Empowering the Skin Matrix

By Steve Myers



There is a literal meaning to: “Beauty is skin deep.” Firmness, suppleness and elasticity all owe their presence to the skin matrix, the strong structure that holds skin cells together. Damage to this matrix is the devil behind premature aging. Tending to the health of this skin matrix by use of the latest cosmeceuticals ingredients can help keep the skin healthy and free from undesirable visible damage.


The skin matrix is an interwoven framework of polymers that is responsible for the skin’s mechanical properties. One of the most complex polymers in the body, collagen is the primary protein in connective tissue and provides the much needed structural support for the skin. In the dermis layer of skin, which is under the outer epidermis or outer layer, an abundance of collagen exists as bundles of long, tough fibers that do not stretch. Together with soft keratin, collagen–which contains amino acids, glycine, proline and hydroxyproline–is responsible for the strength and firmness of skin.

Similar to collagen, elastin is a structural protein found in bundles of fibers in the dermis, although less orderly than collagen bundles. The main difference is elastin has less hydroxyproline and is more easily stretched, providing skin with elasticity.

In young and healthy skin, collage and elastin bundles are evenly distributed in the skin, providing optimal strength and flexibility. In healthy skin matrix, collagen and elastin combine with polysaccharide chains from proteoglycans to absorb water that helps create smooth, sleek skin.

This skin matrix has an amazing ability to renew itself, as components are constantly synthesized by fibroblasts, balanced by matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes that break down old or damaged skin. However, as a barrier, the skin encounters all sorts of dangers that threaten this regenerative balance, including ultraviolet (UV) light, pollutants, harsh chemicals and free radicals. Free radicals can damage collagen, elastin and glycosamoinoglycan (GAG), the primary proteoglycan in the skin matrix. Cynthia Klein, chief sales and marketing director, Aquea Scientific, confirmed: “While many factors play a role, (genetics, mechanical stress, hormones, etc), about 90 percent of premature aging is caused by exposure to UV light.”

Daniel Yarosh, Ph.D., president and chairman, AGI Dermatics, agreed the sun is the number one skin enemy, but offered smoking as a close second. “These cause cycles of a wound healing response, which digests collagen and elastin with MMP enzymes, but never fully heals,” he said. “Repeated cycles cause micro-scars.”

The real problem is when damage occurs faster than the skin’s ability to process the damage and replenish the skin matrix components. Ultimately, when collagen breaks down, the loss of firmness and strength can cause wrinkles. Damaged elastin can lead to sagging skin, and disrupted or polluted GAG can lead to decreased ability to retain moisture.



Given the threat of the sun, sunscreens move to the front of the skin care matrix. However, despite the push to educate people about the importance of sunscreens, many industry insiders report only a fraction of consumers practice regular sunscreening, perhaps as few as 10 percent of Americans. Even if more sunbathers apply sunscreen at the beach or the pool during summer months, this is only half the battle with the sun.

“Using sunscreens while at the beach or playing outdoor sports is not enough, because about 80 percent of a person’s lifetime cumulative UV exposure happens during everyday living (driving, sitting by a window, walking the dog, etc.),” Klein said. “Daily use of a low to medium (SPF 10 to 15) sunscreen can lower one’s cumulative UV exposure by almost 85 percent, significantly reducing the cause of photo-aging and the chance of getting skin cancer.”

One deterrent for greater consumer sunscreen use is the greasy feel, the often opaque look (with zinc oxide sunscreens), and the time it takes to apply sunscreen. To overcome these drawbacks, Aquea Scientific developed the patented Wash On ™ technology that enables broad spectrum sunscreen protection to be delivered from face and body washes and shampoos. “Aquea SPF ™ is an encapsulated positively-charged complex of UVA and UVB sunscreens which can be easily formulated into all types of liquid and bar cleansers,” Klein reported. She explained that during washing, the complex adheres to negatively-charged skin, leaving behind a thin, non-greasy, low-odor layer of sunscreen which protects and moisturizes the skin throughout the day. 

AGI Dermatics turned to microccus lysate, one of the most UV-resistant organisms, and a plankton extract for its DNA Repair product, which is designed to repair sun damage and reduce the release of MMPs. The product also contains an anti-inflammatory botanical, evodia rutaecarpa. The DNA Repair SPF version contains additional UV protective ingredients, such as zinc oxide, a popular sunblock compound.



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