Ep 76: Healthy Skin Aging Begins With Skin Resilience
What is the skin barrier? Repairing your skin barrier
The skin barrier is best thought of as a protective wall between the internal environment of the body and the external. A healthy skin barrier enables all your organ cells to function optimally. This means carrying out all various day to day functions of keeping one healthy. Extreme environmental changes, such as high or low temperatures, extremes of humidity, allergens present i.e dust, pollen, pollution, irritation from externally applied cosmetics, all these can affect the skin barrier. Internal processes such as biological aging can also affect these.
What is resilient skin?
Today’s podcast focuses on how aging depletes the skin’s reserves of a critical moisturizing molecule – hyaluronic acid. Before that, I want to share this concept of skin resilience. Many of you may have heard of this term in the last year, but what does it truly entail? Firstly, skin resilience is not a medical term. However, I feel it is helpful to the layperson trying to understand the best way to approach anti-aging skincare.
In fact, the positive approach I like to take towards anti-aging skincare may just be this – skincare that enhances skin resilience. The latest understanding of skin aging, is that of an entire exposome incorporating genetic, biological, as well as environmental factors that all interact. These result in certain responses in skin cells that can either accelerate or retard the aging processes.
At the heart of this is oxidative stress. In the previous podcast episode, we discussed how free radical damage caused by UV exposure and environmental pollution can trigger increased oxidative stress. This results in accelerated skin aging.
Resilient skin and the skin barrier
Today, we are focusing on how maintaining a healthy skin barrier can both directly improve the appearance of your skin (reducing signs of photoaging), and also indirectly increase the ability of skin cells to fight off harmful processes that increase oxidative damage.
@drteowanlin @skinceuticals #skinceuticalspartner #skinceuticals #skinceuticalsproducts #dermatologist #dermatologistrecommended ♬ original sound – Dr. Teo Wan Lin
Role of the skin barrier in skin aging
The internal environment of your skin cells is designed to create an optimal microenvironment for cells to constantly renew themselves, achieving a state of balance known as homeostasis. For aging skin, this cycle becomes less efficient. Resilient skin is one that has an optimal microenvironment centered around the skin barrier. The skin barrier is what helps maintain this delicate balance in skin cell cycling for healthy skin. The skin barrier is primarily assessed by its structural integrity. Much like how you would assess the construction of a house by how it holds up in bad weather.
Specifically, dermatologists define healthy skin barrier function as the ability of skin to retain tight junctions at the interface between the environment and the skin. Practically, this blocks entry of allergens and protects the immune cells from triggering inflammation. The skin barrier also houses the microbiome. The skin microbiome comprises the entire host of good and bad bacteria that naturally live on skin. The microbiome is not just complex, but also essential to maintain healthy skin functioning. A disrupted skin barrier function, for example in eczema, gives rise to an altered skin microbiome. This increases risks of skin infections.
What does a deficient skin barrier look like?
Well, many of you may be curious as to how you may know if your skin barrier is deficient. We often attribute dryness, flaking, redness and itch to sensitive or reactive skin. Fundamentally, it is a form of dermatitis, indicating a more moderate to severe damage of the skin barrier. Dermatitis can be due to external causes such as irritant contact dermatitis, or environmental triggers that cause flare ups. Most commonly, excessively drying cleansers or skincare products (AHAs, retinols, salicylic acid) are culprits of irritant contact dermatitis. However, one hears less about how aging itself depletes the skin barrier.
In this next part of our podcast, we’re going to zoom in on how certain molecules in aging skin give us more clues to skin barrier function in aging skin. This is also why the best anti-aging skincare products must focus on the skin barrier function.
How dry skin affects the aging process
My stand as a dermatologist is this: the correct way to approach skin aging is via the assessment of skin functions. A deterioration in skin function is commensurately reflected in the skin’s appearance. The skin barrier thus lies at the core of skin aging. The visible aging effects that we see on skin are actually related to changes in the topmost layer of skin – the epidermis. If your skin is dry, when you age, this gets much worse. In fact, there is a specific form of dryness related to aging, known as asteatotic eczema. This is due to loss of important moisturising lipids in the skin barrier with age.
Many signs of skin aging such as textural irregularities, loss of volume, hyperpigmentation, loss of radiance and skin elasticity are all related to reduced skin barrier function. Hence, a science-based approach for maintaining healthy skin, as you age, should directly target restoring skin barrier function.
