Tired of Wrinkles? These Scientists Have the Answer
If there’s one thing that scares Americans more than anything else, it’s the thought of growing old. We live in a “culture of youth” that says once you’re over 40—or even 30—your value starts to decline. It’s a ridiculous message, of course. But it’s fueled by industries with deep pockets and big advertising budgets. Industries that stand to make a profit from our fear.
Medicine has convinced us that aging is a treatable disease and snake oil salesman have convinced us that they have the cure. Way back in 2003 the beauty industry was already a $160 billion concern, and as of 2012 the “anti-aging” market—including plastic surgery—raked in around $90 billion a year. Combined, that’s nearly as much money as Big Pharma makes.
The number of people 65 and over is growing every day. You might expect this to lead to a more sensible and realistic view of aging. You might expect our cultural views to change, and for aging to finally be accepted for what it is—a natural part of life. You might expect society to become less youth-centric. No such thing has happened. Nor does it seem likely to change in the foreseeable future. Instead, all that’s happened is that the market for “anti-aging” products has exploded.
We’ve declared a “war on aging” right along with our “wars” on drugs, cancer, and anything else we disapprove of. And a new creation by scientists at MIT might be the newest weapon in the “war” to look younger than our years.
Say goodbye to wrinkles…at least for the day
So-called “anti-aging” products run the gamut from the scientifically plausible to the downright ridiculous or even dangerous. We have serums and creams that help neutralize free radical damage and protect skin. There are chemical peels that slough off the outer layers of skin and temporarily make wrinkles less obvious. There are botox injections, which use toxins to create targeted facial paralysis. Collagen injections can artificially fill in wrinkles. There’s even a collagen-infused gin that claims to rebuild skin from the inside out.
I kid you not. It calls itself the “alcoholic equivalent of a facial.”
In fact, wrinkles seem to be the primary enemy in the cosmetic war on aging. Now scientists at MIT have created a product that might take the place of all those bottles of serum and jars of night cream. It could be a solution for those who’d like to try botox but don’t want to subject themselves to poison. And of course it’s a product that Big Pharma would like a piece of too. It’s not on the market yet, but is going through human trials, and it’s probably the next big thing in “anti-aging” beauty products.
The media is calling it “second skin” though it doesn’t have an official name yet. It’s a two-step product applied directly to the skin. The first step is a gel massaged into the skin. This is followed by a cream applied to the treated area and left to dry for several minutes. Once set, it forms an invisible, stretchy “second skin” that smooths out wrinkles and under-eye bags and has the elasticity of younger skin. The scientists involved say it might also be used one day to hide skin discolorations like port-wine birthmarks.
The product has only been tested on a few hundred people so far, but the results have been promising for the beauty industry. The resulting wearable film has no visible edges, and appears to resist both breakdown in water and everyday wear and tear for up to 16 hours. It’s being touted as a non-invasive way to minimize the appearance of both wrinkles and sagging skin associated with aging. There’s talk of using it for durable sunscreen. There are any number of possible cosmetic uses, but the real payoff will probably come—not surprisingly—from Big Pharma.
Big Pharma wants to use this for wearable drugs
Never one to pass up an opportunity, Big Pharma wants a piece of the action. The researchers are negotiating with a pharmaceutical company to develop the product as—surprise—a drug-delivery system.
A huge variety of substances can be absorbed directly through your skin. This is how drug “patches” like nicotine or birth control patches work. The “second skin” product could capitalize on this in a big way. It’s invisible. It’s more comfortable than a sticky patch glued to the skin. And dosages of different drugs could be tailored on a much more individual basis. Current talk revolves mainly around treatment for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, but the possibilities for Big Pharma are endless.
Are we likely to see this in our pharmacies in the near future? It looks like we might. The question is, which department will we find it in? Drugs, or health and beauty? That likely depends on who’s willing to pay the most for the patent.
In the meantime, if you’re fighting your own “war on aging,” here are my thoughts:
Don’t look at it as a “war.” Stop trying to “combat” anything. Wars are exhausting and time consuming, and there’s very seldom a clear victor. When you try to “fight the signs of aging,” you’re making war on your own body. Work with your body, not against it.
How can you do that?
- Make sleep a priority. Getting enough sleep—and good quality sleep—is essential. Not only is it necessary for a healthy brain, it also reduces the cosmetic signs of aging. Here’s why: stage 3 sleep—the deep sleep that occurs at the end of the sleep cycle—is when your body repairs free radical damage and damage to DNA. This is when your body produces collagen and rebuilds damaged skin. In other words, lack of sleep leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. Sufficient high-quality sleep gives your body the time it needs to make repairs.
- Eat well. Just like you can’t build a solid house with inferior materials, you can’t build a healthy body with poor-quality food. Eat real food. Cut out the sugar, which leads to inflammation and damage.
- Minimize exposure to “blue light.” Blue light like that emitted by computer monitors, phone screens, and televisions leads to free radical damage that ages skin. Get a blue light filter for your devices and limit your TV time.
But most of all, remember this: laugh lines and crow’s feet are caused…by laughter. Wear them like a badge of honor.
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