It’s All About Skin Energy.

It’s All About Skin Energy.


Mitochondria are little power houses inside your cells.  These organelles are like little engines that fuel all the metabolic activity that happens in your skin (and in the rest of your body for that matter). Mitochondria transforms nutrients (specifically glucose) and oxygen to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the energy (think gasoline in your car) that drives your cells.  All the metabolic activities of your cells are dependant on  mitochondria to build and repair skin cells and structures that keep your skin looking young and vital.

Besides glucose (sugar) the mitochondria also needs oxygen to make energy.  Oxygen is really important for healthy skin but it also has a down side. During the production of cellular energy some of the oxygen becomes potent free radicals known as ROS (reactive oxygen species).  As you may know,  free radicals are a major contributor of aging.  So it seems we have a double edged sword.  We need energy to repair and replace skin cells and keep them metabolically alive and active but aging occurs as an outcome of this very process.

Unlike the diagram of cells from your high school biology class, there are many mitochondria in each cell.  This is because the need for energy is so vital. Mitochondria even has its own DNA, different from elsewhere in your body.  Because of the role of oxygen, mitochondrial DNA is particularly vulnerable to damage.

With damage to the mitochondrial DNA we create less and less energy which results in damaged cells, mutant cells and cell death.  This decline can start as early as in your 20s, and by the time you reach middle age you may be producing only half the energy that you did in your 30s.  Fine lines, wrinkles, the loss of collagen and a decrease of barrier function are a direct result of the loss of mitochondrial energy.

In general your genes determine at what age you are likely to start slowing down your production of ATP, but surprisingly this may not be totally out of your control. The science community has a rising interest in anti-aging research connected to epigenetics, or how we can manipulate your genes by turning on desirable genes and shutting off undesirable genes.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could boost energy production in mitochondria by manipulating the genes that regulate this.  Sounds like the fountain of youth? Yes, but their are real coming.  The big question is when.

What can you do right now to boost skin energy?

Just like plants your skin has the ability to absorb light and convert it into energy. One way to boost mitochondria to make ATP is with red LED light.  LED means light emitting diode.  Different waves of light do different things for your skin. Infrared light creates heat which increases circulation that brings in nutrients. Red light affects your skin by building, strengthening, and maximizing cellular structures through the production of ATP.  You can get LED light treatments in spa or purchase a machine of lesser strength for home use.  You want to make sure that your LED device has the right combination of red, near red and amber lights.


Another way of harnessing cellular energy is with CoQ10. CoQ10 is short for coenzyme Q10 also known as ubiquinone, it is a substance similar to a vitamin and found in every cell of the body. This nutrient is essential for the generation of energy as well as being an important antioxidant, protecting the body from damaging free radicals.

As we age, the body starts producing less CoQ10 and we can notice the effects of this in the form of a dull look, sagging and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. CoQ10 supplements can be helpful but CoQ10 can also be found in high quality skin care serums. Whereas some nutrients are too big to penetrate the skin, CoQ10 is not. You can effectively apply CoQ10 topically to the skin via a high quality serum.


Ergothioneine, also found in skincare serums and naturally in mushrooms.  It protects the skin from oxidative stress (free radicals) and DNA damage. It is an antioxidant, that is outstanding at protecting the mitochondrial membrane against oxidation. It will transfer fatty acids into the mitochondria to help use oxygen more efficiently and to produce more energy. If you happen to be on a low carb, high fat diet ergothioneine helps you burn fat as energy.


Niacinamide also plays an important role in the enzymatic reactions needed to make ATP.  Niacinamide is an antioxidant that defends against ROS free radicals and at the same time boosts the replication of fibroblasts in the dermis.  Fibroblasts are the cells that lay down new collagen and elastin fibers as well as hyaluronic acid and other natural moisturizing factors that support these dermal fibers and plump the skin.

How to proceed

While most of us thought that the primary cause of free radical damage came from environmental factors like the sun, it turns out that major damage comes from within.  While you should never step outside during the day without a broad spectrum sunscreen (and supplement with Vitamin D), you still need to load up on antioxidants from both your diet and performance based skin care products.  Topical antioxidants can effectively fight against ROS and therefore limit mitochondrial damage.  An enzyme that works as a great antioxidant to protect mitochondrial DNA against ROS is superoxide dismutase.  Trace minerals like magnesium, copper and zinc also increase skin energy while acting as antioxidants to protect your skin.




