The exposome is the sum of the stimuli to which we are exposed since birth. We must address these factors as a whole in order to build a better defense against cutaneous aging.
The exposome, i.e. our exposure to aging, is a new concept that comprises all the external and internal factors to which we are exposed throughout our lives. Studying the exposome would allows us to treat the clinical signs of skin aging (wrinkles, spots, skin laxity, dehydration) with an approach which is no longer factorial but holistic. The time has therefore come to move on from the concept of sun protection factor (SPF) to a more effective, global, multi-factorial “life protection factor”. Not all damage is avoidable, but it is important to know that different components have a synergistic effect, hence trying to eliminate or reduce them partly or completely will have definitive health benefits for us and for our skin.
Protect yourself from the sun, but not only
Exposure to solar radiation, at least for fair-skinned people, is still the top cause of skin aging. We have discussed the topic on several occasions, but once again here are the main rules. Avoid solar exposure between 10am and 4pm, when solar radiation is at its strongest. Before each exposure to the sun, apply sunscreen which is specific for your skin type, and reapply it every 2-3 hours, even if it is water resistant. And avoid using those death traps they call sun beds.
Protect and train your circulation
Cigarette smoke, stress and extreme temperatures all act by altering the skin’s microcirculation. Inhaling just a single cigarette can at least temporarily reduce surface circulation by a third. This phenomenon is due to an abnormal stimulation of the vegetative nervous system on behalf of nicotine, and it is more pronounced and lasting in regular smokers, since in the long run even our body’s the recovery mechanisms are compromised and lose efficacy. Furthermore, some of the molecules released by tobacco smoke are “phototoxic”, that is they accumulate in the skin and damage cellular structures when they are excited by sunlight.
When one quits smoking, it takes just three months to see the first results: the skin becomes brighter and wrinkles are noticeably reduced. One’s complexion, skin elasticity and texture are all improved. Exposing oneself to extreme temperatures or to excessive and sudden changes in room temperature in the long run dysregulates cutaneous microcirculation, and should be avoided. A bare minimum of thermoregulatory training is all you need to maintain adequate skin microcirculation. So saunas, Turkish baths and hot-cold showers all have a green light.
Keep a handle on your stress levels
During psycho-emotional stress, the skin undergoes vasoconstriction with a reduction of tissue oxygenation (when one goes white with fear, livid with anger…) or vasodilation (blushing with shame…). In the long run, this is really damaging for the skin. Prolonged stress also causes an increase in cortisol secretion, which in turn promotes a chronic pro-inflammatory state and premature skin aging, in some cases escalating to stress-related dermatitis and dermatosis. In these cases, relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, meditation, sport, are all excellent first resorts before turning to more hands-on solutions such as psychotherapy or drug therapies.
Don’t neglect your beauty sleep
Lack of sleep alters the skin’s biorhythm, and the effects immediately apparent, just think of under-eye blemishes. Growth hormone (GH) is one of the main factors stimulating epidermal cell renewal. It is synthesized by the pituitary gland and reaches its peak secretion between 1 and 4am. The alteration of the circadian rhythm and of one’s sleep/wake cycle reduces GH secretion, affecting the skin’s barrier functionality, elasticity, compactness and thickness.
Protect yourself from pollution
Women who live in the city have a 10% faster degree of aging than women who live in the countryside. Cosmetic research is constantly evolving and in recent years the bigger cosmetic companies have produced a series of specific anti-pollution products, able to defend and strengthen the skin barrier. Antismog formulations mainly contain antioxidant agents limiting the free radical proliferation, and substances which create a protective layer preventing microparticles from attacking the skin barrier. Having a protective film on one’s skin also has the advantage of facilitating the removal of pollutants in one’s rigorous daily cleansing.
Article of Dr Adele Sparavigna for https://4me.styl