Skin aging and enzymes in cosmetic products


5/16/20223 min read

Our skin undergoes daily stress caused by external environmental factors: inappropriate cosmetics, air pollution, stress, sources of infrared and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and others. This disrupts its balance and function. In this case, the consequences can be visible and/or invisible: skin inflammation, burns, edema, and premature aging. All of these consequences can be explained by mechanisms that cause tissue damage. Free radicals (reactive oxygen species, ROS) are known to worsen the condition of the skin, and they are produced during inflammatory reactions and exposure to sunlight (usually UVA). Skin aging can manifest in various ways: dryness, loss of elasticity and texture, thinning, impaired barrier function (hydrolipidic layer), the appearance of pigmented spots (hyperpigmentation), and eventually wrinkles. Since cosmetic creams and lotions appeared, scientists, cosmetic formulators, dermatologists, beauticians, and other beauty specialists have been trying to find products that effectively target aging skin. Products were developed that reduce wrinkles, firmness, moisturize, lift and tone the skin, and reduce pigmentation (whitening effect). Among skincare products, anti-aging products are currently experiencing the highest growth rate. However, a true anti-aging product should not work against age-related symptoms but should prevent their appearance and protect the skin from external environmental factors, thus slowing down the aging process.

Is it really possible to stop the aging process? And if so, how can this be reliably communicated to the consumer of cosmetic products?

Sun protection, including protection against UVB radiation, has been considered a necessary preventive measure to avoid premature aging. Damage caused by free radicals, UVA and UVB radiation, stress, pollution, and cigarette smoke-induced premature skin aging is not immediately visible and therefore does not attract consumer attention. When it comes to ROS, it is not enough to warn the people about dangerous external factors, but attention should be drawn to ROS-induced DNA damage and other complex mechanisms that occur in our bodies. Stronger, clearer, and faster dissemination of information to the consumer is needed, along with scientific evidence that protection against premature aging is possible and gives visible results.

The skin can naturally protect itself from external environmental factors through the hydrolipidic barrier, vitamins, and radical-scavenging enzymes, but the biological functions of these systems have not evolved as rapidly as our modern lifestyle and environmental stressors. For example, during the summer, when the skin is affected by hot climate and UV radiation, enzymes that help fight against ROS are inactive.

How can we slow down this relentless aging process? Can we convince consumers of the seriousness of the problem and can we really offer a suitable and well-considered solution in cosmetic products?

It is believed that about 1000000000 (!) ROS are formed in each skin cell every day under normal physiological conditions [1]. This amount of ROS must be neutralized by the natural enzyme complex in the skin, which consists of SOD, catalase, and glutathione peroxidases. As the skin ages and experiences a lack of enzyme metabolism, along with UVA and UVB radiation, this system begins to malfunction. Skin nourishment with vitamins is one way to improve skin protection, but it is of limited effectiveness because it is difficult to stabilize natural vitamins. Another way is the use of enzymes in cosmetic products, but it is not effective due to the short-term catalytic activity of the skin and the lack of stability in cosmetic product formulas.

What solution could scientists propose?

For this reason, scientists and researchers are looking for an alternative that would help solve the stability issue of cosmetic products. A thermophilic bacterium was discovered in deep-sea hydrothermal vents that survive at a depth of 2500 meters, at a temperature of 80°C, and at a pressure of less than 200 bars. To survive in such extreme environmental conditions, these organisms (extremophiles) must be equipped with highly effective and specific defense mechanisms - a unique and universal enzyme complex that is highly thermostable and resistant to UV radiation. Such an extremophilic enzyme complex is particularly effective in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and can survive not only at high temperatures but also in the absence of oxygen and highly acidic or alkaline environments. The good news is that this type of enzyme complex can be produced on an industrial scale through fermentation. Cosmetic suitability tests were conducted, and the results of in vitro spectroscopic tests and ex vivo experiments with reconstructed epidermal cell cultures were obtained. During the research, it was observed that the extremophilic enzyme complex exhibits both catalase-type, SOD, and glutathione peroxidase-type activity and is activated by heat while being resistant to UVA radiation (features that provide additional protection during the summer). The complex protected human fibroblast cultures from lipid peroxidation maintained the wound healing process and reduced UVA-induced DNA damage (guanidine oxidation). Therefore, the extremophilic complex provides excellent skin protection that adapts to the environment - in hot climates and sun exposure, the complex exhibits higher activity. In terms of numbers, the research showed that epidermal cell oxidation was reduced by 60% using this enzyme complex. Tests with volunteers showed that a cosmetic product containing the extremophilic complex can protect skin cell membranes from UVA-induced lipid peroxidation and promote the synthesis of skin barrier structures, resulting in reduced transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and increased moisture retention in the skin [2].

Let's ask ourselves a question - how could these various observations by scientists be used in the cosmetics industry and demonstrate consumers the benefits of anti-aging prevention?

-- The LAB

[1] Fuchs J, Huflejt ME, Rothfuss LM, et al. Acute effects of near ultraviolet and visible light on the anti-oxidant defence system. Photochem Photobiol. 1989;50:739-43.

[2] Lintner K, Mas-Chamberlin C, Mondon P, Peschard O, Lamy L. Cosmeceuticals and active ingredients. Clin Dermatol. 2009;27(5):461-8.