Atmospheric Skin Aging and Vitamin C
Living in NYC exposes me to all sorts of harsh things, like traffic noise, snow, rude people, dog poop everywhere on the sidewalk, etc., but one thing that I’ve found here that actually takes a toll on my skin is pollution. Did you know that rising levels of ambient ozone can cause oxidative stress and aging in the skin? I didn’t either, so I interviewed SkinCeuticals scientist Scott Peterson to learn more about this topic.
Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive gas that is both a natural and man-made product occurring in Earth’s upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) and lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Down on the level that we live, harmful ozone is created when pollutants created by cars, power plants, refineries and more, interact with sunlight. As you can imagine, this problem is concentrated in large cities with higher levels of pollution.
Atmospheric aging is a collective term for skin aging caused by daily exposure to pollution. We know that pollution in general can cause free radical damage in multiple layers of the skin, and atmospheric aggressors can be associated with more manifestations of what we think of as physical aging like brown spots (hyperpigmentation), sagging, rough texture, and fine lines. O3 also depletes our skin’s supply of antioxidants, thus making us even less able to fend off environmental aggressors on our skin.
So what can we do about this problem, given that we can’t stay at home all day?
Ozone and Antioxidant Science
Scott shared a few interesting studies with me, one that was done in conjunction with Dr. Valacchi, a researcher in the area of ozone. This clinical study shows that Skinceuticals in vivo helps to reduce the damage from ozone. 15 subjects had their forearms divided into 4 zones: pretreated with C E Ferulic, pretreated with Phloretin CF, no treatment and just exposure to O3, and no treatment and no exposure to O3. Subjects’ forearms were then exposed to 0.8 ppm O3 for 3 hours per day for five consecutive days, and skin biopsies were taken from each zone at the end of 5 days. Measurements of lipid peroxidation through immunohistochemistry were recorded as a proxy for measuring free radical reactions. Byproducts of lipid peroxidation were significantly higher in O3 treated skin samples, but pretreatment with Phloretin CF and CE Ferulic actually helped to significantly lessen the amount of free radical damage. Additionally, O3 exposed skin had higher levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), enzymes that degrade collagen, as well as lower levels of collagen I and III. Pretreatment with Phloretin CF or C E Ferulic significantly prevented the increase in MMP’s and collagen marker loss; specifically, skin treated with C E Ferulic showed 35% less type III collagen degradation and skin treated with Phloretin CF showed 95% less type III collagen degradation.
By incorporating an antioxidant like Phloretin CF or C E Ferulic into your regimen, you are helping with protection, prevention, and correction of your skin all at the same time. I will be doing a post on the difference between Phloretin CF and C E Ferulic soon, so be on the lookout for that!
My coresident Dr. Sukhdeo discussed the proper way to formulate vitamin C for topical preparations in a previous blogpost; check that out here! Basically, there are specific ways that you want to prepare vitamin C products for the skin order to stabilize the active ingredients. If you don’t formulate it the right way, the vitamin C will be wasted because it will oxidize and become inactive on top of the skin. According to Scott, SkinCeuticals focuses on having an appropriate level of acidity and appropriate concentration of vitamin C in its antioxidant products. Vitamin C concentration hits the sweet spot around 10-20%; when you hit 25 to 30% vitamin C, the active ingredient is actually going to waste and it negatively affects the penetration of the product. Protip: keep your Vitamin C preparations protected from heat and sunlight, both things that could degrade the product faster. I keep mine in the refrigerator and only take it out when I need to use it!
What has been your experience with pollution and atmospheric aging?
Thank you to SkinCeuticals for providing me product to review and test. All opinions and scientific research are my own.