Top Anti-Aging Skin Care Ingredients

Top Anti-Aging Skin Care Ingredients

When shopping for anti-aging products the mistake that many people make is that they listen to the sales person’s claims for what miraculous things this or that cream will do for their skin. While your esthetician may or may not have the science background to adequately  explain how a product is going to work, most gals behind the counter in department stores do not.  It’s easy to get sucked in by product claims, but it’s more important you understand how individual performance ingredients…  well, perform.  Remember, a product is only as good as the ingredients inside the bottle.

There are certain tried and true ingredients that have a lot of science behind them. Gold standard anti-agers are often vitamins – which have, among other attributes, the ability to act as powerful antioxidants. (IE. ingredients which help stop unstable molecules from playing havoc with your skin cells and disrupting the normal functions of things like DNA, lipids, mitochondria and cell membranes, all of which are vital for healthy skin.  When these cell components get damaged the cell structures change.  They no longer reproduce the way younger or intact cells do.  Irregular cells either die (apoptosis), create older, irregular looking mutation skin cells or they might even become cancerous. So antioxidants are a very important part of anti-aging and skin health.

Tried and True Anti-Aging Antioxidants:

  • Vitamin AVitamin A is known as retinoids.  Retinoic acid (Retin-A) the prescription version, is potent and fast acting but also can cause intense dryness, sensitivity and irritation which then leads to inflammation. Chronic levels of inflammation (even low, undetected levels) can cause inflammaging.  This is accelerated aging due to the breakdown of molecules which results in a domino effect of free radical damage. I prefer the non-prescription version of Vitamin A called Retinol because even though it has the same rejuvenating properties (albeit slower to achieve) it is gentler on the skin.  If you choose to use Retinol you should us it in a serum form.  A good serum formula has excipients or ingredients that carry Retinol deeper into the skin, where you need it to be to do its work.  Liposomal retinol slowly gets released into the skin to minimize sensitivity.  Even so, you should start slowly and work up to three times a week if your skin can tolerate it.  Never apply retinol during the day because it reacts poorly with sun exposure.  Also never apply it at the same sitting as your AHA (glycolic, lactic or mandelic acids) because their pH is incompatible and you won’t get the beneficial effects of either product. Vitamin A is effective because it’s a skin normalizer.  It works by traveling percutaneously through the skin. That means it filters through the skin down to the dermal/epidermal junction where skin cell proliferation occurs.The epidermis or outer layer of the skin is arranged in a brick and mortar fashion. Imagine a brick wall.  The cells are shaped like building blocks that get compressed over time as they travel upwards towards the skin’s surface.  As we age some of these bricks fall out of alignment and some of the mortar (the lipid bi-layers that protect and hold in water) falls away.  This happens the same way an old brick wall starts to crumble and collapse over time.  When retinoids travel down to the basement (basil) layer they boost cell production which helps to refurbish the wall. As new cells travel quickly to the skin’s surface older cells are pushed upwards and flake off.  The epidermis becomes more organized as the wall begins to look and act more like younger skin.  Likewise, at the dermal/epidermal junction retinol stimulates cells in the dermis called fibroblasts to produce more collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans.   These are the supporting structures of the dermis which gives your skin that youthful firmness, plumpness and resilience.At the same time you apply Vitamin A on your skin you should be getting Vitamin A from your diet.  Beta Carotene from veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and broccoli contain this precursor to Vitamin A.  These foods are important in a diet for healthy skin.  The only caveat is that only about 4% of beta carotene actually turns into vitamin A.  That means, for really healthy skin you might want to turn to animal sources. Liver, grass fed butter, free range eggs, high quality cod liver oil and salmon are all good sources of Vitamin A.
  • Vitamin C
    Vitamin C is an essential vitamin; meaning we have to replace it daily because our bodies can’t make or store it.  Vitamin C has the antioxidant capacity to not only protects us from ultraviolet free radical damage (from the sun) but also from  pollutants and toxins in the environment that contribute to aging.  This is why we recommend applying Vitamin C  in the morning, before exposure to these skin disruptors.Vitamin C is important for the production of new collagen and blood vessels.  So daily application of Vitamin C assists in keeping skin firmer.  It is also an important tool to minimize pigmentation because of its skin brightening qualities.The best known form of Vitamin C is L-Ascorbic Acid.  The problem with L-Ascorbic Acid is that it is very unstable.  Often breaking down in the bottle before it is even applied.  L-Ascorbic Acid is also very acidic and can cause inflammation and sensitivity in some people.  I prefer the ester version of Vitamin C known as Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate.  Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is much more stable so it stays fresher longer.  It does convert to fresh L-ascorbic Acid and gets slowly released after its been applied to the skin.  Again I really like it in a serum for for better efficacy.You can get up to 60% of your Vitamin C needs topically.  Still it’s important to include Vitamin C in your daily diet.  The first food you probably think of for Vitamin C is oranges.  Oranges are actually kind of so so when it comes to Vitamin C content.  However, citrus is still important because the rind and pulp contains bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids are the part of Vitamin C that contributes to building healthy capillary walls. This is important because good circulation is vital for bringing the proper nutrients to your skin.  Also Vitamin C deficiencies may mean leaky capillaries… think rosacea or visible blood vessels (telangiectasias).
  • Vitamin ECell membranes have both a water and a lipid (fat) component. In-between the corneocyte cells at the surface of the skin are lipid bilayers.  At the very surface of the skin is a lipid barrier layer.  These are all very important components to keep skin well hydrated and protected it from irritants and infection.  Vitamin E’s job is to protect these layer from lipid peroxidation from a very damaging form of oxygen called reactive oxygen species (ROS).Vitamin E is somewhat fragile and can use some help with it’s very important job of  stopping free radicals from damaging fats in the skin. Since it can only neutralize one free radical at a time, once its done Vitamin E becomes neutralized.  When formulated in conjunction with Vitamin C,  Vitamin E can hand off the free radical electron to Vitamin C and then becomes reactivated again.  You can see why you might want to choose a serum formula that combines these two skin protecting ingredients.Almonds (and other nuts and seeds), spinach, avocados and wheat germ are excellent sources of Vitamin E. Since Vitamin E is subject to peroxidation itself these foods need to be stored correctly to maintain their Vitamin E potency.

