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Health Protocols

Skin, Hair, and Nail Health

Factors That Compromise Skin, Hair, And Nail Health

Intrinsic Factors

Several inherent biological variables influence skin, hair, and nail health; these are intrinsic factors (UMMC 2016; Trüeb 2006).

Biological aging. The biological aging process underlies several factors that drive changes in hair, skin, and nail quality (Giesen 2011; Besdine 2016; Makrantonaki 2010; Quan 2010).

  • Collagen, elastin, and keratin are critical structural proteins in the skin, hair, and nails. Production of these proteins decreases with advancing age (Calleja-Agius 2007; Baud 2013; Giesen 2011; Baumann 2007).
  • Diminishing fibroblast stimulation. Fibroblasts produce collagen-rich connective tissue that is central to the structure and function of the skin. Collagen-producing fibroblasts in the skin are dependent on signaling from cytokines called transforming growth factor beta and connective tissue growth factor. Levels of these key growth factors decline with age. This leads to loss of skin collagen and thin, fragile skin (Quan 2010; Dahl 2010).
  • Melanin is the pigment responsible for skin and hair color (Levinbook 2016). The number of melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) decreases at a rate of 8‒20% per decade, resulting in less protection against UV radiation and uneven pigmentation in elderly skin (Besdine 2016; Farage 2013). In hair follicles, gradual loss of melanocytes leads to greying of hair (Ortonne 1990).
  • Cells and tissues that maintain the structure and function of the skin are influenced by hormones (Sator 2004). Aging is associated with a decrease in the level of various hormones including estrogen, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and growth hormone (Makrantonaki 2010; Phillips 2001); this may contribute to skin aging. Note: Information about hormone restoration for both men and women is available in the Male and Female Hormone Restoration protocols; the DHEA Restoration protocol may be helpful as well.

Elevated blood sugar and glycation. Glycation occurs when sugars react with proteins or fats to form advanced glycation end products (AGEs) (Pageon 2010; Gkogkolou 2012). Collagen, the skin’s primary protein, is long-lived, with a slow renewal rate. Consequently, it is thought to be especially prone to glycation-induced damage. The formation of AGEs causes crosslinking (bonding) of collagen fibers to each other. This leads to thinner skin with decreased elasticity, and the development of wrinkles (Pageon 2014; Pageon 2010; Gkogkolou 2012).

Inflammation. Inflammation promotes skin aging by interfering with collagen synthesis and promoting collagen breakdown. Inflammation-stimulated collagen breakdown is partly attributable to collagen-degrading enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (Borg 2013).

Extrinsic Factors

Environmental influences, such as sun exposure and pollution, also contribute to the degradation of skin, hair, and nail tissue; these are called extrinsic factors.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and “photoaging.” While many extrinsic factors play a role in skin aging, UV radiation from the sun is one of the most damaging. Chronic sun exposure is believed to account for as much as 80% of facial skin aging. Permanent damage to the skin from prolonged UV light exposure is termed “photoaging” (Michels 2011; Baumann 2007).

  • Oxidative stress. One mechanism by which UV light ages the skin is through free radical damage. Collagen and elastin fibers in the skin are targets of these destructive molecules (Amaro-Ortiz 2014).
  • Metalloproteinases. Matrix metalloproteinases play a vital role in premature skin aging induced by chronic exposure to UV light. These enzymes break down collagen and elastin fibers, as well as other structural proteins, in photoaged skin. UV radiation increases the expression of several different matrix metalloproteinases in the skin (Quan 2009).

Smoking. Tobacco smoke irreversibly damages the skin and accelerates skin aging. Smoking is also linked to many skin conditions including delayed wound healing, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, oral cancer, acne, psoriasis, and hair loss (Urbanska 2012; Morita 2007).

Pollution. In a study in elderly women, exposure to traffic-related air pollution was strongly associated with skin aging, including a 20% increase in pigment spots on the cheeks and forehead, and significantly more pronounced wrinkles (Vierkotter 2010). Individuals concerned with maintaining youthful skin should also review Life Extension's Metabolic Detoxification protocol, as the information it contains can be utilized to help lessen the body’s toxin burden.