Most skincare products don’t penetrate beyond the outer layers of the epidermis, and that’s a good thing — it means the skin is doing its job. The skin’s function is to act as a strong protective barrier and keep out substances that might cause irritation and damage tissue.
So to fight the three main threats to the health and youth of our skin, we have to start from the inside out.
Meet our villains — and the three nutrients that neutralise them.
Sugars like to bond to proteins and fats in the body in a process called glycation that damages their fibres. Glycation has been going on in your body your whole life, but it’s not until you’re in your 30s that you begin to see its effects on your face.
Collagen and elastin are the proteins that make up the mesh of fibers that give your skin its elasticity and shape. Glycation breaks them down, making the skin thinner, weaker and less firm.
Ally Against Glycation: Alanine
There’s a unique dipeptide that disrupts the glycation process. It’s called carnosine. Unfortunately, carnosine levels in the body decrease with age — and supplements of it aren’t readily absorbed by the body.
Instead, we look to a friend of carnosine: the amino acid alanine. Alanine upgrades the stores of carnosine in the body and can be easily absorbed in a supplement.
With alanine’s support, the body can get back to protecting your skin from the damage caused by glycation.
Free radicals are natural byproducts of oxygen reactions in the body, but that doesn’t mean they’re good. They can damage all components of skin cells, and they’re multiplied by excessive sun exposure, environmental pollutants and chemicals applied to the skin. If they affect a cell’s DNA, they can compromise the healthy functioning of the cell and ultimately lead to degenerative conditions.
Cysteine is an amino acid that replenishes the body’s levels of the natural antioxidant glutathione. Antioxidants are free-radical fighters, and glutathione is depleted by age and illness, meaning that its fighting powers just aren’t as strong as they used to be. Cysteine helps restore its power to save skin cells.
As a bonus, cysteine also prevents the glycation of collagen proteins and reduces inflammation — which just happens to be our #3 threat.
Acute, short-term inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself. It’s the first line of defense against injury. But long-term, chronic inflammation does more harm than good. Chronic micro-inflammation in the skin impairs the healthy functioning, repair and renewal of skin cells and accelerates aging. This low-grade persistent activation of inflammatory molecules in the skin can be caused by excessive sun exposure, environmental pollutants and by irritants commonly contained in skincare products.
A spice used in India for thousands of years in cooking and as a medicinal herb, turmeric has been proven to counteract inflammation more effectively than many drugs — and without side effects. It’s also a powerful antioxidant (bye, free radicals) and antibacterial agent.
The bottom line: Defense against glycation, free radicals and inflammation in the skin starts from within the body, through a healthy, balanced diet and taking a high quality, daily supplement. But it’s also complemented from the outside in, by limiting sun exposure and choosing nourishing skincare free from chemical and natural irritants.