Antioxidants are something with which many people have now become familiar. Whether they come in the form of foods you eat, supplements you take orally, or ingredients you apply to your skin, these substances are commonly understood as being important for health.
Over the past several years, I’ve written a great deal about how important antioxidants are when it comes to helping reduce environmental damage that is the result of sun damage, pollution, cigarette smoke, and even the very air we breathe.
Now there is a new group of ingredients getting attention for their role in helping skin function more normally. Medical journals refer to these as “cell signaling” substances — but I think “cell communicating” is more descriptive of what they do in relation to skin care.
Antioxidants work by intervening in a chain-reaction process called free-radical damage. An antioxidant can grab the loose-cannon molecule that causes free-radical damage to begin and nullify it, and in so doing, slow or inhibit this problematic progression. Yet as helpful as antioxidants are, they can’t stop free-radical damage altogether, and they definitely can’t correct years of unprotected or poorly protected sun exposure. Damage of this nature causes abnormal skin cells to be produced. Instead of normal, round, even, and completely intact skin cells being regenerated, when damaged cells form and reproduce they are uneven, flat, and lack structural integrity. As a result of these deformities, they behave poorly.
By contrast, cell-communicating ingredients, theoretically, have the ability to tell a skin cell to look, act, and behave better, more like a normal healthy skin cell would, or to stop other substances from telling the cell to behave badly or abnormally.
Cell communication is fundamental to all aspects of health. For all parts of our bodies to work properly, including skin cells, each cell must know how to perform the correct action at the correct time — and, hopefully, to ignore the information (in the form of messenger substances) that tells cells to do the wrong thing. This takes place through constant, ceaseless communication, with myriad substances telling cells how and when to function properly, and the cells then relaying that information to each other. When cells miscommunicate, or when substances relaying bad information get through to the cell, all sorts of problems can take place.
Every cell has a vast series of receptor sites for different substances. These receptor sites are the cell’s communication hookup. When the right ingredient for a specific site shows up, it has the ability to attach itself to the cell and transmit information. In the case of skin, this means telling the cell to start doing the things a healthy skin cell should be doing. If the cell accepts the message, the cell can then share the same healthy message with other nearby cells and so on and so on.
As long as there is a receptor site and the appropriate, healthy signaling substance, a lot of good, healthy communication takes place. But a cell’s communication network is more complex than any worldwide telephone system ever made. The array of receptor sites and the substances that can make connections to them make up a huge, complex, and varied group with incredible limitations and convoluted pathways that we are still finding out about. And as far as skin care is concerned, it’s an area of research that’s in its infancy. No doubt you will be hearing more and more about cell-communicating or cell-signaling ingredients being used in skin-care products, despite the lack of solid research. The good news is that, theoretically, this new horizon in skin care is incredibly exciting.
When science discovers which ingredients can tell skin cells how to do the right thing, and we can then put those in a skin-care product with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and ingredients that mimic the skin’s intercellular structure, that would be one really amazing moisturizer worth investing in!
For now, the skin-care ingredients to look for in terms of theoretical cell-communicating ability include retinol, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, eicosapentaenoic acid, niacinamide, lecithin, linolenic acid, linolenic acid, phospholipids, carnitine, carnosine, adenosine triphosphate, adenosine cyclic phosphate, palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tripeptide-3, and pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract.
Sources for this story can be found at http://www.cosmeticscop.com/learn/print.asp?ID=366