Introduction to hyaluronic acid benefits, a key molecule regulating skin barrier function
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally existing moisture trapping molecule, also known as a glycosaminoglycan. Incorporration of HA is common in facial serums because it supports vital skin functions such as retaining moisture, providing structural skin support. This means that it lifts and tightens skin, giving rise to a plump, elastic and radiant appearance. Dermatologists have observed that with increasing age, the production of hyaluronic acid actually declines. This process begins first in your 20s and then accelerates in your 40s. The body also regulates production and degradation of hyaluronic acid — it depletes by 30 to 50% every 24 hours. On top of that, as you age, there is further reduction in the amount of hyaluronic acid present in skin.
Hyaluronic acid benefits for photoaging
Rapid production of hyaluronic acid occurs in the topmost layer of skin – the epidermis. However, it is mostly concentrated in the deeper layer of skin known as the dermis. This is where it contributes to firmness and elasticity of skin. Specifically, it lubricates the collagen and elastin fibers that make up the dermis. Hyaluronic acid has the ability to bind water up to 1000 times its volume. It inherently plays a critical role to reinforce our cells besides retaining moisture. It also contributes to firmness and skin radiance.
In order to prevent early signs of aging, it’s important to start applying a hyaluronic acid serum in your twenties, as this ensures an optimal turnover rate. Hyaluronic acid has additional biological effects in terms of cell signaling. These processes are collectively known as cell talk, beneficial communication between skin cells that keeps the skin functions optimal. Other hyaluronic acid benefits is that it is regarded as a well tolerated and safe active ingredient in bioactive cosmeceutical formulations.
Introducing H.A. Intensifier, a multimodal serum combining hyaluronic acid and botanical actives
A study by the L’Oreal group1 on a multimodal serum combining hyaluronic acid and botanical actives, published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2017, showed promising effects on skin. Containing multi weighted hyaluronic acid at a concentration of 1.3%, this ideal formulation of a hyaluronic acid facial serum allows for deep penetration to various skin layers. The addition of a patented ingredient – proxylane, and a 2% botanical extract containing licorice root and purple rice further enhances the bioactive properties on skin. The purple rice and licorice root extracts work together to help increase retention of hyaluronic acid in the skin, by blocking degradation of hyaluronidase, an enzyme that breaks down hyaluronic acid naturally in the skin.
Studies on hyaluronic acid benefits
The study results showed that participants using the multimodal serum had a 30% increase in the skin’s hyaluronic acid level, also correlated with 3D facial scans that showed an increase in skin plumpness. There was an 11% improvement in skin firmness and up to a 17% improvement in skin texture. Finally, these findings were also associated with visible improvements in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the face. Specifically, the smile lines, the nasolabial wrinkles and crow’s feet.
Proxylane, a proprietary active ingredient patented by the L’Oreal group, has been tested in clinical trials and demonstrates statistically significant efficacy after 60 days of daily use. Additional effects included improved skin evenness, plumping effects, smoothness and skin tightness. A similar study2 involving postmenopausal women with mild to moderate sun-induced skin damage were studied over a 12 week period both via skin biopsies. There was a significant increase of hyaluronic acid content after four weeks of treatment which they were able to confirm by PCR testing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s discussion on hyaluronic acid benefits and how applying a well formulated hyaluronic acid serum can enhance your skin’s barrier function as you age. This contributes to not just healthier skin with better immunity but also more beautiful and radiant looking skin.
- Raab S, Yatskayer M, Lynch S, Manco M, Oresajo C. Clinical Evaluation of a Multi-Modal Facial Serum That Addresses Hyaluronic Acid Levels in Skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2017 Sep 1;16(9):884-890. PMID: 28915283.
- Bouloc A, Roo E, Moga A, Chadoutaud B, Zouboulis CC. A Compensating Skin Care Complex Containing Pro-xylane in Menopausal Women: Results from a Multicentre, Evaluator-blinded, Randomized Study. Acta Derm Venereol. 2017 Apr 6;97(4):541-542. doi: 10.2340/00015555-2572. PMID: 27840889
This podcast episode is sponsored by SkinCeuticals Singapore as a joint collaboration to create scientific educational content relevant to skincare and dermatology. Images produced as part of editorial collaboration consistent with site policy.