Can a detox support healthy looking skin?

It’s no secret that skin visibly ages. As we grow older, skin starts to loosen, wrinkle, and show hyperpigmentation (age/liver spots). The process of aging is natural and unavoidable. However, a good detox for your skin can help to fight some of these changes.

Some of the aging process may be sped up by environmental pollutants and toxic makeup products. Here, we will delve into the science of skin aging, the effects of pollution and toxins on skin, and how you can detox your skin from environmental pollutants.

Why does skin age?

Skin ages due to both internal and external factors. While we will briefly explain both, we can generally consider external factors (e.g. sun, toxin exposure) as the ones we control. Internal factors (e.g. hormones, genetic degradation) are much harder to change, but understanding them may help you make the best decisions for your skin. 

Skin’s Basic Structure

Human skin has 3 main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer. As the outermost epidermal cells slough off, stem cells deep within the epidermis make new cells that migrate outwards. The process of epidermal regeneration is important to both the appearance of skin and its primary function as a barrier between the internal organs and the outside world.

Structural maintenance of the skin takes place in the dermis. The dermis is made up of cells called fibroblasts, which secrete collagen and other structural proteins, providing strength, firmness, and elasticity to skin. This layer of the skin is most responsible for wound healing, carcinogenesis, and other pathologies [1].

The subcutaneous layer is composed mostly of adipose (fat) tissue. It helps insulate the body from outside temperatures, surrounds follicles and regulates hair growth, stores energy, and secretes hormones.  

Mechanisms of Aging Skin

As the skin ages, it gradually loses structural and functional integrity, as renewal of tissues slows and degrades. Older skin has a much thinner epidermis, as stem cells slow their ability to regenerate, renew, and repair outer layers. The fibroblasts of the dermis lose their ability to secrete collagen and other viscous proteins, which causes lost integrity of the shape and elasticity of skin [1]. 

Here are the mechanisms (reasons) behind the visible aging of skin [1]:

1. Oxidative stress

The accumulation of free radicals causes DNA damage, induces skin inflammatory response, reduces antioxidant enzymes, inhibits collagen production, and actively breaks down existing collagen and binding proteins in the dermis [2,3].

2. DNA damage/mutation

When DNA in skin cells absorbs UV-B photons it directly causes a rearrangement of the nucleotides in the DNA sequence [4]. Indirect damage also occurs when DNA molecules absorb UV-A, which promotes free radical formation that causes DNA damage [4]. These rearrangements and damage to DNA cause cell death or mutation.

3. Shortening of telomeres

At the end of each chromosome, there are little, nonsense sequences called telomeres. Much like an aglet at the end of a shoelace, they stop the chromosome from unraveling, aiding in DNA replication. The original telomere, however gets shorter and shorter with each replication. A too-short or missing telomere may stop a stem cell from being able to divide any more, slowing the proliferation of cells within a tissue.

4. MicroRNA (miRNA)

While the abundance of mRNA code for how much of a protein a cell should produce (expression) miRNA can promote or inhibit the activity of the mRNA. miRNAs (some induced by sun exposure) can affect the aging process of skin by inhibiting RNA associated with hyaluronic acid production or fibroblast function [5].

5. Accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

AGEs are the products of excess sugar and protein binding, from body synthesis and food intake. AGEs accumulate in photo-aging skin, affect protein function in the dermis, and promote skin aging [6].

6. Inflammation

Continuous UV radiation exposure induces oxidative stress in epidermal cells, causing cell damage, fat oxidation, and inflammation. When the degree of inflammation exceeds the ability of macrophages to clear up, macrophages also begin secreting pro-inflammatory factors and free radicals. Both products accelerate dermal inflammation and injury [7].

How does environmental pollution affect my skin?

When understanding how to detox your skin from environmental pollutants Of course, the sun is the number one environmental factor causing damage to your skin. Luckily, sunscreen can prevent a great deal of this damage. Sunscreen blocks the absorption of UV photons, which are the root of most DNA mutation, free radical damage, and inflammation in skin [8].

However, the sun is only one invisible enemy from which we must protect our skin. Environmental pollutant exposure is also linked with the visible aging of skin; more specifically, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles [9]. 

Human-made pollutants in the air that surrounds us include motor vehicle emissions, products of fossil fuel combustion, forest fires, and industrial facility discharge. Together, they create a mixture of toxic pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone [9].

Ultrafine particles associated with vehicle emission are thought to elicit harm to the skin through the generation of free radicals and oxidative stress [9]. Ultrafine particles penetrate tissues more easily and localize to the mitochondria where they induce oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage [9]. 

Ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, is a highly reactive environmental pollutant that induces oxidative stress in cutaneous tissues [9]. Experimental animal studies have shown that exposure to ozone results in significant depletion of cutaneous antioxidants [9].

If you refer back to the former section, oxidative stress and free radical damage is the number 1 mechanism behind skin aging.

What does anti-pollution skincare look like?

