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New Research Shows How Aging Skin Impacts the Entire Body

Middle-aged woman relaxing at home
May 16, 2017 Reviewed by Marta 2 Comments

Your investment in anti-aging potions and lotions could be having an impact that’s more than just skin deep. Skin care could influence the well-being of your entire body as it ages. This exciting insight is the result of some very new research on inflammation. In fact, scientists are working on inflammation with all sorts of interesting results, as some breakthrough findings on nitric oxide and acne shows — but I’ll come back to that later.

First, I’ll try to explain why protecting your skin may be protecting you from chronic inflammation and the diseases (generally age-related) that it causes. Inflammation is at the root of heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s to name but a few. What’s to come is taken from the paper Epidermal Barrier Protects Against Age-Associated Systemic Inflammation, published just last month in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

It has long been known that age-related diseases are almost all caused by inflammation. Indeed, aging itself is the result of a low-grade inflammatory process called “inflammaging.” However, I was surprised to find that the actual origin of age-associated systemic inflammation is unknown. And this is where the new research comes in. When skin is aged, it compromises the epidermal barrier. That is to say the most superficial layers of skin in the stratum corneum that protect us from loss of water and incoming toxins and bacteria.

The researchers, experimenting on mice (sorry, I didn’t design the research protocol) found that if the epidermis was “acutely disrupted,” it impacted badly on the cytokine levels associated with inflammation. And this was in young mice, let alone adult ones. But — and this is the exciting part — if the scientists corrected the epidermis, it reduced the cytokine levels not only in the skin, but also in the body’s serum associated with inflammation. And, even better, this was in aged mice.

This means that by protecting the epidermal barrier, we are protecting our bodies from inflammation-related diseases. This, of course, is achieved with good anti-aging skin care. What’s more, many serums actually contain anti-inflammatory actives. We need never feel guilty about the investment we make in our arsenal of anti-agers again.

In related news, a company called Novan has announced that two preclinical studies with SB414, a nitric oxide-releasing cream, helped with the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. The approach is interesting because nitric oxide is a molecule that our body produces to help cells communicate with each other. Nitric oxide has been shown to be important in all sorts of cellular activities, including reducing inflammation and assisting the immune system. So if SB414 can release nitric oxide it could, in theory, be much more effective than the topical creams currently given to psoriasis and eczema sufferers.

Note that it has to still to go through the FDA’s approval process and so is a couple of years away from commercial availability. Still, I’ll be keeping developments on my radar, as well as any other attempts to harness nitric oxide as I continue to monitor inflammation and anti-aging.

  • May 17, 2017

    by Steven

    I'm wondering in the nitric oxide releasing cream will have any impact on Rosacea?

  • May 16, 2017

    by JohnH

    If I understand correctly, I can see how this suggests the importance of treating any existing skin inflammation or damage, but I don't see how it supports treating skin that isn't inflamed. However, you may be talking about the low-grade "inflammaging,” but that assumes that the products used actually work to reduce this inflammation. In other words, not all anti-aging lotions will have an impact.

    That said, the real lesson I got from the study is the importance of avoiding a sunburn. We already know it's damaging effects on the skin, but this study suggests systemic effects.

    I'm also a bit concerned that this study could be used as justification for using steroids for any type of skin inflammation, instead of tracking down and removing the cause of the inflammation (I'm one of those people who believes that skin diseases are a symptom of something bigger), but that's a whole different discussion.

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