How does cellular health impact beauty? The skin care industry coined the phrase "anti-aging" in an attempt to slow down any changes from the perceived perfections of youth. Professionals frequently associate anti-aging with combatting fine lines and wrinkles; sagging, dull, and lackluster skin; age spots; and any other term associated with undesirable aging effects to the outward appearance. These outward signs of aging are actually the ramifications of underlying changes happening in the skin. The aging process takes place at the cellular level, where changes due to negative stimuli can lead to disruptions or alterations to our optimal cellular state. Compromised cellular health is the true source of aging skin. Consequently, a more thoughtful approach to cellular health in the client's beauty regimen will have a far greater impact on anti-aging efforts and long-lasting beauty.
To understand how aging works at the cellular level, it is important to note that cellular health goes beyond genetics. Recently, companies have begun providing access to the client's genetic code through DNA sequencing and mapping methods that can provide knowledge about their ancestry and even predispositions to diseases and overall health. However, it is how genetic material (genes) gets read and expressed that ultimately determines the health of the cells. Epigenetics is a newer area of science that studies changes in gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Within the cells, different combinations of genes are turned on or off through a variety of factors. There are over 50,000 genes available in each individual genome and each gene can manifest in a limitless amount of combinations. While many gene expression combinations are inherited, these combinations can also be influenced or altered by environmental factors.
Scientists are now using principles behind epigenetics to create solutions that impact cellular health and help optimize gene expression. As a result of improving cellular health and reversing the aged epigenetic state of a cell, the skin looks and acts younger from the inside out. While many factors influence this, there are key ingredients in topical skin care that can cause this change in the skin. Topical application of particular actives can help the body turn on beneficial activities like collagen production and cell renewal, and turn off undesirable reactions like hyperpigmentation and sensitivity. The skin is the primary defender and protective barrier to harsh environments. If it is not reset on a daily basis to help purge damage and inflammation, the skin's defenses weaken and unwanted changes to the gene patterns occur to compensate.
Skin's epigenetic state needs help by correcting, healing, and protecting it with products designed for that purpose.
When assessing aging skin and how to improve it, a key concern is facial skin's ability to regenerate or repair itself, which declines over time, along with its ability to communicate, transfer nutrients, stay hydrated, and build up its support structure. As the epidermis layer atrophies and blood vessels shrink with age, the skin is simultaneously bombarded by pollutants, ultraviolet radiation, cigarette smoke, and other harsh substances that generate free radicals and toxins. Thus, accelerating the aging process through transepidermal water loss and skin dehydration, damaging DNA and cell proteins, degrading the extracellular matrix, and impeding epidermal recovery. Compounding these issues with systemic muscle wrinkling, potential hereditary factors, and poor nutrition ultimately creates sagging, wrinkling, bags, lines, discoloration, puffiness, and hyperpigmentation.
The development and expansion of peptides as biologically active molecules highlights some of the most profound advances in topical skin care that can influence the cellular health of the skin. Because of their ability to act as cell-communicating signals that can attack multiple forms of aging, peptides are critical components to results-driven skin care and are evolving into fundamental ingredients for anti-aging products. Clinical data demonstrates that peptides work on a cellular level to increase hydration, reduce visible lines and wrinkles, firm the skin, enhance the skin's natural luminosity, diminish discoloration, or reduce inflammation and redness. Each clinically-proven peptide acts as a unique molecule to help skin respond better to aging concerns. When different peptides are combined with each other, or with other active ingredients, they are capable of enhancing each other's responses to better address multiple signs of aging.
Peptides are unique and versatile in their approach because they can be used by a wide range of clients and paired well with a wide range of other popular skin care treatments. If a client is intimidated by aggressive or invasive treatments, peptides can serve as an effective alternative to give some of the same desired results. On the other hand, if a client is interested in treatments like Botox, retinol, hydroquinone, deep chemical peels, or other aggressive treatments, peptides are perfectly positioned to enhance these treatments by improving the overall health of the skin and potentially extending the efficacy of the results. The potential of peptides is limitless, as each peptide can have a targeted purpose in the skin. In general, peptides in skin care have been loosely organized into four main categories.
Signaling peptides are designed to trigger signaling pathways or networks in the skin, such as peptides that stimulate the production of collagen by the fibroblasts in the skin. This stimulation can be activated at different points in the collagen synthesis pathway, therefore a formula can take advantage of that by using multiple peptides together that uniquely stimulate collagen to amplify the result. Peptides can be designed to specifically stimulate other structural proteins in the skin like elastin, fibronectin, laminin, and integrin or can be broader and stimulate production of multiple proteins. Peptides have also been used to help regulate other activities in the skin such as adipogenesis, melanin synthesis, and cell turnover.
ENZYME INHIBITOR PEPTIDES
Enzyme inhibitor peptides help to inhibit, block, or reduce the activity of enzymes in the skin that cause undesirable outcomes. For example, peptides are especially useful in treating hyperpigmentation by reducing the activity of tyrosinase. The breakdown of collagen and enzyme activity induced by inflammation, such as dark circles and puffiness in the eye area, is another enzyme activity that is targeted against with peptides.
NEUROTRANSMITTER INHIBITING PEPTIDES
These peptides are a valuable subset of enzyme inhibitor peptides that specifically work to disrupt the muscle contractions that cause fine lines and wrinkles. As peptides can disrupt the muscle contraction at multiple points, using multiple neurotransmitter inhibiting peptides can be a beneficial way to attack the problem of expression wrinkles.
Topical skin care always deals with the challenge of effectively delivering actives to the skin to generate a response. Many peptides in skin care formulations are either small enough to passively penetrate the skin or have been modified with a functional group, such as acetyl, myristoyl, or palmitoyl, that facilitates passage through the skin barrier. Additionally, certain peptides called cell-penetrating peptides, or CPPs, have been found to facilitate passage of larger molecules and are being explored for use in topical skin care.
A LOOK AHEAD
The future of peptides is essential as a key tool in unlocking epigenetics and cellular health. Their versatility and compatibility with other ingredients and treatments will ensure their place in the future of the skin care industry and technologies brought forward to advance beauty and health.
Neal Kitchen, Ph.D. serves as vice president of product development for HydroPeptide, LLC. He earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois and has a research background in epigenetic regulation, cellular signaling responses, and aging mechanisms at the molecular level. He leads the company's efforts to accelerate the development of clinically-proven anti-aging skincare products and the advancement of epigenetic technologies in skin care formulations.
Erin Ferrill Larson serves as director of brand management and education for HydroPeptide. Larson's current projects include creating comprehensive education platforms to produce the top account executives in the industry as well as education programs for spa staff with an emphasis on aesthetic knowledge and helping spas increase sales to service revenue.
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