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Skin and Immortality

The fund raising season must be on us again as the usual suspects are out proclaiming the end of aged related mortality is “just around the corner“ (a phrase popularized during the Great Depression, alas).

Recent gee whiz articles in otherwise gee whiz technical feature journals have identified various orally dosed chemicals as definite maybes, right now, on the must have list for immortality. A few topicals are also in the mix.

Curious or not, most of these must haves are endocrine system “actives” which would seem to say the only hurdle in front of an everlasting marriage made in heaven will be some fine tuning of hormones and excretions from the pituitary and hippocamus. Great, huh.

Whenever I think of immortality at the physical level the question of what will I do as age 186 arises. Snow skiing the Matterhorn? Reckless old folks will become a cliche. Imagine also that 186th Thanksgiving dinner with relatives with whom you were on the outs with when 27.

Picture a 200 year old fossil comes waddling up to the Social Security window and finds out his benefits have run out and he has to go back to work until age 350 and then re-apply.

Could the Dallas Cowboys set a losing streak never to be equalled? Never is a word that will go out of style, I feel confident.

What happens when we are tired of chicken? Forever.

Forever. Now there’s a word that will be used to scare children. To death.

And they lived “happily for awhile” will be the new tag line.

Another unhappy fact is that while you may be a living fossil, your skin will not be immortal.

Skin, along with hair and fingernails (departments of the skin), is the only organ that relies on fast turnover as a way of adaptation to the environment. It improvises protein and organelle structures over time for protection against new enviro insults. But, alas, there are only so many turnovers in the life span of skin and then it’s game over.

By the way, some theories hold that this “adaptation” is just accumulated damage and eventually we just fall apart as a way the gene drive has of thinning the herd. Meaning us. Think about driving a 1957 Plymouth with 905,547 miles?

Either way, add in long term oral medications and skin can become randomly unstable instead of youthfully resilient and nimble. Skin evolved from the brain and that means trouble for the immortals of the future.

This needs some ‘splainin.’

Not many years ago the molecular biochemistry of the skin was traced (with mice that have good approximations of human skin) from embryonic to advanced age (a few years for the mice ). There were certain proteins that were extant in embryonic form that gradually disappeared with age. With some manipulation the researchers re-introduced the embryonic proteins and voila! (they said that), the skin quickly became as plump and perfect as a baby mouse. Cool.

And they died very soon after. The mice that is. This could present an unwanted detail with our immortality schemes. Death by youth serums. It’s already happening.

The skin is in a constant state of flux and trying to have it hold still and stay the same as it was at nine years old, or revert back, is like trying to unsee Edvard Munch’s, The Scream, as anything but a bad painting of a dog with long ears. Once the skin has adapted, it does not un-adapt. Or, once it has been damaged, there is no going back.

Optimized skincare can claw back some of this damage in looks, and in optimizing, the reversal in the look of chronologic aging can be remarkable, but the biology clock is relentless in one direction (see ENTROPY at veritasium.com) as energy in a system (us) spreads out over time, it dissipates. Fatigue – at the cellular level.

This is biologic flux the skin works to hold at bay. It is a step by step progression over time to senescence (low energy cellular activity). In practice, the skin gradually becomes uninhabited. The cells in the skin check out of the hotel. Day by day. Recently a researcher proclaimed his success in identifying key skin components and topical administrations to inhibit the process and make the skin wake up again and what, become immortal !? He apparently did not get the message that skin cells go to senescent also as a protection against cancer which is really just cells reproducing like crazy.

What?

Yes, the skin’s number one job is protection – that the brain has developed over millions of years. The reason you can read a person’s life in their face is because it has evidence of his or her travails with the environment over a lifetime. The skin battles with intruders at every moment. It protects the internals, is the largest organ with many different geographies and extraordinarily complex in every locale.

The skin as a proton donor (think Rust-o-Leum) has only so many sacrifices to make. The epidermis is about twenty cells deep and the bottom cells rise to the top and out to slough off every thirty days until the population of cells making it to the top becomes fewer and fewer as does the entire population. This defines the aging process. Finally we reach a state of skin senescence. Cells just go to sleep, stop functioning and take on a flat, dry, impervious character. Grandma skin. That’s the last word in protection. Nothing gets in, not even water.

What you look like at 80 years old, however, at the surface, can be independent of the wallboard underneath. Up to a point. Then at age 186, all bets are off and at best, you look like hell on a good day, or maybe skincare in that era will amount to replacement transfers of shark skin that has none of the skin problems we terrestrials face. On the other hand, if you find yourself randomly eating license plates at age 187 like in Jaws, it could be you need to talk to your plastic surgeon at that time. Memo to self.

You can accelerate the aging process with exfoliation by increasing the rate of cell turnover. But why would you want to look great on Tuesday and lousy the rest of the week. Especially though why do you want to use up all of your Tuesdays?

You can, conversely, decelerate the process with a slower skin metabolism that has been optimized to ideal cell signaling — clawing back what time (entropy) has taken. This is the basis of the TRAINING MODEL found in the Reference Topics at 302 Skincare.com.

Genetics will predispose you to an earlier or later “aging look.” Some got it, some ain’t. Or, as dear old mom used to say about her ex, “He had a natural, genetic smile, descended from a long line of traffic cops.”

Happily, the gene cards we have been dealt allow for some draws.

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