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Ageing Skin and Skin Problems

Part 2 - Ageing Skin & Problems

Here we talk about ageing skin and some skin problems......

Ageing Skin

The appearance of our skin is affected by both internal and external factors. Internal factors include one's sex, genetics, and age while external factors include lifestyle and environment - where and how we live. Mature skin is generally characterized by the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and decreased elasticity. I want to look at some of the factors behind the issue of ageing skin.

Skincare working for you

Wrinkles are formed for various reasons which include decreased production of important skin proteins and tension in underlying muscles of the skin. Ageing skin produces less of these proteins which results in wrinkles and sagging skin. Constant muscle tension and continually movement can also cause wrinkles around the brow and lip region.

Here, I want to mention Mitochondria. Basically, these are the power house of our cells. When things go wrong with these, then premature ageing is one of the consequences. The following is an extract form an article which I found at

"There are many theories of aging. Some involve processes over which we presently have no control and a huge number yet undiscovered. Out of this highly contentious issue arose a theory involving mitochondria in our cells, which shows the greatest promise to modify, reverse, and "cure" degenerative diseases. Mitochondrial Medicine may prove to be the wave of the future for medicine. It is already proving of benefit in returning homeostasis to "disorders" in the body. Mitochondrial impairment has been linked to the degenerative diseases of normal aging and because these same impairments are also being found in younger aged people they are thought to be the cause of "premature aging" and therefore why younger people are developing these diseases of the aged. Identified factors that lead to mitochondrial impairment just happen to be factors that are adaptable to change by ourselves and with the help of sophisticated metabolic testing"

Indeed, there are four major aging mechanisms have come to light in recent years. These are: OXIDATIVE DAMAGE - damage by free radicals at the molecular level, GLYCATION/GLYCOSYLATION - bonding of sugar to proteins that stiffens tissues and destroys their function, INFLAMATION - a repair process that becomes more prominent, damaging and indiscriminant as we age, SENESCENCE - cells stop dividing due to loss of telomere length and seems to set maximum lifespan limit.

What is this about "Free Radicals"?

Technical stuff: Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like dominoes. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. Cells may function poorly or die if this occurs. End of technical bit. We live, I regret to say, in an age where there are a lot of these free radicals about. Just a short exposure (5 minutes) to the sun without the use of sunscreen can start them off. Other causes are the abundant pollution, x-rays and some of the chemicals used in mainstream (cheap) cosmetics and lotions.

When you consider just how many new chemical based products are released and how dietary standards have fallen it is not surprising that our bodies are having to work overtime. What our body uses is anti-oxidants.

A word about chemicals and what is "natural". Everything around us is made of chemicals of one sort or the other. Chemicals are made up of lots of atoms shunted together to make molecules and these molecules, in turn make up what is termed a "chemical". You are mostly water, made up of molecules called H20, two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. There is nothing wrong with chemicals. Plants themselves have complex chemical compounds. It is not the chemicals that are the problem, it is how they come together. We humans have combined chemicals after reserach of maybe a few years, mother nature has combined chemicals after a few million years worth of research. "Natural" is a way of saying that we do have a bit of faith in mother nature!
Antioxidants do help....
Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals, the principle micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Additionally, selenium, a trace metal that is required for proper function of one of the body's antioxidant enzyme systems, is sometimes included in this category. The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients so they must be supplied in the diet.

Vitamin E : d-alpha tocopherol. A fat soluble vitamin present in nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish oils, whole grains (esp. wheat germ), fortified cereals, and apricots. Current recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 15 IU per day for men and 12 IU per day for women.

Vitamin C : Ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin present in citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, cantaloupe, kiwi, and strawberries. The RDA is 60 mg per day. Intake above 2000 mg may be associated with adverse side effects in some individuals. (Where 5 a day comes from)

Beta-Carotene is a precursor to vitamin A (Retinol) and is present in liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, and grains. Because beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A by the body there is no set requirement. Instead the RDA is expressed as retinol equivalents (RE), to clarify the relationship. (NOTE: Vitamin A has no antioxidant properties and can be quite toxic when taken in excess.)

