Good skin science: genes, skin and ageing
Thirty years ago, when I first started writing about health and beauty, the human genome was being mapped for our DNA code, the basis of the science of genetics, and the bright white hope was gene therapy. That is being slow to fulfil its promise, but meanwhile scientists are increasingly absorbed in the field of epigenetics, which literally means beyond (‘epi’) genetics. Fascinatingly, this could, among other things, help us look younger. Epigenetics refers to the impact of environmental influences on how your genes function. DNA code defines who and what you are in every way, from colour of hair to personality. But how your genes express themselves can change according to your environment and the events in your life.
Researchers are investigating the importance of epigenetics in illnesses from heart disease and cancer to Alzheimer’s, and even in sociological problems including juvenile delinquency and tendency to crime. The London charity Kids Company (www.kidsco.org.uk) is involved with research on the impact of maltreatment and maternal neglect on the brains of troubled adolescents, and also the most efficient strategies for repair.
The practical application of epigenetics for many of us is its use in skincare to help keep us looking young. The mantra for good skin used to be to choose your parents wisely. ‘It’s true that if your parents have beautiful skin and features, you will be predisposed to the same,’ says Dr Nadine Pernodet, executive director of Skin Biology, Research and Development for the Estée Lauder Companies. ‘But how you protect your skin from the environment is critical, and will determine the rate at which your skin appears to age.’
Recent research with identical twins has shown that even with the same genes they can age very differently. This is influenced by key factors which include sun exposure, smoking, pollution, stress and diet. The good news is that skincare brands such as Estée Lauder are using this cutting-edge science – Dr Pernodet is working with leading researchers at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology – to help repair the damage through topicals such as Advanced Night Repair Serum Infusion. The highly sophisticated formulation is designed to combat DNA damage in the fragile eye area – leading to fine lines, puffiness, dark circles, dryness and uneven skin tone – caused by ozone pollution and UV rays.
Your skin starts ageing in your late 20s, says Dr Pernodet. While good topicals are vital, including sun preps, she emphasises that ‘stress has a big impact on the formation of cell-damaging free radicals and increased inflammation, so relaxation is vital. Take up yoga, keep up daily exercise, stroke a pet,’ she advises. ‘Also avoid sugars and artificial sweeteners, drink lots of still water plus green and white tea.’
My recent column on vaginal dryness attracted helpful advice from a reader… ‘My husband and I stopped lovemaking after years of unsuccessful treatment with vaginal creams containing low-dose oestrogen. My GP refused to refer me to a gynaecologist and knew nothing of any natural treatment. I read an article in Menopause Matters magazine on PharmaNord Omega 7 Sea Buckthorn Oil, and its action on mucous membrane, including “intimate dryness”. I was delighted to find intercourse was comfortable and enjoyable again in under three weeks.’ Pharmacist Shabir Daya comments that sea buckthorn extracts have helped numerous women with dryness associated with the atrophy of the cells lining the vagina. Omega 7 essential fatty acid helps maintain healthy lipid levels in skin cells and also restores elasticity. He recommends a supplement called Omega 7 Sea Buckthorn Cellular Support by Sibu, which contains essential fatty acids, plus micro-minerals that work to ensure optimal cell function.
WEAR AND CARE
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