Friday, March 19, 2010

The Skin Discoloration Process

The color of a person's skin is due to the manufacture and deposition of a pigment called melanin, which is produced in two forms: pheomelanin (a yellowish pigment) and eumelanin (a dark brown/black pigment). Both of these types of melanin are manufactured by melanocytes—cells in the skin located many layers below the surface at the bottom part of the epidermis. Melanocytes express a unique enzyme, tyrosinase, which functions to convert the simple amino acid tyrosine into melanin. To make and disperse this pigment throughout the skin, melanocytes use a three-step "manufacturing" process:

Step 1
Activation—chemical signals coming from other cells in the skin cause the melanocyte to "activate" tyrosinase and begin melanin synthesis.

Step 2
Synthesis—melanin is manufactured, "packaged" into elliptically shaped containers called melanosomes, and relocated to the outer regions of tentaclelike projections of melanocytes called dendrites.

Step 3
Expression—melanin-filled melanosomes are transferred from the ends of dendrites to keratinocytes (surrounding cells in the skin) for shipment to the surface of the skin.

Every day, keratinocytes move from the bottom region of the epidermis to the surface of the skin. If they have picked up melanosomes, keratinocytes carry them to the skin's surface where the melanin in the melanosomes gives the skin a pigmented appearance. In spite of the large variations in skin color that exist among people from different parts of the world, everyone has exactly the same number of melanocytes in their skin. The difference in the amount of melanin in a person's skin is due primarily to (1) how active the melanocytes are, (2) how much melanin they make, and (3) how efficiently they transport melanin-filled melanosomes to keratinocytes throughout the skin.

There are many factors, environmental and other, that determine the activation state of melanocytes in the skin and, therefore, how much melanin will be made. Of course, one of the most well-known factors that activate melanocytes is UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Exposure to UV light leads to the production of a large number of inflammatory mediators and hormones in the skin, which then activate melanocytes by binding to specific receptors on these cells. The end result of this activation event is increased melanin production—commonly called tanning. While other environmental stressors that cause the skin to produce inflammatory mediators can lead to increased skin pigmentation, factors such as age, pregnancy, and birth control pills can also cause increased melanin production. This enhanced skin pigmentation is often uneven and blotchy and tends to get worse over time.

With the knowledge of how skin pigmentation is regulated, it should be possible to develop topical products that can effectively control the level of melanin produced and deposited in the skin. Research has shown that certain ingredients can help slow the production of stressors or inflammatory mediators in the skin while others can target the ability of inflammatory mediators and hormones to activate melanocytes. Certain ingredients also work to (1) minimize the activity of tyrosinase, (2) discourage the transfer of melanosomes to keratinocytes, and (3) influence the type of melanin made to be the lighter, less visible pheomelanin instead of the highly visible brown/black eumelanin. By targeting multiple steps along the melanin synthesis pathway, these ingredients provide more effective control of skin pigmentation.

Bryan B. Fuller

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Removing Age Spots – Simple Solutions

Removing age spots is not necessary, as they are not damaging to your health, but most people simply don’t like the way that they look. If you consult a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist, they will recommend cryotherapy or laser treatment for age spot removal. The effectiveness and expense of these procedures varies. Plus, there are risks involved.

Either procedure can cause scarring. They are only slightly painful, if performed correctly, but the resulting redness is just as unsightly as the spot. Wearing cover-stick or makeup to hide the area causes more pain and doesn’t look that great. So, if you do choose these procedures for removing age spots, pick a time when you can take a week off and stay home, especially if your appearance is very important to you.

Instead of focusing on age spot removal, let’s look for a moment at why you are starting to look older. Unless the spots have formed due to pregnancy or for other hormonal reasons, you are probably seeing fine lines at the corners of your eyes, possibly wrinkles on your forehead and lines that run from your nose to the corners of your mouth. If you have ever been a smoker, you are likely seeing lots of little lines around your mouth.

If you go to a cosmetic surgeon for age spot removal, there is no doubt that he or she will tell you about Botox and collagen injections for “correcting” those wrinkles. If you have some sagging around your neckline or on other areas of the body, a heat procedure called “thermage” will likely be recommended. Since each of these procedures costs several hundred dollars, by the time you get out of the office, you could easily end up with a bill of $5000 or more.

Luckily, there are effective treatments for removing age spots, reducing wrinkles and increasing firmness that do not require a visit to the dermatologist or even a doctor’s prescription. Antioxidants are one of the keys. Antioxidants are our only real defense against free radical damage, which is one of the causes of cellular aging inside and out.

Will antioxidants help with age spot removal? There are three steps to naturally fade these heavily pigmented areas; reduce sun exposure, stimulate the production of new cells and inhibit melanin production. Inhibiting melanin production may not even be that important. But, the other two steps are essential.

Melanin is a pigment that is produced by specialized cells in the skin’s dermis layer, where new cells are also produced. If melanin has been secreted, the new cells will be darker. If not, they will be lighter in color. It takes four to six weeks for the new cells to make it to the skin’s outer layers; the epidermis.

Reducing sun exposure is essential for removing age spots, because melanin production is stimulated by UV rays from the sun. Increasing the production of new cells is essential for age spot removal, if you want to see them fade quickly. The most important ingredient for stimulating the production of new cells is Functional Keratin. If you want to learn more about removing age spots and reversing the other signs of aging, you need to learn more about Functional Keratin.