Coming Soon!  Learn about other, more avant garde antioxidants that protect your skin.


What’s Your Anti-Aging Strategy?

What’s Your Anti-Aging Strategy?

Starting about the age fifty… no thirty-five… no twenty – you need to start developing an anti-aging strategy to preserve your skin so it will look and feel healthy and beautiful for the rest of your life.

Extrinsic aging actually begins in your teens.  Extrinsic aging is a fancy way of saying aging caused by environmental factors, like the sun. Matter fact sun damage seems to be the primary cause people equated with skin aging.  Although there are other environmental agers like pollution, poor diet, stress, smoking, alcohol and lack of sleep.  Anything that causes physical, emotional or chemical stress contributes to the breakdown of skin structures which results in skin aging.

Each decade brings about a new set of concerns and a new set of practices to handle them. By the time you turn sixty when intrinsic aging (aging from your biological clock) really kicks in, you already have created a major list of “to do’s” to keep up.

  • In your teens:
    You’re probably not focused on aging right now but you should be.  The signs of aging from bad habits, like not using sunscreen, might not be visible but unfortunately sun damage is accumulating invisibly beneath your skin. A few sunburns in your teens can set you up for premature aging and even skin cancer.  Play it safe by monitoring your sun exposure to avoid sunburns.  And please start using a sunscreen daily.
  • In your twenties:
    Many of us in their twenties feel indestructible, living life a little less cautiously than maybe they should. When you enter your twenties the regenerative powers in your skin are strong. But by throwing caution to the wind through extreme environmental exposure like too much sun, alcohol, lack of sleep and smoking – environmental aging starts to show. By twenty five your collagen production starts to slow down. Age spots and fine lines (usually around the eyes) may become apparent. To minimize this make sure to keep up with your sunscreen.  Introduce a gentle exfoliating scrub a couple times a week to boost skin’s natural cellular healing. Also focus on keeping your hydration levels up, start by using a non-clogging moisturizer appropriate for your skin type. Dry skin types, in their late twenties may want to supplement with an oil free hydrating serum based on the super hydrator – hyaluronic acid. Approaching thirty, your skin may become drier as collagen, ceramides and antioxidant production decline.  Make sure you are using the best cleaning method for your skin type so you are not clogging your pores nor over drying your skin.
  • In your thirties:
    Your thirties often brings about new life challenges; more responsibility from your job or kids means more stress. This, along with hormone changes and you might experience a resurgence of breakouts (usually on the chin) accompanied by drier skin, fine lines and pigmentation challenges (oh what fun).  This is the time when eating well, adequate sleep, exercise, and sun protection have an even greater impact on your skin. In your early thirties growth hormone also begins to decline.  It now takes longer for your skin to repair itself.  If you haven’t started supplementing with an antioxidant rich repair serum, now’s the time. Antioxidants not only protect you from environmental damage but also protect against chronic inflammaging.  This is a type of environmental aging that occurs from chronic low level environmental irritants – like toxins in your diet. The most tried and true topical antioxidant is Vitamin C.  You can get up to 60% of your skin’s Vitamin C requirements by applying it topically.  Eating Vitamin C rich foods is also essential.  If you get professional facials the focus should shift slightly away from extractions and a little bit more towards supplying skin strengthening nutrients to your skin to keeping it strong, healthy, young and hydrated.
  • In your forties:
    Skin metabolism slows down even further in your forties.  That means you need to boost collagen and elastin repair and replacement.  Vitamin C, Retinol, Peptides and AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are your best tools for doing just that.  Regular exfoliation sends skin into a renewal and repair response.
