This is a continuation of the previous article, which listed the many causes of aging skin. One of the most prominent parts of aging is the aging of the epidermis, which is the layer of skin you see when you look at your skin. The color changes, thinning, greater sensitivity to the elements, and growths that appear all encompass the process of epidermal aging. Since your epidermis is your armor against the elements and the outside, external factors can greatly alter the aging process of the epidermis.
The number one external factor that affects the skin is sun’s UV rays, which can lead to DNA mutations in stem cells at the very basal layer of the epidermis. UV is like a machine gun firing squad to your DNA. It keeps punching holes in vital genes until it gets the essential genes that prevent cancer progression. Needless to say, this is a cumulative attack on the stem cell DNA and takes many years to fully develop. At first, your body detects the onslaught and causes tanning and increase in protective melanin. As we keep on sunning, patches of increased tan skin refuse to subside and leave permanent dark spots or sun spots. Also, genes responsible for skin growth can be damaged and lead to paper thin and wrinkled skin. With more sun, the regulatory genes of the cell are taken out, leading to atypical and pre-cancerous cells forming. As the UV onslaught continues and time lapses, areas with most DNA damage to vital genes, like the hedgehog pathway, progress to early forms of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of cancer in the USA. In 2002, when I began my practice, the national rate was 1,000,000 cases per year. This year alone, that figure has tripled to 3,00,000 cases annually. This is clearly of epidemic proportions. UV is the most common cause of skin cancer; other factors, including X-rays, Arsenic contamination, certain medications (eg, human growth hormone) and immunodeficiency can have a significant role in skin cancer formation. Therefore, I recommend protecting your armor, the epidermis. Prevent tanning of the skin by avoiding UV light or protecting your skin with sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and contains either zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, mexoryl, or avobenzone. My favorite sunscreen is SolBar SPF 38 Zinc. It is a bit heavy, but protects well. Please remember to use it liberally and reapply every hour when in the sun. Please have ample coverage during the many summer events ahead of us. Also, when mixing alcohol and sun, certain drinks make you more sun sensitive. The lime in margaritas is notorious. Please pamper your epidermis, it needs to be healthy to protect you for the rest of your life.