“Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish!” (William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Act 2)
Elf-skin? Is that me?
Here we are again with our slack crepe paper look, just a wee bit nervous about a disturbing turn in the mirror of late, toward…elf-skin?
What to do? What TO DO!!
The Big Picture: topical skincare has hit a new low in public satisfaction with over 70% finding themselves unhappy with the results. This has inspired more clever ways to tap our wallets. Results? Well, there are always those “studies” that proclaim our return to embryonic form in a matter of moments by choosing This Great Product. It never seems to happen to us, though. We just shrivel up more.
Elf skin. Gad.
The latest approach to revisit our embryonic bliss is to gadgets. Actually, gadgets have been in full swing for over a decade but lately it seems you can find them in any hardware store. For a few hundred dollars you can have an “FDA approved” (they’re not, not ever) device that will tighten your skin up like a snare drum.
Reverse aging, even!
The devices range from various micro-current probe designs, to ultrasound, galvanic stimulators, infrared lights, magnetic wands and pads, heat lamps, UV and cosmic ray enhancers, oxygen infusion, nitrogen infusion, gigantic hold-on-Betsy enemas, vacuum cleaner like suction, fake mirrors, ordinary sandblasting, exotic particles from asteroids micro-blasting, tenderizing with micro-perforations (this is all true!), lasers of every possible wavelength, wide spectrum light guns, space travel for zero gravity improvements – no sagging in outer space! and for absolute tightening beginning at the fanny and spreading in all directions – a letter from the IRS.
Then there be those RFD or radio frequency devices. What are they?
They are electronic gizmos that heat up your skin and tighten it. That’s it.
Why the fuss and feathers? Why not use my $19 clothes iron from e-Bay? Lay that old elf skin on the ironing board, turn that iron down to “silk” and flatten it out, dude.
Hmm, a bit awkward.
Ok, why not my hair dryer? Shazam! Cooked.
The RFD’s do this in a more precise way, that is the temperature setting is exactly set, so they say. Presumably below 115 F and somewhere north of 110 F. Heating helps with skin tightening.
Great! That’s it?
Well, no. The expectations and results are not in synch. And Bad Things Can Happen.
I knew you’d say that. You’re such a down cat.
The Skin Dork merely wishes to be accurate and precise. This requires understanding the forces at work on us AND what we do to ourselves to make things worse.
Oh, okay. Here we go again. The Dork goes off.
Backstory: Much of the protein in the skin is cross-linked like strands in a rope – collagen and elastin especially. As we age, or in trauma, those crosslinks knot up and the synovial fluid is displaced. The texture of the skin becomes loose, more like gristle and “crepey” with no turgor or resilience. Saggy, baggy, stiff and… thinner. As time goes marching on, the amount of collagen becomes less and less and what is there is Not Too Good. That’s all in the dermis, the lower part of the skin next to the muscle.
In the upper layers of the skin, the epidermis, the protein is arranged like a brick wall and beneath that are the springs and bouncy stuff in the dermis that is fast getting un-springy.
What happens next is like describing a train wreck. The epidermis and the dermis become upside down and tangled up and every which way loose. This train wreck is sometimes called “aging” and that’s about all anyone can say about aging. Aging of the skin is first and foremost a loss of structural integrity (a mess). Hold that thought as we go deeper.
Skin aging tends to be related to 1) damage by excessive UV ray exposure (for which sunscreens will NOT help or prevent) and 2) poorly replicating daughter cells (son cells apparently don’t even count) where errors are magnified generation to generation.
Can temporary spot heating correct all that?
You’re going somewhere with all this, I hope.
Yes, true. The RFD is designed to heat the skin in order to rearrange the sulf-hydryl bonds in the proteins there which in turn will re-establish crosslinks and increase fluid (water) in that area. The immediate result is plump skin.
Ozzum! That’s it?
Well, much the same thing happens when you shampoo your hair with warm water. The foaming chemicals in the shampoo stimulate a particular kind of crosslinking in the hair follicle that in time will leave the hair frazzled – that is, the links are chemically charged. The warm water ‘sets’ this charge. That is why changing your shampoo will change to a fuller feeling in your hair because you have rearranged the bonds. In truth, your hair becomes progressively more deranged. Conditioners are meant to correct this, but merely smother the problem and in time, Nature will say, no more. You look like you have been in a forest fire, or have your finger stuck in an electric socket.
The RFD attempts to control temperature for an instant up to 115 F when the protein “de-natures” and the SH bonds re-arrange. The skin however is very busy cooling the area as the RFD is applied and the battle can be difficult to control with heating suddenly getting the upper hand and Bad Things Happen and the temperature goes beyond an ionic change and minor tissue damage occurs.
The heating will bring about a temporary proliferation of new protein sand bags and fragments that will, in swelling, seem to have satisfied the need for a fuller, plumper look. For a short time. Continued use of the device however can deplete the skin of healthy cells and leave a legacy of broken-down old soldiers and a ragged, depleted look. In other words, the influx is artificial and not sustained. You have not fooled Nature and the consequences for trying are not pleasing to the mirror.