Change Your Skin’s Destiny

For years we thought it was a given that we’d in­herit the lines and creases of our par­ents. But new re­search sug­gests that while we can’t re­write our DNA, we may be able to per­suade our genes to shift ag­ing into slo-mo.

SHAPE (USA) - - Contents - By Genevieve Mon­sma

These lat­est prod­ucts work with your DNA to slow down ag­ing

two in­flu­ences come into play with skin ag­ing: ex­trin­sic (out­side) forces, like UV dam­age, and in­trin­sic causes, which are dic­tated by our DNA. We know we can con­trol dam­age from fac­tors like sun ex­po­sure (with sun­screen and other pro­tec­tion), but science is dis­cov­er­ing that we also have power over in­ter­nal trig­gers—much more than we re­al­ized. The food you eat, the sup­ple­ments you take, the life­style you fol­low, and even some things you put on your skin can shift your genes to in­ter­pret (or “ex­press”) the in­for­ma­tion coded in your DNA in a way that ac­tu­ally slows ag­ing. “It all comes down to com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” says Shape Brain Trust mem­ber Ellen Mar­mur, M.D., an as­so­ciate clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy and ge­net­ics at the Ic­ahn School of Medicine at Mount Si­nai in New York City. “You can in­flu­ence the way your body in­duces pro­duc­tion of a pro­tein or a gene prod­uct by af­fect­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion among those genes. For ex­am­ple, af­ter a day out­doors, the body may ask, How much pro­tein should I make to coun­ter­act dam­ag­ing UV ex­po­sure? We can sway the an­swer to that ques­tion.” These strate­gies do just that.

Eat skin­friendly food

The body’s strong­est ac­cel­er­a­tor of in­trin­sic ag­ing is prob­a­bly in­flam­ma­tion, says Nicholas Per­ri­cone, M.D., a der­ma­tol­o­gist in New York City. “But if your diet specif­i­cally com­bats that fac­tor, you can coun­ter­act the dam­age.” The rea­son: Con­sum­ing anti-in­flam­ma­tory foods lets genes fo­cus on the pro­cesses they’ve been pro­grammed for—like col­la­gen pro­duc­tion—rather than ex­ert­ing all their en­ergy fight­ing in­flam­ma­tion. Up your in­take of olive oil; fatty fish like salmon and tuna; fruit and veg­eta­bles like straw­ber­ries, blue­ber­ries, spinach, wa­ter­cress, and kale; and nuts like al­monds and wal­nuts—and avoid pro­cessed meats, fried foods, and re­fined car­bo­hy­drates. (Of course, this doesn’t take into ac­count in­di­vid­ual sen­si­tiv­i­ties that may cause in­flam­ma­tion. If you have a food sen­si­tiv­ity to wal­nuts, for ex­am­ple, then eat­ing those can make your skin worse, not bet­ter.) Fo­cus on an­tiox­i­dants too (vi­ta­mins C, E, and A, resver­a­trol, and CoQ10). An­tiox­i­dants may in­flu­ence your genes pos­i­tively be­cause they com­bat free rad­i­cals that trig­ger in­flam­ma­tion. There is no rec­om­mended daily al­lowance of skin-pro­tect­ing an­tiox­i­dants, though Dr. Mar­mur says “eat­ing [five or more serv­ings a day of ] fruits and veg­eta­bles in a spec­trum of col­ors will en­sure you are getting a va­ri­ety.” You can also find these nu­tri­ents in nuts, fish, red wine, and flaxseeds.

Try sup­ple­ments

El­e­vated cor­ti­sol lev­els caused by chronic stress can “dam­age col­la­gen, ex­ac­er­bate acne, and trig­ger in­flam­ma­tion,” says Whit­ney Bowe, M.D., a der­ma­tol­o­gist in New York City and the au­thor of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. There are myr­iad ways to lower stress, in­clud­ing yoga, sleep, ther­apy, and even herbal adap­to­gens, which you can ap­ply topi­cally or take orally. Dr. Bowe stirs some into her cof­fee. Adap­to­gen herbs come from plants like ash­wa­gandha, reishi mush­rooms, rho­di­ola, gin­seng, wild indigo, and holy basil, and they may be con­sid­ered gene reg­u­la­tors be­cause they help re­duce cor­ti­sol. Moon Juice Beauty Dust ($38, moon­juice.com) is con­sum­able, while Mar­mur Meta­mor­pho­sis ($85 to $495, mar­murmeta mor­pho­sis.com) is a trio of top­i­cal serums. An­other skin-gene­friendly nu­tri­ent is in­gestible col­la­gen. “Af­ter age 30, we start to lose 1 to 2 per­cent of our col­la­gen each year,” Dr. Bowe says. Tak­ing a daily col­la­gen sup­ple­ment may help re­place what we lose. It might also en­cour­age and sup­port the genes that turn on or in­crease col­la­gen pro­duc­tion. Try Vi­tal Pro­teins’ col­la­gen ($14 to $115, vi­tal­pro­teins.com). “Col­la­gen syn­the­sis re­quires vi­ta­min C, so ac­com­pany your col­la­gen pow­der with a dose of vi­ta­min C ei­ther orally or topi­cally,” Dr. Bowe says. Try Der­ma­log­ica BioLu­min-C Serum ($87, ulta.com).

Use creams that af­fect genes

New top­i­cal for­mu­las can sup­port the com­mu­ni­ca­tion among your stem cells and keep gene ac­tiv­ity ro­bust. Au­gusti­nus Bader, a pro­fes­sor of ap­plied stem cell bi­ol­ogy and cell tech­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Leipzig in Ger­many, de­vel­oped a hy­dro­gel for burn vic­tims that healed their wounds with­out skin grafts. How? A burn cuts off com­mu­ni­ca­tion among healthy skin stem cells, in­hibit­ing heal­ing. Bader’s patented gel re­con­nects those sev­ered lines, en­abling the body to re­pair it­self. And ag­ing, it seems, is a bit like en­dur­ing a long, slow burn. It doesn’t hap­pen overnight, but Bader says “com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween stem cells breaks down over time,” caus­ing genes once re­spon­si­ble for key pro­cesses like col­la­gen pro­duc­tion to sim­ply switch off. Bader in­fused his hy­dro­gel tech­nol­ogy—a cock­tail of pep­tides, lipids, and amino acids—into an an­ti­ag­ing cream that keeps your skin smoother, firmer, and plumper for longer.

“Cer­tain foods can turn on good genes and sup­press bad ones.”

EM­POWER YOUR­SELF Your life­style can help pre­vent your hered­i­tary propen­sity for ev­ery­thing from frown lines to jowls.

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