The only reason our skin breaks down collagen is because the collagen is damaged and must be disposed of. The skin identifies bad, or damaged, collagen, and it knows when and how to digest this collagen while preserving the surrounding tissues.
Collagen removal is a good because it disposes of unhealthy matter. Unhealthy or damaged collagen collapses which makes the skin appear older. However, if we stop at that conclusion we never understand why our collagen is damaged in the first place.
This is where we have to reconsider the adage that beauty is only skin deep...
If we want to stall skin breakdown (aging) we have to stall collagen breakdown. We have to stop collagen breakdown BEFORE it starts. Healthy nutrition can help (kale, fish, avocados, blueberries, etc...). So can avoiding inflammation (chemical peels, Retin-A, ablative lasers, AHAs, etc...)
Retinoic acid is a popular for its purported anti-aging properties, but here we see a major disconnect: Retinoic acid increases damage to collagen by affecting the epidermal barrier. Then it reduces the skin's ability to fix that collagen. This likely explains the main reason retinoic acid has been such a disappointment.
Another naturally occurring substance, ceramides, which are lipids the skin produces to protect its outer layers. Generally, ceramides are a good thing, so it's not outrageous that skincare manufacturers have seized upon them to promote skin products. However ceramides figure into the skin's secondary feedback loop. If you add a ceramide moisturizer to the epidermis, the skin registers those additional ceramides and slows down the epidermal rate specifically in response to a confusing signal from their introduction into the skin. The resulting artificially slowed exfoliation cycle likely only adds to the frustration with the skin's function and appearance rather than protecting and rejuvenating the skin, as so much marketing propaganda will promise.
Instead of adding retinoic acid or ceramides to the skin, we should use ingredients along the lines or retinaldehyde in our skin care products. Retinaldehyde prompts the skin to begin a chemical conversion to create its own retinoic acid. The skin only modifies what it needs of the retinaldehyde molecules, which prevents it from becoming irritated or damaged by excess retinoic acid. What the skin doesn't need, it stores so that an integrated balance of naturally occurring chemicals can work in harmony in the skin.
Compare this to slathering on a dollop of Retin-A cream. Only a small percentage of the critical ingredients ever reach the target areas of the dermis. The rest build up in the epidermis, creating fodder for oxidation and skin irritation.
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