Time marches on, we all get older, and our skin shows the signs of aging.
Some people age beautifully with great-looking skin; others slather on creams in a futile battle to chase away wrinkles and age spots.
Before you go to the the Kenny Rogers-style facelift solution, read on to discover how your genes and the environment interact to cause aging in the skin.
What causes skin aging?
Both genetics and environmental factors influence how your skin looks as you age.
Environmental factors that influence skin aging include:[ref]
- Sun exposure (UV, visible light, and infrared)
- Cigarette smoking
- Air pollution
- Cosmetic products
Wrinkles, loss of elasticity, age spots, loss of tone all contribute to your skin looking older. But what causes all of these signs of age?
Many of the aging skin issues we encounter result from oxidative stress in the skin. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between ROS (reactive oxygen species) and the ability of the cell to counter this with antioxidants.
- ROS is a byproduct of cellular metabolism (e.g., mitochondria producing energy for the cell), and it is increased by UV radiation.[ref]
- ROS is also produced during the detoxification of many different toxicants (pesticides, phthalates, BPA, heavy metals, etc).[ref]
Increased oxidative stress causes an increase in matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). The MMP proteins degrade collagen, which decrease the elasticity of the skin. Additionally, too much sun exposure results in the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which combines with a slower rate of synthesis of collagen.[ref]
Why is collagen so important? Collagen is a protein that forms connective tissue and the extracellular matrix. It is like a structural net or scaffolding that keeps the skin smooth.
There are multiple types of collagen in the body. Type I collagen is the most abundant in the skin, and there is a little type III collagen as well.
Sun exposure (ultraviolet radiation) causes an increase in the expression of MMP1, which causes an increased breakdown of collagen.[ref]
Genetic variants that cause wrinkles:
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The damage to your skin from the sun causes photoaging and age spots. People with lighter skin tones (due in part to the MC1R variants) are more susceptible to photoaging.
IRF4 gene: interferon regulatory factor 4, associated with skin pigmentation, freckles
Check your genetic data for rs12203592 (23andMe v5, AncestryDNA):
- C/C: most common worldwide
- C/T: lighter hair and eye color; more photoaging of skin
- T/T: lighter hair and eye color; more photoaging of skin[ref]
Members: Your genotype for rs12203592 is —.
MC1R gene: red hair gene. One study found that carriers of two copies of the risk allele looked on average two years older than non-carriers.[ref]
Check your genetic data for rs1805005 (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
Members: Your genotype for rs1805005 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs1805007 (23andMe v4, v5):
Members: Your genotype for rs1805007 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs1805008 (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
Members: Your genotype for rs1805008 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs1805009 (23andMe v4, v5 as i3002507):
Members: Your genotype for i3002507 is —.
MMP1 gene: matrix metalloproteinase 1, involved in the breakdown of type I, II, and III collagens
Check your genetic data for rs1799750 (23andMe v4, v5):
- C/C or I/I: more wrinkles[ref]
- -/C or D/I: more wrinkles
- -/- or D/D: fewer wrinkles
Members: Your genotype for rs1799750 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs322458 (23andMe v5; AncestryDNA):
- C/C: typical
- C/T: typical
- T/T: decreased photoaging and wrinkles[ref]
Members: Your genotype for rs322458 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs470647 (23andMe v4):
- T/T: typical
- C/T: typical
- C/C: decreased photoaging and wrinkles[ref]
Members: Your genotype for rs470647 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs16927253 (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
- T/T: protective against sagging eyelids[ref]
- C/T: protective against sagging eyelids
- C/C: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs16927253 is —.
The rest of this article is for Genetic Lifehacks members only. Consider joining today to see the rest of this article.
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Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering and also an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.