Many of my patients are past the age of 40 and many of them have aging skin concerns. In fact, I think one of the most concerning skin conditions that they complain of is losing skin elasticity. They tell me that the less elasticity, especially in their facial skin, makes them look older than they feel. Some of them even ask if they should consider plastic surgery to regain a more youthful look. Perhaps you have these same concerns about your skin. Before you go looking for a plastic surgeon, however, at least give my following suggestions a try.
Skin Elasticity – Where Did It Go?
When you were a kid, your skin was full of collagen and elastin and a substance called hyaluronic acid, or HA for short. Your skin appeared smooth, tight and plumped up with moisture all the time. If you ever had a facial cut as a kid, you likely remember how fast it healed with barely a trace of it ever happening, right? That was the effect of hyaluronic acid. It regulates skin tissue repair and supplies the skin matrix (made from proteins collagen and elastin) with natural substances called “glucose based polymers”. These polymers are a jelly-like substance that holds moisture in the skin and gives that beautiful, cushioning of the skin that children and teenagers have.
Hyaluronic acid production peaks in the early 20’s and after that it starts falling. People over 40 have about half of their HA stores. Our skin starts to show the decrease of HA by becoming thinner, drier, less elastic, and doesn’t respond as quickly to repair. Over-exposure to sun/tanning can deplete HA stores and hasten loss of elasticity as well.
How To Regain Youthful Skin Elasticity
By now you may be thinking, if I can just replace my HA stores, my skin elasticity issues would vanish. Well, yes and no. Even with HA supplements, skin researchers have not yet found a way to completely replace youthful HA levels in the skin. There are complicated synthesis issues (inhibitors that breakdown HA) that only allow a certain percentage of HA to be utilized. If you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol this will deplete your HA stores as well.
However, supplements can replace HA in the skin and restore much elasticity and make a significant difference in the appearance of your skin. In addition, we can also boost your body’s natural production of HA through the use of certain vitamins and supplements. Here are some of the best ways to do that:
- Glucosamine/chondroitin. HA is a component of synovial fluid which helps our joints move smoothly. Taking glucosamine/chondroitin supplements boosts the production of cartilage as well as HA in joints. The offshoot benefit is that it boosts production of HA in our skin too. Recommendation: 800 mg glucosamine/chondroitin.
- MSM. Methyl sulfonylmethane, a big word that does big things for the skin, and again, your joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin helps build and retain HA.
- Hyaluronic Acid. There are HA supplements on the market that contain HA, MSM, glucosamine and chondroitin together. If you are allergic or sensitive to chicken or its feathers, you may not be able to take HA supplements as they are made from chicken combs.
- Vitamin C. An antioxidant, Vitamin C boosts the production of the proteins involved in creating the skin’s matrix, collagen and elastin. Recommend: 1,000 mg a day.
- Vitamin E. An antioxidant that helps prevent the actions of free radicals in the breakdown of skin’s collagen and elastin.
- Echinacea. Helps retain HA stores in the skin.
- Bioflavonoids. Quercetin, bilberry, cranberry, green tea, grape seed, helps retain HA stores in the skin.
- Seaweed. Japanese women credit “phytessence wakame”, seaweed that they eat regularly to keeping their skin youthful looking and without wrinkles long into old age. It appears that its secret is its HA boosting properties. It also prevents the breakdown of HA through inhibitors (hyaluronidase) so it protects your HA stores. Can be eaten fresh or dried. Available at certain better health food stores or online venues.
- Lutein. Helps boost elasticity through increasing hydration and the fats that lie directly beneath the skin. Also fights against free radical oxidation that damages skin.
- Oxygen. Do deep breathing exercises everyday at an open window to take in more oxygen. This helps prevent free radical oxidation that ages skin.
- Water. Dehydration makes your skin sag terribly. In cold winter weather as well as hot summer sun, you require more water. Drink at least half your body weight, or more, if you are sweating a lot.
Getting older does not have to mean looking older. And, it doesn’t mean having to buy terribly expensive serums and creams, ingredients that our skin cannot fully absorb anyway! You can age gracefully and keep your skin, hair, bones and joints intact, looking and behaving youthfully. Although good moisturizers are important, I feel it’s equally as important to pay attention to what you put in your body in the form of foods and supplements.
Try some of the recommendations listed above and see if your skin begins looking tighter, more healthy and youthful in a few short weeks!
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Photo Credit: imodesign.net
Nourish Your Skin and Remove Wrinkles with Collagen,
Glucosamine: A Simple Ingredient for Health and Skin Care Benefits, http://pgbeautyscience.com/glucosamine-a-simple-ingredient-for-health-and-skin-care-benefits2.php
Hyaluronic Acid: Skin Matrix Health Is Not Just About Proteins, http://www.smartskincare.com/skinbiology/skinbiology_hyaluronic-acid.html