“Discussion of metabolism typically focuses on its relation to your weight, often promoted to you through the form of a diet, supplements or a lifestyle,” says Dr. Lindsay Clark, a specialist in metabolic and anti-aging medicine. “While we are focused on trying to boost our digestive metabolism we often forget that our skin is also affected by our metabolism.”
Your skin is one of the most important organs in your body. Making sure your metabolism is in balance and operating correctly is key to healthy skin through all stages of life. Metabolism affects your skin. Specifically, your skin has its own metabolism.
“Skin metabolism refers to the biological processes that occur amongst the epidermal and dermal cells to regulate the rate of cell turnover, collagen production, and repair any damage that occurs due to UV light or aging,” says Dr. Clark.
Your skin’s metabolism—like your digestive metabolic process—also slows with age. This could be illustrated by the “baby skin” phenomenon. While we are babies, the epidermal cells replace themselves every 2 weeks, compared to every 22 days in adults, and 50 days for older adults. How often your skin cells replace themselves directly relates to how soft, elastic, and resistant your skin will be.
Not only does the slowing of cell replacement affect the quality of your skin, but it also affects how skin care products work on the skin. Like the digestive system, as we age, our nutrient absorption is not as effective—this is the same for the skin. Disruption of nutrient absorption can lead to further complications to your skin’s metabolic abilities.
The environment can have deep impacting effects on your skin’s metabolism and your skin’s health. UVA light is not absorbed by the ozone layer and is able to penetrate the dermis in humans, which is the deepest layer of skin. UV rays cause many effects on the skin including immediate skin redness and darkness, the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
In addition, UVA radiation is able to penetrate windows, which is why doctors and dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen on a daily basis, even when not outdoors. UVB is another form of UV light and unlike UVA rays, not all UVB reaches the earth as some are absorbed by the ozone layer. Because UVB rays are shorter and have a higher frequency, they are more damaging to the skin as they penetrate the epidermis (top layer of skin).
UVB radiation causes sunburns and delayed tanning. It plays a major role in the development of all types of skin cancers causing DNA damage to skin cells and the immune system. UVB is also important in the synthesis of Vitamin D3.
Another environmental variable that can disrupt your skin’s metabolism is pollution in your environment. In 2010 researchers began to understand the ways microparticles released from industry and cars can disrupt metabolism, destroy microflora on the skin, and contribute to the development of cancers and aging.
“You are what you eat” is a common phrase that many of us are familiar with. What this phrase gets at is that nutrient-dense rich food helps skin cells repair and heal themselves. Eating a balanced diet is essential for healthy skin function.
Eating processed food is not a detriment to your skin as long as these foods are included in a balanced diet and consumed in moderation. However, if your diet consists mostly of processed foods you are missing essential nutrients that are crucial to your skin’s health and ability to protect your body systems from infection.
When the mind or body becomes distressed (by a real or unreal threat), our brain secretes hormones that induce the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, from our adrenal glands. Our skin has receptors for this stress hormone, and their activation results in various changes to our skin, such as:
- Increased inflammation
- Impaired wound healing
- More oil and sebum production
- Impaired resistance to infection
Not only can stress cause changes in our brain and body chemistry resulting in skin changes, but our behavioral response (conscious or subconscious) also likely contributes. For example, some people touch their faces when they are nervous, introducing whatever is on their hands to their faces, resulting in worsening acne.
We tend to stray away from our healthy habits when under tremendous stress. We may spend less time taking care of ourselves by sleeping less, eating unhealthy diets, skipping exercise, and not washing our faces regularly. All these behaviors can negatively impact our skin.
About Lindsay Clark
Lindsay Clark, MD began her professional medical career as a Hospitalist for John Muir Medical Center and Alameda Hospital, where she cared for patients in the ER, ICU, CCU, and on inpatient floors. She also worked in outpatient clinics. Her focus soon turned to cosmetic dermatology, and she studied with renowned plastic surgeons and dermatologists throughout Northern California.
She studied post-graduate physical chemistry at Stanford University after graduating from Santa Clara University and is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Clark is the Medical Director & CEO of Entrada Medical Group.