Logically, if the effects of pollution on skin cause oxidative stress, the most important anti-pollution skincare ingredients will be antioxidants.

To keep pollution out as much as possible, it is also important to support your skin’s natural barrier formation. This means while cleansing regularly to remove toxins from the surface, we must take care not to strip away natural oils and moisture.

Skincare is not skin deep. What we put in our bodies matters just as much as what we put on them. Diet and lifestyle habit significantly affect the appearance of skin, alongside our environmental exposures. If you are concerned with the effect of pollution on skin, you can try eating and acting in a way that complements skin detoxification, rather than adding to its toxicity.    

Detox Your Skin with Clean Products

It has been demonstrated that topical application of the antioxidants vitamin C and E can prevent the formation of oxidation products, thereby attenuating environmentally induced oxidative damage to the skin [9]. A recent study showed that the application of antioxidant mixtures significantly reduced ozone-induced oxidative stress in human keratinocytes [9]. 

Another powerful topical antioxidant for skin care is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), or ubiquinone. CoQ10 has been shown to protect the integrity of collagen following UV-A exposure, and topical application has been shown to reduce skin roughness, dryness, fine lines, and wrinkles [10]. Natural levels of CoQ10 decline in aging skin, affecting cellular metabolism, but topical application of this antioxidant can help to combat the mechanisms of aging on the cellular level [11].

Try choosing a cleansing product that contains niacinamide (vitamin B-3). It is an up-regulator of epidermal sphingolipid synthesis, an up-regulator of epidermal differentiation and dermal proliferation, as well as a moderator of photodamage repair [12]. This means it supports the maintenance of the epidermal barrier, the production of new skin cells, and aids in healing from sun damage. 

Cosmetically, topical niacinamide has been shown to help reduce yellowing, wrinkling, redness, blotchiness, and hyperpigmentation in facial skin [13]. Topical niacinamide also provides potent anti-inflammatory activity. Skin cell studies suggest niacinamide may stimulate collagen production and facilitate wound healing [12].

We suggest you try our line of Naturally Clear skincare products when you detox your skin. Our cleansers clean without stripping moisture, and our serum is rich in antioxidant ingredients to combat exposure to environmental pollutants.

Detox Your Skin with Good Nutrition

As mentioned earlier, the nutrients we consume are critical to the health of our skin. In the specific case of balancing oxidative damage from pollution, the diet is likely the best source of exogenous antioxidants. 

For example, the Mediterranean diet, characterized by high fruit and vegetable intake (rich in natural antioxidants), is associated with increased longevity and reduced risk of age-related diseases [9]. On the cellular level, adherence to the Mediterranean diet is significantly associated with lower levels of oxidative stress [9]. In contrast, a high-fat diet has been shown to be associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, increased levels of oxidative stress, and accelerated cellular deterioration [9].

When you detox your skin, do not exclude all fat from the diet. Moderate amounts of “good fats” are actually very important. Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids play multiple roles in the strength and function of skin as a barrier and can have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin as well [1]. Regularly consuming olive oil, specifically, has been shown to prevent signs of skin aging in response to chronic stress [14].

We can supplement antioxidants too. In recent years, polyphenols such as curcumin, flavonoids, silymarin, and resveratrol have all been shown to possess anti-aging properties [1]. Polyphenols reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the skin through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They can inhibit collagen degradation, increase collagen synthesis, and inhibit inflammation, through the regulation of matrix metalloproteinases, cytokines, and signaling pathways [1]. These antioxidants can be found in food sources, but their content is often very low. A supplement can amplify the activities through the power of abundance.

Detox Your Skin with a Healthy Lifestyle

We don’t need to tell you smoking is not good for your skin, but we will. The major skin-aging effect of cigarette smoke is skin wrinkling, particularly around the mouth, the upper lid, and eyes [15]. Smoking directly causes collagen breakdown, and smoke contains more than 3,800 different chemical substances, some of which, like polyaromatic hydrocarbons, can also be found in air pollutants [15]. 

Neither do we need to tell you that exercise is healthy, but we will! When you sweat regularly, you are encouraging the benefits that sweat can provide.

Eccrine sweat (from eccrine sweat glands/ubiquitous all over the epidermis) helps to detox your skin by as it supports epidermal barrier protection. Sweat delivers water, natural moisturizing factors, and antimicrobial peptides to the skin surface [16]. Therefore, it has been proposed that perspiration may be an important therapeutic strategy for improving atopic dermatitis or other conditions of dry skin [16].

Recent immunohistochemistry studies suggest that sweat glands produce and excrete antimicrobial peptides such as dermcidin, cathelicidin, and lactoferrin, which indicate that sweat may have a role in host defense against skin infection [16]. 

Parting Thoughts

Until we have found replacements for fossil fuels and carbon combustion, environmental pollution will continue to be a factor that threatens our health. Battling these toxins with healthy lifestyles, good nutrition, and clean skincare products is not a solution to pollution. However, protecting our longevity under current circumstances is a tool we possess at present.  

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