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All about cellular senescence and how it impacts your skin aging

Cellular senescence is the scientific term for what happens when your cells stop regenerating. Senescent skin cells make the underlying structure collapse, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. Senescence is caused by oxidative stress when we have too many free radicals in our systems. Free radicals are found in pollution, tobacco smoke, and fried foods. A good way of combating free radicals is through antioxidants. Use antioxidant-rich skincare products like Qyral to treat free radicals directly on the skin, and eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and proteins to get antioxidants from your diet.

All about cellular senescence and how it causes signs of aging

young woman with crow's feet around eyes

At Qyral, we’re passionate about aging! Knowing the ways in which our body ages, and what causes some of us to age faster, can help us all to live longer, healthier lives. One of the key factors that causes signs of aging on our skin is cellular senescence. That’s the scientific term for what happens when our cells stop regenerating. As you might imagine, that’s catastrophic — not just for our skin, but for our whole bodies. So what causes our cells to stop regenerating, and how can we prevent it from happening? Find out now!

What is cellular senescence? 

Cellular senescence is the term used for the stage in our cells’ lives when they stop regenerating. Our cells have a life cycle that they constantly repeat in order to keep our bodies healthy and functioning. In the simplest terms, cells divide, creating new cells. Those new cells then grow and divide themselves, constantly replenishing old, dead cells. Senescent cells don’t regenerate anymore, meaning there are no new cells to replace them. They aren’t dead, but they aren’t healthy either.

It only takes one senescent cell to create a chain reaction among nearby cells, making them all enter senescence too. And there’s no cure for cellular senescence — once a cell stops regenerating, there is no way to fix it.

Senescence is a natural part of the aging process, but sometimes cells enter senescence too early, resulting in signs of premature aging.

How cellular senescence causes signs of aging

diagram of young vs old cells

Image source: Audrey S. Wang and Oliver Dreesen "Biomarkers of Cellular Senescence and Skin Aging" Front Genet. 2018; 9: 247. Published online 2018 Aug 23. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2018.00247

Once cells stop regenerating, they aren’t replaced by new, healthy cells. When skin cells suffer from senescence, this leads to a dull, tired complexion. Skin structure can also break down, causing fine lines and wrinkles. Because senescence is a normal part of the aging process, these signs are typical for most of us as we get older. However prematurely senescent cells can cause signs of aging to appear before they should.

Young, healthy skin is supported by collagen and elastin. They provide structure, level the surface, and keep skin supple and hydrated. This not only improves the skin’s appearance, but helps support its role as a protective barrier. When skin is dry, thin, and damaged, it is less effective at performing this function, which can lead to dehydration or infection.

Of course cellular senescence doesn’t just happen to our skin cells. All our cells have a finite lifespan before they stop replicating, which is how our bodies age and eventually die. The condition of our skin cells is a good indicator of what’s going on elsewhere in our bodies. That means signs of premature aging on our faces are important markers that our cells are aging inside as well.

What causes cellular senescence?

A number of factors can affect how quickly our cells age. Genetics plays a key role, but so does lifestyle and environment. One of the key factors affecting premature aging is oxidative stress. This is a condition caused when too many free radicals get into our system.

Free radicals are unstable compounds that contain unpaired electrons. Because electrons like to be paired, they will “steal” electrons from other parts of our bodies. This destabilizes the cells that the free radicals attack, leading to damage, breakdowns, and mutated DNA. While some free radicals are inescapable (because our bodies make them), too many free radicals causing too much damage leads to oxidative stress. This is a condition where the number of  free radicals in our system becomes too much for our bodies to regulate, leading to cascading damage through our cells. One result of that damage is cellular senescence.

Where do free radicals come from?

vehicle fumes and pollution on a city street

Free radicals get into our bodies in one of two ways: through external exposure, and as a side-effect of metabolic processes. Externally, pollutants such as vehicle exhausts and tobacco smoke are common producers of free radicals. UV light (sunlight) can also cause free radicals, as do many carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) such as asbestos and radon gas. 

Internally, our bodies create free radicals as a result of several metabolic processes. The mitochondria in our cells create free radicals as they convert energy, but we can also consume them when we eat a diet of fried, fatty foods.

How to combat free radicals

The best way to fight free radicals is to make lifestyle changes that limit exposure to them. That means no smoking and less junk food. People who live in urban areas have a higher exposure to environmental free radicals such as air pollution and vehicle fumes, but nowhere is completely free of free radicals in the air. The best solution to combat free radical exposure is therefore to use antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules that carry spare electrons that they give up to free radicals. This prevents free radicals from scavenging electrons from our cells. Our bodies make antioxidants to combat free radicals, but we can also help by getting more from our diets and skincare products. 

Skincare products rich in antioxidants can help combat the damage caused by free radicals we absorb from our environments. They fight free radicals right on our skin, where they’re most likely to enter our bodies and cause harm to our cells. Many anti-aging products contain antioxidants as an important part of their formulation, including Qyral products.

We can also get antioxidants from food. Oranges, walnuts, avocados, seafood, garlic, and green tea are all great sources of antioxidants. Try to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and proteins to get the most benefit from your diet. Antioxidant supplements such as Qyral’s Sustain Supplement are also available, and can help your body get the support it needs to combat free radicals, avoid oxidative stress, and reduce the appearance of premature aging.

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