an external barrier; it's a dynamic organ that reflects your internal health. The condition of your skin can provide valuable insights into your overall well-being. One way we measure this is through something called DNA methylation. Think of this as the rings on a tree, it’s a way of being able to tell the age of an organ or tissue, but at a molecular level. We now have “methylation clocks” that help determine the age of different organs, including the skin.
Here's how the changes look in the skin:
Collagen and Elasticity: Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin, and collagen and elastin are proteins that keep your skin firm and elastic. As we age, the production of these proteins decreases, while their breakdown increases, leading to the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in collagen-boosting nutrients like vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants can help preserve your skin's youthful appearance. Drinking or eating collagen, as in the collagen powders and pills, won’t directly create collagen, but they do provide the building blocks of collagen and there is some evidence that they support joints, skin, nail and hair. More data is needed, but I can see an at least theoretical effect possible.
Hydration: Dry, dehydrated skin is more prone to premature aging. Staying adequately hydrated is key to maintaining skin elasticity and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Drinking enough water and using moisturizers suitable for your skin type can make a significant difference. Moisturizing your skin is from both the inside and outside. Drinking enough water, with the right electrolytes as needed, will help but you also need to keep the outer layers of the skin properly hydrated. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, shea butter and ceramides to help there, like in my ultra rich peptide renewal cream.
Sun Protection: Excessive sun exposure is a leading cause of premature aging. I just can’t say that enough! UV rays damage collagen fibers and lead to the formation of wrinkles and age spots. Regular use of sunscreen and protective clothing is essential to shield your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Also, some supplements that contain an ingredient called polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE), Vitamin D supplements, and Niacinamide can add support to your sun protection efforts.
Nutrition and Antioxidants: A diet rich in antioxidants, found in fruits, vegetables, and green tea, can help combat free radicals that accelerate skin aging. These antioxidants neutralize harmful molecules that cause oxidative stress, keeping your skin looking younger for longer.
Lifestyle Factors: Stress, lack of sleep, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can all accelerate skin aging. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, getting enough quality sleep, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can positively impact the longevity of your skin. Exercise directly affects your skin so make sure to get your workout in anytime you can!
Skin Care for Longevity
To preserve the health and vitality of your skin as you age, consider incorporating these skin care practices into your daily routine:
Cleansing: Cleanse your skin gently to remove impurities and pollutants. Avoid harsh products that can strip your skin of its natural oils or ones that leave pollutants behind. I like using a micellar water, I like the one from Bioderma, followed with a gentle cleanser.
Exfoliation: Regular exfoliation helps remove dead skin cells and promotes cell turnover, revealing fresh, youthful skin. However, avoid over-exfoliation, which can damage the skin's protective barrier.
Moisturization: Choose a moisturizer that suits your skin type to keep it well-hydrated and supple.
Sun Protection: Always use sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection, even on cloudy days. Consider wearing protective clothing and sunglasses when spending extended periods outdoors.
Professional Care: Consult a dermatologist for personalized advice and treatments, such as laser resurfacing, to erase sun damage and the discoloration and wrinkles that go with it, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser therapy, to address specific skin concerns.
In the pursuit of longevity, it's crucial not to overlook the importance of skin health. Your skin is not just a canvas that reflects your age but an integral part of your overall well-being. By adopting a holistic approach that combines a healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, sun protection, and a tailored skincare regimen, you can maintain beautiful healthy skin. The future of longevity treatments is bright. This is an area of very active interest and research. I am working on some exciting new projects and will share the data with you in future emails as it develops.