We want to educate clinicians about whats been found, and what it means in terms of how we may improve the appearance of people, says Voorhees, the Duncan and Ella Poth Distinguished Professor of Dermatology at U-M.
Young vs. old skin
Collagen formation and breakdown takes place in the dermis or inner skin the thicker, firm layer of skin that lies beneath the paper-thin outer skin or epidermis, much as a mattress lies beneath a sheet. Collagen consists of proteins that make up a supporting structure surrounding the skin cells. In youthful skin, collagen is firm, taut and abundant, like a new mattress. In older skin, the collagen structure begins to fall away, says Voorhees.
Just as a foam mattress over time becomes flatter in places and creased as its structure breaks down, aging skin begins to sag and wrinkle when its collagen is diminished and fragmented. The cycle of events involved in collagen loss is complicated.
As skin ages, reactive oxygen species, associated with many aspects of aging, lead to increased production of the enzyme collagenase, which breaks down collagen. Then fibroblasts, the critical players in firm, healthy skin, lose their normal stretched state. They collapse, and then more breakdown enzymes are produced. People in their 80s have four times more broken collagen than people in their 20s.
What its doing is dissolving your skin, Voorhees says. What youve got is a vicious cycle. You have to interrupt it, or aging skin is just going downhill.
In the elderly, in whom the dermis has lost two-thirds or more of its youthful thickness through collagen loss, skin tears and bruises easily. Collagen-building interventions thus have potential for reducing basic health problems such as bed sores, in addition to improving appearance.
A growing body of evidence
|Contact: Anne Rueter|
University of Michigan Health System