Our skin’s best defense against signs of aging involves protection from oxidative stress. Aside from using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, it is diet that plays an integral role with intrinsic and extrinsic aging.
The gradual loss of skin elasticity and sagging is accelerated due to environmental factors, dietary choices, and metabolic processes. Though we do not have control over all aspects of the aging phenomenon, nor can we realistically turn back the hands of time, we do have a choice when it comes to choosing a healthy diet and skin care regimen, which both have a radical impact on signs of aging.
PLANTS: THE POWERHOUSE FOR INTRINSIC AND EXTRINSIC AGING
In science, AGE stands for advanced glycation end products, which are consumed in a diet heavy in saturated fat and sugar. The issue with AGEs concerns the rapid degradation of collagen, increased fine lines, and alterations of internal (intrinsic) molecular functions that can lead to degenerative diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Over consumption of fried foods, processed meats, animal products, and refined sugars perpetuate inflammation and increase the cascade of cellular degradation due to accumulation brought on by AGEs. The credible role of nutrition and health has been heavily studied whereby it is skin that reveals the first signs of dermal wear and tear.
PLANT ENZYMES: ACE POWERHOUSE FOR SKIN INTEGRITY
Three powerhouse antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E. Research indicates that the optimal way to obtain the necessary balance of antioxidants for health is through diets abundant in fruits and vegetables. A plant-based diet offers the greater advantages of maintaining required balance of antioxidants required to ward off free radical damage. It was in 1912 when a Polish biochemist coined the word vitamin – “vita” meaning life and “amine” derived for the molecule studied in plants. It was later that the term vitamine was shortened to vitamin. Over the course of the 20th Century, biochemists studied vitamins and dietary consumption of plants – fruits and vegetables.
Skin integrity is protected from ultraviolet light with vitamin A, which has two forms, beta carotene and retinol. Internally, our bodies convert vitamin A to retinol by the liver and then it is transported throughout the lymphatic system. Topically applied, retinol helps enhance cellular turnover and reduce ultraviolet photodamage.
Vitamin C, l-ascorbic acid, is credited with the biosynthesis of collagen and it is the first vitamin to have become synthesized in 1935. The ingestion of vitamin C from citrus and vegetables stimulates procollagen synthesis, thus assisting in cellular turnover, and decreasing skin discoloration and sunspots. It is important to note that to achieve the skin benefits, vitamin C topicals or serums should state l-ascorbic acid and, since it is water soluble, other carriers are often added to assist with penetration such as molecule 3-0 ethyl ascorbic acid. A plant-based diet that offers an abundance of fruits and vegetables safeguards the body both intrinsically and extrinsically from free radicals and inflammation that destroy healthy cellular production, which in return influences the aging process.
Vitamin E, Tocopherol, was first recognized in 1922 by researchers Herbert M. Evans and Katharine Bishop. Later in 1936, Evans isolated tocopherol from wheat germ, which is one of the various parts of vitamin E. Vast studies have revealed that vitamin E offers substantial epidermal protection from ultraviolet radiation and oxidative stress. Dietary consumption offers great intrinsic benefits, which are found most readily in a plant-based diet and sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and soy bean oil. It is important to note that vitamin E naturally occurs in plants in eight different natural derivatives, such as y-tocopherol, which is most plentiful in a plant-based diet. In 1998, the Federal Drug Administration indicated that tocopherol was present in over 1,000 cosmetic formulations. Thus, vitamin E is recognized in the dermatology field for its efficacy in decreasing hyperpigmentation and reduction in acute skin responses to ultraviolet radiation.
A plant-based diet offers great skin health benefits and, when consumed in natural form, it causes a reduction in free radicals, and inflammation and counterbalances the impact of AGEs.
Moreover, topical delivery of antioxidants A, C, and E help protect the epidermal layers from degradation of oxidative stress and empower the cellular metabolic processes that otherwise AGEs destroy through a cascade of aging effects. As aestheticians, it is crucial that we continually educate clients on the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of antioxidants. This means advocating for their healthy choices and recommending optimal skin care regimens that support, protect, and prevent destruction of skin integrity.
Sheilah Danielle Fulton has been a licensed master aesthetician for over 12 years and has a diverse background in the field. She is a strong advocate for holistic health and plant-based diets and is a certified fitness instructor with an MBA in health care management. She is currently working on a dissertation regarding adult female obesity for completion of a PhD in health services. She has traveled and resided all over the United States and in her free time enjoys art, sketching, and acrylic painting. Fulton is a dedicated reader of Sunday New York times and enjoys freelance writing and research in holistic health, skin care, fitness, and beauty.