The Tell-All About Your Aging Skin (Part 1)

BLD089655Forty-nine-year old Amy arrived in my office and plunked down a grocery bag filled with skincare products, everything from anti-wrinkle creams to anti-aging serums. She’d even tried injections of various kinds. “I fork over half my paycheck for a herculean ritual – and it’s getting me nowhere,” she complained. Her main lament was that skincare was high maintenance and expensive, especially as she aged, and worse yet, she couldn’t tell whether the topicals were working, or the injections would be long-lasting.

She’s not the only patient who has come in exasperated about their aging skin, displaying their skincare product stash on my desk. We’re all looking for a solution, but the problem of aging skin won’t disappear with a cream, serum, or injection. They are just band-aids.

Your body’s largest organ, skin, is an unavoidable reminder that you’re growing older.[1] Of course it is: Your skin has a stressful job, acting as a mediator between the external environment and your body’s internal environment.[2]  So it is constantly bombarded inside and out. Manufacturers feel your insecurities, getting Americans to spend billions of dollars annually to “defy” aging. Even men have gotten in on the act, spending big bucks on skincare products.[3]

The irony is that those ads – that subtly play into your vulnerability – could actually be offering products which increase the aging process.[4] Even the high-end beauty products have toxic ingredients, including formaldehyde, lead, parabens, and phthalates. Once they seep past your skin, these and many other toxins are fat soluble, so they accumulate in tissues and accelerate aging,[5]  disrupting your endocrine system and hormone production (estrogen, androgen, progesterone, thyroid, and retinoid receptors).[6] Not to mention that these skincare toxins also contribute to problems such as infertility, obesity, asthma, allergies and different types of cancer including breast cancer.[7]

At the same time, the root cause of skin aging is not the fault of the products we smear on our skin. Rather, it is our health in general which is reflected in our skin.  Once you understand the internal factors causing accelerated aging, any attempts to smooth the surface will more likely drain your bank account than have any effect on changing your skin. Rather, it’s more about changing your skin from the inside, out.

I’ve found four major health culprits that accelerate aging:

  1. Glycation. Glycation occurs when sugar “gums” up your proteins, slowing their ability to do their jobs and creating “sticky blood” that cannot flow through the small blood vessels in your skin. This translates into more stress on your skin and accelerated aging.[8] Excessive sugar consumption, especially fructose, ramps up glycation, spiking inflammation in the process.[9]
  2. Oxidative damage. Oxidative damage occurs when free radicals go wild, attacking your cells and DNA, damaging your body, and accelerating aging. These repercussions land directly on—you guessed it—your skin.[10] A plant-based antioxidant-rich diet packed with nutrients like resveratrol, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin D[11] can scavenge free radicals and slow down aging. Bonus: You decrease your risk for dementia and other chronic age-related diseases.[12]
  3. Stress. Chronic stress delivers a serious whammy to your skin. If stress hormones such as cortisol stay ramped up, they can trigger or exacerbate multiple inflammatory skin conditions including psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne, contact dermatitis, alopecia, itchy, dry skin patches and erythema.[13]
  4. Inflammation. Chronic inflammation accelerates aging and contributes to almost every disease on the planet.[14] Inflammation can be good and bad. Your body uses acute inflammation to heal a cut so you don’t bleed to death, in which case inflammation is doing its rightful job. Chronic inflammation, though, is like that last-minute party guest who can’t take a hint to leave,[15] alienating your happy hormones and neurotransmitters, and making you more susceptible to illness, including skin disorders.

Starting to see a pattern here? What is happening inside you has a dramatic effect on the cellular level either to accelerate premature aging or to fight it. So before you head to the beauty counter, send these four culprits packing. Research shows a healthy lifestyle with regular physical activity, stress management techniques, a nutrient-dense diet, optimal filtered water, sufficient sleep, and healthy relationships will help.[16]

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this blog series, in which I’ll provide the simple, effective hacks to slow down aging and its effects on your skin. (None of them involve expensive skin-cream regimens, I promise.)

For more tips and lifestyle habits that will help you age gracefully and beautifully, order your copy of Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years.


[1] Yang, O., et al. “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: review of toxicological mechanisms using molecular pathway analysis.” Journal of Cancer Prevention 20, no. 1 (2015): 12-24.

[2] Chen, Y., et al. “Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.” Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets 13, no. 3 (2014): 177-190.

[3] Rinaldi, A. “Healing beauty? More biotechnology cosmetic products that claim drug-like properties reach the market” EMBO Reports 9, no. 11 (2008): 1073-1077.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Datta, H. S., et al. “Theories and management of aging: modern and ayurveda perspectives.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011).

[6] Diamanti-Kandarakis, E., et al. “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement.” Endocrine Reviews 30, no. 4 (2009): 293-342.

[7] Juhász, M. L. W., et al. “A review of selected chemical additives in cosmetic products.” Dermatologic Therapy 27, no. 6 (2014): 317-322.

[8] Gkogkolou, P., et al. “Advanced glycation end products: Key players in skin aging?” Dermato-Endocrinology 4, no. 3 (2012): 259-270.

[9] Levi, B., et al. “Long-term fructose consumption accelerates glycation and several age-related variables in male rats.” The Journal of Nutrition 128, no. 9 (1998): 1442-1449; Schalkwijk, C. G., et al. “Fructose‐mediated non‐enzymatic glycation: sweet coupling or bad modification.” Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews 20, no. 5 (2004): 369-382.

[10] Rinnerthaler, M., et al. “Oxidative stress in aging human skin.” Biomolecules 5, no. 2 (2015): 545-589.

[11] Romano, A. D., et al. “Oxidative stress and aging.” Journal of Nephrology 23, no. 15 (2009): S29-36.

[12] Loef, M., et al. “Fruit, vegetables and prevention of cognitive decline or dementia: a systematic review of cohort studies.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 16, no. 7 (2012): 626-630.

[13]  Chen, Y., et al. “Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skinaging.” Inflammation & Allergy-Drug 13, no. 3 (2014): 177-190.

[14] Khansari, N., et al. “Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer.” Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery 3, no. 1 (2009): 73-80; Franceschi, C., et al. “Chronic inflammation (inflammaging) and its potential contribution to age-associated diseases.” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 69, no. 1 (2014): S4-S9.

[15] Cain, D., et al. “Effects of acute and chronic inflammation on B-cell development and differentiation.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 129, no. 2 (2009): 266-277.

[16] Shammas, M. A. “Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 14, no. 1 (2011): 28.