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Health Protocols

Skin, Hair, and Nail Health

Introduction

Aging causes changes in the structural foundations of skin, hair, and nail tissue. This leads to aesthetic changes such as wrinkled, dry skin; thinning, greying hair; and dull, brittle nails (NLM 2016a; NLM 2016b). Although aging affects the whole body, our skin, hair, and nails provide a window through which the manifestations of aging can be viewed by others. Thus, age-related cosmetic changes are a concern for everyone and can have significant psychosocial implications (Montemurro 2013; Saxon 2010; Gupta 2005).

The appearance and integrity of our skin, hair, and nails are dependent upon a framework of structural proteins, especially keratin, collagen, and elastin (NIH 2016; Giesen 2011; Baud 2013; Kadler 2007; McLafferty 2012).

  • Keratin is a key structural protein in hair, nails, and the outer layer of skin.
  • Collagen fibers are the principle source of skin’s strength.
  • Elastin fibers provide elasticity and resilience to skin.

The problem is that intrinsic factors, such as the biological aging process, as well as extrinsic factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sun exposure, compromise the structure and function of these proteins. This causes the appearance and texture of our skin, hair, and nails to deteriorate over time (Kambayashi 2001; Uitto 2008; NIH 2016; Giesen 2011; Calleja-Agius 2013; Baud 2013; Baumann 2007).

At the cellular level, glycation is a major contributor to skin aging. Glycation is the same reaction that causes foods to brown when cooked at high temperatures. In the body and skin, glycation involves the bonding of sugar molecules with proteins and fats. This reaction is markedly accelerated when blood sugar is elevated, as in diabetes (Felipe 2011; Gkogkolou 2012; Singh 2014).

Glycation causes collagen and elastin proteins to change into advanced glycation end products (AGEs), disrupting the skin’s structural framework (Singh 2014; Pageon 2014; Gkogkolou 2012). AGEs also promote chronic inflammation in skin cells, which further contributes to skin aging (Sanguineti 2014; Gkogkolou 2012).

Whether skin aging is caused prematurely by extrinsic factors (eg, sun, smoking, etc.), or develops intrinsically through natural “wear and tear,” the end result is the same: weathered-looking skin characterized by dryness, wrinkling, thinning, discoloration (“age spots”), and decreased elasticity (Michels 2011; Baumann 2007; Calleja-Agius 2007; Calleja-Agius 2013).

Unless you take action to support your skin's inherent defense systems, the youthful qualities of your skin will rapidly deteriorate. Fortunately, by harnessing insights garnered through the latest scientific innovations, you can dramatically slow and potentially reverse premature skin aging.

In this Life Extension protocol, you will learn about strategies to combat internal and external causes of skin, hair, and nail deterioration. These include positive lifestyle habits, particularly healthy eating, regular exercise, using sunscreen, and quality sleep. Topical interventions containing scientifically advanced ingredients that help support youthful skin structure and function will be discussed as well. Finally, you will discover how targeted nutritional interventions—particularly nicotinamide, Polypodium leucotomos, red orange extract, phytoceramides, and omega-3 fatty acids—can fortify your skin from the inside out.

Note: this protocol primarily encompasses hair, skin, and nail general health and aesthetics. Specific skin and nail diseases are covered in other Disease Prevention and Treatment protocols.