There are others which include: Co-Enzyme Q10 (found naturally in our cells but decreasing past about 20yrs) Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA - found in plant and animal sources) Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE - found in fish) Carotenoids (phytonutrients found in the red, yellow and orange flesh of plant leaves, flowers and fruit) and Flavanoids (found in green tea, soy isoflavones and red wine, among other food sources). Most of these you will find highlighted in various skin care products.

I found the following comment in an abstract of an article entitled "Cutaneous Photochemoprotection by Green Tea: A Brief Review" (gosh!) by Nihal Ahmad, Hasan Mukhtar, PhD of Department of Dermatology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA (S Karger AG, Basel ):

"....In recent years, the naturally occurring compounds, especially the antioxidants, present in the common diet and beverages consumed by the human population have gained considerable attention as chemopreventive agents for potential human benefit. Many such agents have found a place in skin care products. Green tea, rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, is gaining increasing attention as a supplement in skin care products. In this short review, we will discuss the chemopreventive potential of green tea polyphenols against skin cancer, especially photocarcinogenesis. We advocate that the use of skin care products supplemented with agents such as green tea in conjunction with the use of sunscreens and educational efforts may be an effective strategy for reducing UV-induced photodamage and skin cancer in humans."

Basically, if we do not have enough of these anti-oxidants, the free radicals can cause damage and start to affect the fibroblast cells that generate our collagen and elastin. These are two types of protein that make up the connective tissue that keeps skin looking young.
Common skin conditions and natural skin care. Acne, Rosacea, and Dermatitis
Acne is a disease that affects the skin's oil glands. The small holes in your skin (pores) connect to oil glands under the skin. These glands make an oily substance called sebum. The pores connect to the glands by a canal called a follicle. Inside the follicles, oil carries dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. A thin hair also grows through the follicle and out to the skin. When the follicle of a skin gland clogs up, a pimple grows. Most pimples are found on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Acne is not a serious health threat but, it can cause scars.

I do not profess to be an expert on Acne. It is a very upsetting affliction. There are a number of sites on this subject. I suggest that you may like to look at this NHS page about Acne.

At the present time, there is still no cure for acne. However, there are various treatments and preventative measures that can be taken to stop acne before it starts.

Start by adopting a good basic cleansing routine. Even though acne is not caused by poor hygene, it is important to use a wash cloth or another material that will help exfoliate. This is because excess skin cells can contribute to acne. Twice a day should be plenty, and be sure to stay away from oil based moisturisers.

After cleaning the face, use a 2% salicylic acid solution or oxy pads. Salicylic acid works by removing more excess skin cells that can clog pores and cause acne to develop. If this is done every day, it will reduce the amount of acne breakouts

If salicylic acid does not work, try a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution. Anything more than 5% will usually just cause excessive dryness. 5% is strong enough to prevent acne, but not so strong that it irritates the skin. An herbal alternative to benzoyl peroxide is tea tree oil, which has been clinically proven to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide. It is also much less irritating to the skin.

Last but not least, use an oil free sunscreen to protect the skin before going outdoors. This is very important, because sunlight can cause damage and irritation to the skin. Once the skin is damaged, it increases the likelihood of an acne breakout.

The most important part of this regimen is to repeat the steps ever day, whether or not acne is present. By exfoliating, using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide every day, and protecting the skin with sunscreen, this will help stop acne before it starts.

There are also alternative treatments that can be used to prevent acne. Prescription medications such as Accutane, or Retin-A will work to prevent acne. Retin-A in particular can be used with relatively few side effects, and will also work to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The downside is that it will make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so wearing sunscreen is a must. Avoiding sunlight as much as possible is even better. Alpha Hydroxy peels can also be used to prevent acne. By applying glycolic acid to the face, it will gently peel off the upper layers of skin, and allow the skin to renew itself. This form of acne prevention should be administered by a dermatologist, since too much glycolic acid can do more harm than good.

Rosacea is a fairly common skin disorder that primarily affects fair skinned people in their 30's and over. While it's exact cause is difficult to pinpoint, the symptoms of Rosacea are obvious in their appearance on the facial skin. Typical Rosacea symptoms are a combination of any of the following: Red looking, flushed skin - especially on the nose and the cheeks, small, dilated blood vessels known as telangiectases may appear in the background, inflamed red bumps sometimes with a yellow head (acne rosacea), a shiny, oily appearance to the skin, and roughness, or "orange peel" like texture of the affected skin.

