Updated: May 12
I first heard about telomeres and as it relates to aging by a client who was taking a very expensive supplement endorsed my Suzanne Sommers of all people. But I must tell you, she had my ear because at nearly 70, she had the posture of a ballerina, firm glowing skin and an enviable head of thick, shiny hair. In other words, this woman appeared 20 years younger than her chronological age thus I had to know more....
so What are telomeres?
Each person is formed through a unique genetic makeup. This molecular blueprint—your chromosomes—is capped at the end with telomeres. Telomeres prevent chromosomes from unraveling or deteriorating, and also protect chromosomes from fusing together, avoiding malfunctioning chromosomes. A telomere is commonly compared to the protective plastic tip on the end of your shoelace due to these properties. Every time a cell divides—which is vital for new skin, blood and bone tissue reproduction—the telomere protects the DNA from losing essential gene information, but the telomere becomes shorter after each division. When it becomes too short, the cell becomes dormant, dies or may retain genetic damage that can eventually lead to mutations and cancer. Shortened telomeres have been associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Longer telomeres are linked to overall healthy living and longevity.
As chromosomes lose their telomeres throughout time, this affects skin’s aging. As you age, your risk factors increase due to a weakened immune system and naturally decreased cell division. “Telomere triggers” that can limit telomere repair and create telomere erosion are found throughout daily activities. Oxidative stress and glycation play a role by damaging and inhibiting DNA, lipids and peptides within the body. UV exposure limits telomere repair and can also initiate telomere-shortening.
A common factor within these telomere triggers is inflammation. When the skin becomes irritated or traumatized, it becomes inflamed. Too much inflammation can initiate an accelerated aging process leading to premature pigmentation, elastosis, and fine lines and wrinkles. These skin conditions can be addressed through exfoliation or peels.
Skin cells have a finite amount of times they can divide before the telomere is too short for cell regeneration. Exfoliation is an excellent way to stimulate cell turnover, but within moderation. Overuse of cell-wounding ingredients in large percentage amounts or on a daily basis can overstimulate a cell to divide too quickly, therefore shortening the life of a telomere.
Ingredients to encourage telomere-lengthening
Utilizing a combination of ingredients can aid in the repair process and encourage telomere-lengthening. This allows for better age prevention as well as a proper home-care system for you. Incorporating the following ingredient categories into your skin care system is beneficial for corrective skin results.
Antioxidants. Preventing oxidation encourages healthy telomeres. This category can be utilized not only in you skin care products, but also in your diets. Potent antioxidants are readily available in various forms. Choose topical products that include antioxidants with both lipid- and water-soluble structures for best results. An example is vitamin C from ascorbic acid.
Hydrating botanicals. Retaining a healthy barrier function will also aid in strengthening telomeres. The skin must have moisture in order to heal properly and, if inappropriately hydrated, it will remain in an irritated or traumatized state, allowing telomeres to erode. When an exfoliation treatment takes place, replenishing essential hydration back into the skin encourages it to begin repairing itself immediately. Many botanicals contain potent hydrating properties that strengthen skin’s barrier function, including shea butter, silver ear mushroom extract, rice bran oil and many others. Nightly hydration and skin repair is vital for skin’s overall health.
Peptides. Peptides are a nonirritating, nonwounding, fibroblast-stimulation ingredient. Many know peptides for their tightening effect on the skin. When used in combination with ingredients, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), they create a less inflamed environment for healthy cell turnover. Many peptides are now available in skin care products.
Plant stem cells. There are multiple plant stem cells now available in the skin care market today. They aid in DNA repair and promote healthy cell turnover. Plant stem cells can deliver potent antioxidants to the basal layer of the epidermis when formulated properly in skin care products. Plants stem cells that can be found in skin care are usually derived from the Swiss apple, grape, edelweiss, alpine rose, sea fennel, lilac, iris, echinacea, Madonna lily and, most recently, the orange.
Sun protection. UV protection is essential, because it protects against telomere erosion. Recommending a broad-spectrum SPF 30 daily moisturizer to each client is a simple daily step clients can do at any age. With the popularity of BB and CC creams, client compliance with sun protection is now easier than ever.
Telomeres and wellness
Inflammation can occur both internally and externally. The skin is the body’s largest organ and, when cellular waste and stress are not managed properly, the body will self-regulate and manifest this process through the skin, resulting in unwanted breakouts and lesions. Four wellness points to promote within your skin care practice include the following.
1. Walk more. Simple alterations to habits can make a big difference. Using the stairs once a day or parking a little farther away from the front door can initiate more exercise and promote lymph activity for easier waste removal internally.