Life Extension Magazine November 2007
Topical Nutrients To Revitalize the Aging Neck
By Gary Goldfaden, MD
While skin care products help maintain a youthful face, an individual’s age is all too often revealed by unsightly changes that are seen in the neck. In fact, many dermatologists believe that the neck has become one of the most neglected parts of the body.
The skin of the neck is very thin, and is constantly exposed to the merciless pounding of environmental agents and pollutants, including the ultraviolet (UV) rays that are primarily responsible for premature aging. Despite these ubiquitous stressors, many of us stop our skin-care regimes at our chins. That’s why so many of us end up with youthfullooking faces sitting on top of older-looking necks.
Cosmetics can work wonders on your face, but provide only limited help against an aging neck. Surgical procedures, as well, leave much to be desired.
There are topical ingredients, however, that scientific studies show do work. Here, we take a look at today’s most advanced topical nutrients for promoting optimal skin health of the neck.
Mechanisms of Skin Aging
As you grow older, your accumulated exposure to UV radiation and environmental pollutants cause the breakdown of healthy collagen fibers and the production of abnormal elastin. When enough of this damage accumulates, special enzymes called metalloproteinases are released.1 These enzymes help remodel your sun-traumatized skin by manufacturing and rebuilding new collagen. Unfortunately, they do not always work very well, and some of them actually end up breaking down collagen instead. When your skin repeats this process over and over, it results in the formation of weak, disorganized collagen fibers that eventually collapse, causing your skin to droop. All too often, the result is wrinkling and sagging skin, particularly in the neck.
Fortunately, topical nutrients can help fight skin aging at its very roots. By firming skin, reducing hyperpigmentation, restoring moisture, boosting collagen production, and fighting oxidative damage, these novel agents can help to restore and maintain the appearance of a youthful neck.
Acetyl Hexapeptide-3: Relieving Prominent Neck Bands
Acetyl hexapeptide-3 is a patented amino peptide2 that is easily absorbed by your skin. Once inside, it gets right to work influencing muscle relaxation.
The effect of this amino peptide can be fairly dramatic. In one study, a 10% concentration of acetyl hexapeptide-3 was proven to reduce the depth of wrinkles by up to 30% after just 30 days.3 This molecule works by reducing the excess production of transmitters that control facial muscle contraction, which is an underlying cause of wrinkles.
Before muscle cells can contract, they must receive a signal from neurons (brain cells). In order for the neurons to send such a signal, a group of three proteins (known as the SNARE complex) must form a zipper-like connection that leads to the release of transmitters. Acetyl hexapeptide-3 mimics one of these three essential proteins, called SNAP-25, which is needed for transmitter release at the nerve junctions (synapses). By competing with SNAP-25 for a position in the SNARE complex, acetyl hexapeptide- 3 interferes with this zipperlike connection, effectively blocking the chemical signal for muscles to contract. Scientists believe that preventing transmitter release may attenuate muscle contraction, promoting a smoother appearance of neck muscles. This also softens the look of vertical banding caused by the platysma muscle that is often so pronounced in aging necks, and also helps minimize those visible folds and creases.3,4
Hydrate with Hyaluronic Acid
Beneath the surface of your skin, there lies a framework of connective tissue. This collagen forms a triplehelix, rope-like structure that creates a vital support for your skin above. It is made up of protein organized in bundles, which are anchored to each other at right angles by inter-fiber cross linkages.
This fiber network is held in place by a jelly-like extracellular matrix made up of water, protein complexes and a substance called hyaluronic acid. The ability of hyaluronic acid to attract and retain water (1000 times its own weight) is unmatched by any other substance in nature. This is very important because the links in your collagen network are like those of a net cast into the sea that are kept open only in the presence of water. Without the volumizing effect of this large, sugar-like molecule on your extracellular matrix, collagen fibers just end up collapsing. Gravity pulling down on the loosened skin of the neck does the rest.
As if this were not enough, the hyaluronic acid-dependent extracellular matrix is also responsible for transporting essential nutrients from your bloodstream to the living cells of your skin, making it crucial for maintaining the skin’s softness and moisture.
Although younger skin has an abundance of hyaluronic acid, free radical damage caused by UV radiation gradually depletes hyaluronic acid reserves. In fact, by the time you reach your 50th birthday, you’ve already lost close to half of it.
Replenishing skin with hyaluronic acid increases cell renewal and rejuvenation,5 helps restore healthy texture, color, and moisture to your aging neck, and plays an important role in the way your skin looks, feels, and functions.
Revitalize and Rebuild with Retinol
Retinol (the purest form of vitamin A) has been clinically proven to inhibit the increase of collagendegrading substances called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs).1 In addition, scientific studies have shown that this nutrient encourages new collagen formation by helping re-stimulate your fibroblasts’ growth potential,6 which diminishes with age. Retinol can even increase the epidermal thickness of your skin.7
The reason retinol works so well is because it is one of the few substances with a molecular structure small enough to penetrate the protective outer layer of your skin. Once inside, retinol is enzymatically converted into retinoic acid—its active metabolite. Skin cells have receptor sites that are very accepting of retinoic acid. This key relationship between retinoic acid and the binding receptor sites of your skin sets up a type of DNA communication in which your cells are encouraged to function normally and continue the regular process of cell renewal.8,9
Because of its unique ability to strengthen and rejuvenate your skin, as well as its effect in stimulating new collagen production, retinol is able to diminish the overall appearance of unsightly creases and folds from the inside out, leaving your neck looking naturally smoother, younger, and healthier.
Eliminate Age Spots with N-Acetyl Glucosamine and Niacinamide
From the age of 40 onwards, your skin is less able to regenerate pathological changes induced by sun exposure.
Ordinarily, sunlight triggers special skin cells called melanocytes to release greater amounts of a brownblack pigment called melanin into your skin. Melanin limits the amount of UV light that penetrates the epidermal layer of skin. The darker pigmentation produced by melanin also helps protect your skin from further damage by making it harder for the skin to burn.
With advancing age and accruing sun exposure, these active melanocytes begin to cluster together, producing unsightly, mottled areas of hyperpigmentation where the melanin pools beneath the skin.
N-acetyl glucosamine, a more stable version of glucosamine, inhibits the activation of tyrosinase—an enzyme involved in the overproduction of melanin in UV-damaged skin cells.10 Niacinamide (also known as nicotinamide) is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that appears to work by inhibiting the transfer of melanin from melanocytes to epidermalskin cells.11 Topical niacinamide has been scientifically shown to reduce the yellowing, crinkling, blotchiness, and hyperpigmentation of aging skin.12 However, when used together, N-acetyl glucosamine and niacinamide are much more effective at reducing hyperpigmentation than either one alone. Treatment with N-acetyl glucosamine and niacinamide results in both a reduction of hyperpigmented spot size and an improved consistency in melanin distribution.13 These two powerful skin-lightening agents work synergistically to markedly improve the health and appearance of aged neck skin.