Skin ageing is a complex process. There are essentially two major causes namely, Intrinsic, chronological ageing and Extrinsic environmental ageing.
Chronic inflammation and the production of free radicals play a central role in the causation of both intrinsic and extrinsic ageing. During Intrinsic ageing, free radicals are formed naturally through normal human metabolism whereas in the Extrinsic ageing process, they are produced by exogenous factors such as ultraviolet exposure, pollution, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons that are generated from oxygen. They damage various cellular structural membranes, lipids, proteins and DNA and they can cause inflammation.
Professor Claudio Franceschi, of the University of Bologna, coined the term Inflammaging, which is characterized by a state of chronic, low-grade, sterile inflammation in the body.
A possible cause of Inflammaging is the continuous stimulation of macrophages by molecular ‘garbage’, whose disposal becomes impaired with age. This is also known as Garb-ageing – in other words, the body’s macrophages, which are like little Pacmenthat cannot get rid of the body’s garbage quickly enough and this leads to chronic inflammation and ageing.
What can we do to counter this Inflammaging?
What we can do is to apply skin care products that contain antioxidants i.e. products that are able to counter the harmful effects of the free radicals.
Antioxidants are able to scavenge free radicals, combat oxidative damage, reduce lipid peroxidation and inflammation and help to protect DNA from premature ageing
However, one of the well-established antioxidants that we sometimes overlook is Vitamin E or Tocopherol. This is a lipid-soluble antioxidant that is present in the skin and found in various food such as vegetables, seeds and meat. It helps to protect cell membranes and lipid structures from free radical attack and it is a chain-reaction-ending antioxidant.
There are 8 active isoforms of tocopherol.
The topical application of alpha-tocopherol has been shown to exert photoprotective effects by reducing the number of sunburn cells, reducing UVB-induced damage and inhibiting the formation of skin cancer. In humans, the topical application of a 5-8% concentration of tocopherol that was applied to the face showed improved signs of photo-ageing when compared with placebo.
Studies have shown that the combination of various antioxidants can have a synergistic effect i.e. by combining the antioxidants they increase their potency and protective capabilities compared with one antioxidant alone. It has been shown that Vitamin C and Vitamin E are especially powerful and work well together.
For topical antioxidant ingredients to be effective in preventing skin ageing, they must be correctly formulated i.e. the products must be stable, they must be able to penetrate the skin in their active form and remain there long enough to exert the desired effects.
In other words, make sure the skin care product that contains the antioxidant is manufactured by a reputable pharmaceutical company using the above criteria for maximum efficacy.