Why does skin look so different even among individuals of the same age?
The causes of skin aging such as wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and appearance of age spots, are all consequences of skin aging and photoaging. It is said that 80% of skin aging is caused by UV exposure, and natural physiological aging of skin cells accounts for just 20%. In other words, whether or not we can successfully prevent photoaging caused by UV exposure makes a big difference on the appearance of our skin.
Physiological skin aging occurs over the whole body and is a result of decreased cellular metabolism. Photoaging occurs in ultraviolet (UV)-irradiated areas of the skin, especially on the face and hand.
Normally melanocytes activity that generates melanin slows down as we age. But with photoaging, UV-B causes inflammation in the epidermal layer increases melanocytes and enhances melanin production. UV-A induces reactive oxygen production that oxidizes melanin, which form sage spots. (Homma M., 1987 Skin 29(2))
UV-A reaches the deeper layer of skin, called the dermis, where it generates singlet oxygen that degrades collagen and elastin, and compromises skin elasticity.
Furthermore, the epidermis becomes thinner as we age, but photoaging thickens and hardens the epidermis, contributing to formation of deep wrinkles. (Lavker RM et al., J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995. Jan; 32(1):53-62.)
That is to say, protection of the epidermis and dermis from ultraviolet ray induced singlet oxygen is key to preventing premature skin aging. While, topical cosmetics are good for protecting the surface layer of skin, they do not reach the deeper layers of skin such as the epidermis and dermis. That’s why taking an oral dose of astaxanthin to supply this nutrient internally is an effective alternative to topical applications.
Studies have confirmed that astaxanthin has superior free radical quenching abilities, especially against singlet oxygen. Oxygen free radicals are primary causative agents of UV-induced photoaging. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant that can protect skin cells, known as fibroblasts, from free radical damage. Fibroblasts play a critical role in producing collagen and hyaluronic acid to support smooth skin and skin hydration. This is why astaxanthin is an important nutrient that help support smooth skin and helps to lock in moisture.
Studies show that the antioxidant capacity of astaxanthin is approximately 3000 times stronger than resveratrol and 6000 times stronger than vitamin C.
Recent clinical studies conducted in Japan showed that 6 or12 mg/day astaxanthin prevented skin deterioration throughout the seasonal changes between August and December, when environmental factors, such as UV and dryness tend to exacerbate skin deterioration. While wrinkles and dryness worsened in the control group, the astaxanthin group were more resilient and maintained their healthy skin condition throughout the seasons. This result suggests that that long-term prophylactic astaxanthin supplementation may inhibit age-related skin deterioration and maintain skin conditions associated with environmentally induced damage via its anti-inflammatory effect. (Tominaga et al.,2017. J Clin Biochem Nutr. Jul;61(1):33-39.)
An in vitro study using human epidermis models showed astaxanthin can suppress inﬂammation in melanocytes and inhibited melanin production by 21.1%. (Tominaga et al., 2009) In addition, strong antioxidant protection is thought to inhibit the oxidation of existing melanin and prevent melanin deposition.
Another clinical study showed, astaxanthin supplementation (6 mg /day) combined with topical application (2 mL / day) for 8 weeks, reduced the appearance of age spots on cheeks.
Collagen is considered one of the best nutrients to reduce or prevent wrinkles, since it is the primary structural component of our skin. Collagen helps improve skin structure and reduce wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid helps promote collagen synthesis, and helps skin retain moisture, contributing to skin vitality and health. But, the human fibroblast responsible for production of collagen and hyaluronic acid is sensitive to singlet oxygens produced by UV exposure. UV exposed skin loses its ability to produce collagen even if you supplement with collagen.
This is why fibroblasts need to be protected from singlet oxygen. Using sun block is one solution but, a recent study reveals that when ultraviolet rays reach the nerves of the eyes, the brain sends a command to the skin to produce melanin to protect the skin, even if the skin is not directly irradiated by the UV.
Oral supplementation using astaxanthin, protects fibroblasts from singlet oxygen damage.
An in vitro study using human fibroblasts showed that almost all fibroblast cells died after exposure to singlet oxygen, whereas 95% of fibroblast treated with astaxanthin survived the same singlet oxygen insult. (Tominaga et al., 2009)
In the same study, it was also confirmed that fibroblast cells pre-treated with astaxanthin could recover 80% of the collagen genesis that was otherwise lost in untreated cells exposed to singlet oxygen damage.
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