“Caring for your largest and most environmentally exposed organ is more than skin deep, and it doesn’t have to be very complicated for everyone to reap benefits.”
We know staying healthy is important for preserving the health and youthful beauty of our skin.
A new study concludes that the converse might be true: Keeping our skin healthy might actually reduce the risk of developing a slew of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
SKIN AND INFLAMM-AGING
Scientists have previously outlined the relationship between chronic low-level inflammation and a range of age-related conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
This “inflamm-aging” is driven by an increase in certain chemicals called cytokines in the blood.
Previously, it was thought that inflamm-aging stemmed from the immune system or liver. But recent studies suggest that the skin may play a significant role.
In the recent years, research on rosacea, psoriasis and dermatitis have pointed out the possible link between chronic inflammation from these skin conditions with downstream increased risk of dreaded systemic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s.
Now, consider this simple fact: Skin is the largest organ in our bodies.
A group scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) postulate that even minor and subclinical inflammation due to age-related changes in this huge organ may be sufficient to elevate inflammatory cytokine levels in the system and accelerate inflamm-aging of the body.
MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
As we get older, our skin structure and function deteriorate. Epidermal acidity changes, hydration levels drop, skin thins out and the skin barrier, which keeps the bugs and environmental nasties out, becomes defective. It is very common that we find our skin more easily dehydrated or drier with age.
Normally, inflammatory cytokines are released to signal the repair of these skin barrier breaks. Unfortunately, with slower and poorer body reparative responses due to aging, those inflammatory signals continue to spew out, eventually reaching the blood.
Maintaining skin hydration is a basic way to preserve the barrier of the skin, our barrier to the outside world.
In a small pilot study by UCSF, moisturisers were handed out to 33 subjects aged between 58-95. Changes in three cytokines that were linked to age-related inflammatory diseases were monitored.
After applying the moisturiser twice daily all over their bodies for 30 days, all three cytokines in their blood were reduced. The cytokine levels were also lower than those in a control group of similarly aged adults who had not used the moisturiser.
While larger and longer studies are needed to confirm the results, this study reminds us that taking care of our skin health should be considered an integral part of maintaining our overall health and wellness.
LOOK GOOD. STAY HEALTHY.
Caring for your largest and most environmentally exposed organ is more than skin deep, and it doesn’t have to be very complicated for everyone to reap benefits.
You probably can recite this, but it is not just cliché:
- Choose a gentle SLS-free (and preferably fragrance-free if you have sensitive skin) cleansers and body washes that do not irritate, over-strip skin and disrupt its acid mantle. Hot showers and baths can be relaxing, but excess heat can dry out and inflame skin.
- Slather on a suitable moisturiser on your face and body immediately after towel-drying to lock in the moisture. If you have dry skin, try a cream enriched with the three natural skin lipids (ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol) to strengthen your skin barrier.
- Don’t forget your daily SPF. Especially in our urban setting, also consider adding skincare with antioxidants, HEV filters and DNA repair enzymes to fortify your environmental defense against skin-damaging city pollution, infrared radiation and visible light from the sun and smartphones.
Advanced options ranging from lasers to hydration skinboosters are available to strengthen specific areas of skin against aging forces, or to get chronic skin inflammation such as acne and rosacea under control.
But basic daily skincare measures done faithfully over large areas, are still important to help stave off premature aging of the skin and the entire body.
Healthy body, healthy skin – they are one and the same. Take time to exercise, socialise, de-stress and eat well to enjoy radiant skin and glowing health for a long time.
DR. TAN WANG THENG