Rosacea is typically aggravated by alcoholic beverage consumption, hot or spicy foods, some types of common cosmetic ingredients, sun exposure, hot baths, hot tubs, saunas, and the consumption of hot drinks. People who suffer from Rosacea are typically advised to avoid these triggers, but this of course is not always possible. While it is not possible to actually cure Rosacea, since the underlying cause seems to elude scientists, there are ways of controlling it that are very effective. With today's cosmeceutical advancements, there are so many treatments available that either equal prescription skin care treatments, and even outperform them. Many people have had huge success with natural Rosacea treatments and systems.

A diet rich in multiple essential vitamins and minerals, especially the vitamin "A", has been demonstrated to benefit rosacea and acne rosacea sufferers. If you are a smoker, it is very important that you quit or at least cut back a lot. Smoking aggravates rosacea, because it can increase inflammation and inhibit the natural circulation which gives your skin fresh oxygen and also adds to the smooth, even tone of your skin. Apart from the cosmecuticals, pulsed laser can be useful for reducing exisiting damage.
Dermatitis or "inflamed skin"
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that can be easily treated. This condition is a red, scaly, itchy rash most commonly seen on the scalp, sides of the nose, eyebrows, eyelids, skin behind the ears, and middle of the chest. Other areas, such as the navel (belly button), buttocks, skin folds under the arms, axillary regions, breasts, and groin, may also be involved. Seborrheic dermatitis most often occurs in babies younger than 3 months of age and in adults from 30 to 60 years of age. In adults, it's more common in men than in women.

The exact cause isn't known. The cause may be different in infants and adults. Seborrheic dermatitis may be related to hormones, because the disorder often appears in infancy and disappears before puberty. Or the cause might be a fungus, called Pityrosporum ovale. This organism is normally present on the skin in small numbers, but sometimes its numbers increase, resulting in skin problems.

Treating contact dermatitis begins with eliminating or avoiding the source of irritation. Prescription or over-the-counter corticosteroid creams can lessen inflammation and relieve irritation. Creams, lotions, or ointments not specifically formulated for dermatitis can intensify the irritation. Oral antihistamines are sometimes recommended to alleviate itching, and antibiotics are prescribed if the rash becomes infected. Medications taken by mouth to relieve symptoms of dermatitis can make skin red and scaly and cause hair loss.

If you have a history of dermatitis you should remove your rings before washing their hands. You should use bath oils or glycerine-based soaps and bathe in lukewarm saltwater. Patting rather than rubbing the skin after bathing and thoroughly massaging lubricating lotion or nonprescription cortisone creams into still-damp skin can soothe red, irritated nummular dermatitis. Highly concentrated cortisone preparations should not be applied to the face, armpits, groin, or rectal area. Naturally - and especially if this covers large areas of your body, you must visit your healthcare practictioner (ie your Doctor).

Some herbal therapies can be useful for these skin conditions. Among the herbs most often recommended are burdock root (arctium lappa), calendula (calendula officinalis) ointment, chamomile (matricaria recutita) ointment, cleavers (galium ssp.), evening primrose oil (oenothera biennis) and nettles (urtica dioica )

Contact dermatitis can be treated botanically and homeopathically. Grindelia (Grindelia spp.) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum) can help when applied topically. Determining the source of the problem and eliminating it is essential. Oatmeal baths are very helpful in relieving the itch. Bentonite clay packs or any mud pack draws the fluid out and helps dry up the lesions. Cortisone creams are not recommended.

Stasis dermatitis (in the middle aged and elderly) is a condition generally found in the lower part of the body and is often associated with vein problems. This condition should be treated by a trained practitioner. This condition responds well to herbal therapies. However, the cause must also be addressed. Selenium-based shampoos, external applications of flax oil and/or olive oil, and biotin supplementation are among the therapies recommended for seborrheic dermatitis.

Still with me? I am sorry that this is a bit wordy. Please note that I am NOT a medical doctor and what I write must NOT be taken as a medical recommendation. What your chosen qualified health care practictioner (ie your Doctor) says, comes first! Let us now move on to talk about diet and lifestyle.