One of the most amazing aspects of the skin is the fact that the only things humans really need to do to keep it functioning optimally are sleep, eat well, detoxify twice a year, receive professional treatments, engage in self care, and reduce any form of oxidative stress. However, a number of chemical reactions within and on the skin are constantly occurring. Therefore, lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on how well the chemistry of skin care solutions interact with the inherent, biochemical reactions of the body.
CHEMICAL REACTIONS AND ENZYMES
Millions of chemical reactions in the skin help keep the body safe and protected. For example, metabolism recycles the components of skin digestion back into the basic building blocks from which tissues and organs are developed. Using proteins, DNA, RNA, sugars, fats, and chemical reactions allow blemishes to properly heal, allow hair and fingernails to regenerate, and give the skin the energy to defend against oxidative stress.
Within the metabolism are enzymes, molecules that speed up the chemical reactions in the body. Because they make reactions go faster than they would on their own, enzymes are biological catalysts. Without the help of enzymes, the conversion of nutrients and minerals into usable, biological molecules (such as proteins, DNA, and RNA) might take weeks or even years. Enzymes, therefore, are essential to life because the body and skin cannot afford to wait that long to receive the important products of chemical reactions.
In speeding up reactions, enzymes can either act like the foot pedal on a sewing machine or an accelerator on a Ferrari, causing enzymes to respond as a stitch in time or a high-octane performer to chemical solutions. Several factors affect the rate at which enzymatic reactions persist, such as temperature, pH, enzyme concentration, the concentration of substances on which an enzyme acts, and the presence of any inhibitors or activators.
SKIN TEMPERATURE AND pH
In the case of skin temperature, skin that is emitting heat is an indication that the pedal is to the metal; enzyme reactions are highly persistent in an effort to repair any oxidation caused during the elevation of heat. Therefore, a client with hyperpigmentation who is menopausal or experiencing fluctuations in liver function should avoid any heat-generating treatments since heat is an activator. The individual may initially see improvement to darkened skin color due to the heat’s ability to accelerate cellular regeneration, but, as that response persists, there is biology acceleration to all cellular function (including enzymes produced by immune cells and melanin).
Fluctuations in pH, which is seen in over-chemicalized skin and inflammatory conditions, lend rise to resistance to healing and, ultimately, recovery. Low pH causes the loss of the catalytic properties of enzymes, thus inhibiting repair and healing. As a result, the metabolism comes to a halt, inhibiting digestion of cellular waste and debris from oxidized cells.
Research has shown that the topical application of benzoyl peroxide increases the calcium-independent activity of protein kinase C, a family of protein kinase enzymes that are involved in controlling the function of other proteins and inducing oxidation. When discussing the treatment of inflammatory acne with benzoyl peroxide, the client may initially get a favorable result, but the improvement will eventually begin to taper off. This example leads back to thinking in terms of chemistry and biological actions. Since, biologically, the skin uses proteins, DNA, RNA, sugars, fats, and chemical reactions to aid blemishes to heal properly, the chemical solutions used in treating a condition should not counteract natural biology.
INTOLERANCE AND RESISTANCE
If the skin’s external and internal environment is not conducive for enzymes to function properly, such as a high exposure to toxins, then the interface of topical solutions may prove to cause intolerance or resistance and the solution may become ineffective.
It is not that cut and dry to guarantee that someone will never become tolerant or resistant to a skin care solution. Educate the client about the idea that their skin may not necessarily be developing a tolerance or resistance (or that the product is ineffective), but rather that the unstable internal and external environment of the skin influences how it will interact with a topical solution.
STABILIZING THE SKIN
Professionals have several options when it comes to creating an optimal environment for chemical and biological responses. Begin with professional skin care treatments that include hygienic procedures that ensure unwanted waste materials are thoroughly removed. Administer skin manipulations that will affect lymph and arterial flow, thus filtering and recycling waste and toxins. Ensuring that pH remains stable by using non-stripping cleansers and reducing exfoliation procedures will benefit a positive interaction of chemistry and biology. Regulating skin temperature by using heat-generating techniques and solutions appropriately, so the skin never fluctuates from one extreme temperature to another, is also essential.
The second phase of care is having the client engage in homecare. What the client applies to their skin between professional treatments can alter how skin care solutions respond to the skin and alter the course of skin recovery. Therefore, it is essential that the client is compliant with professional homecare recommendations in order to keep the skin safe and protected.
As more new products with complex technology and chemistry continue to hit the market, skin care professionals must refocus their awareness to each client’s state of health and wellness. Anyone can use the most effective products in the world, but, if the biological environment of the body and skin is not conducive for chemistry to interact appropriately, then the skin will become more tolerant and resistant and skin care products will become less effective.
Anne C. Willis, L.E., C.M.E., is the founder of De La Terre Skincare and is one of the industry’s outstanding innovators in the world of holistic therapies. Willis lectures nationally regarding collaborative care for hospitals and holistic medical institutions. She is the director of Oncology Skin Therapeutics™ and is C.M.E. approved by the NCCAOM.