    Somewhere in your mid forties estrogen production starts to slow down as you enter perimenopause.  Estrogen is a natural anti-inflammatory so the loss of it may mean that your skin becomes more sensitive. Gravity takes a toll on your skin and it may become looser.  Loss of estrogen, which was stored in the skin keeping it plump, is kind of like letting the air out of an inflated mattress.  This adds to skin laxity.
    Facial treatments using LED (light emitting diodes) help harness skin’s energy to jump start repair and replacement of collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans that support a healthy dermis.  Microcurrent treatments help exercise muscles just below the skin to visibly lift and tone the skin.
  • In your fifties:
    Most women reach menopause in their early fifties.  This means more dryness, increased sensitivity and deeper lines while pigmentation from past sun damage decides to make an appearance (once repressed by estrogen).
    Energy is all important.  Again LED is an invaluable energizing tool to boost energy.  Investigate serums that contain energizing ingredients like ergothioneine, CoQ10, or hydrolyzed sea algin which helps jump start sleepy stem cells into the act of repairing the skin.  Stem cells are responsible for activating fibroblasts, the cells in the dermis which lay down new collagen and elastin.
  • In your sixties and above:
    As biological aging kicks in, a major factor in skin aging is maintaining your skin’s protective barrier function.  This lipid layer is found on the surface of the skin as well as in the skin’s bilayers.  Choose occlusive or lipid based ingredients to coat the skin’s surface.  This not only softens and conditions your skin, it prevents dehydration as well as inflammation.  Try a creamier cleanser based omega 3 fatty acids.  You also need to get more Omega 3s in your diet.  There is an ingredient called ursolic acid, derived from rosemary extracts, that actually stimulates your skin to manufacture more of its own natural barrier lipids.
    Most biological aging starts to kick in about age sixty.  You may think there is nothing you can do about this gene driven form of aging (which only amounts to 10% of aging).  You can’t change your genetics, but you can change your epigenetics.  This is how genes express themselves.  They get turned on or off due to lifestyle habits.  It has to do with telomeres, which are little caps at the end of chromosomes. Think of the caps as the ends of shoelaces. Telomeres get shorter each time the cell divides.  When it gets too short the cell dies.  While this is a new area of skin aging science, it is very promising.  It is thought that gene expression goes back to what you are eating and drinking, how you sleep and exercise and how you manage stress.
    Your skincare choices in your sixties should be based on:

    • protecting your DNA (Vitamin C and other antioxidants)
    • energizing cells (ergothioneine, CoQ10, LED treatments)
    • stimulating stem cells for repair (Sea Algin, Swiss Apple Extracts, Microchanneling)
    • Calming Inflammaging (resveratrol, green tea, licorice root extract)You may want to research MicroChanneling treatments which have lots of research behind it which suggests it stimulates new collagen, firmer skin, softens lines and normalizes pigmentation.Anti-aging means strengthening and protecting your body so it can stave off irritants, free radicals, stress and other age related aggressors.



Elizabeth has been a pioneer in the skincare industry since 1979.  As one of the first licensed estheticians in Massachusetts, armed with a background in biomedical science, she’s become a sought-after skincare expert and master esthetician, spa owner, educator, and product formulator.  Elizabeth specializes in investigative skincare science with the goal to uncover the most effective ways to create your healthiest, most beautiful skin ever. The focus here is to pass on credible, contemporary, non-medical skincare information so you will be better informed when deciding what to adopt as part of your own skincare strategy.