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Nature versus Nurture

Is your skin’s ageing profile handed down in your genes  like curly hair, blue eyes, nose shape, height…or is it a product of how we live, where we live, how we eat and how we take care of ourselves in the modern world.

The truth is, we don’t have all the answers.

Naturally, genetic predictors play a part in how our skin behaves but it’s not the full story and intrinsic ageing effects, those from our family ties, will be more likely to show up a little later in life. 

What we do know, through extensive clinical studies and ever developing and deepening understanding of our biology; is that cellular health, vitality and skin structural integrity can be directly affected by our environment and lifestyle choices, the way we look after ourselves can start to take its toll as early as our 30s!

First things first though, is to understand some essential facts about…biological ageing. 


These are your cellular powerhouses; it is the energy, the battery of your cells. Mitochondria produce an energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the energy for all functions of the body.

Without it life cannot exist, it really is that simple.

We get this energy conversion from food. This process creates free radicals; this is a natural part of the process. The difficulty is our bodies  are increasingly overloaded with free radicals (from poor lifestyle choices and environmental toxins). Without proper protection, we weaken our cells’ ability to convert energy and we start to see the effects of this depletion on our skin health and vitality.

Cell Garbage

All cells produce waste, healthy cells can eliminate this waste quickly but when they are  fighting elevated levels of free radical activity, it makes the job a lot harder. This can lead to build up of yellow brown coloured residues which causes a cell age-induced pigment called lipofuscan. This manifests as age spots (not to be confused with freckles, which are produced by melanin). Lipofuscan accelerates ageing by interfering with cellular health, repair and replication.


Inflammation is the emergency reaction of the cells to rush to a site of trauma and isolate, protect and repair. This can be triggered by a sudden trauma to the skin (burn / rash etc) or chronic, low grade, longer term and continual assault on the skin. This may be physical, biological, or chemical in origin.

As Dr Marisa Garshick MD points out:

“Environmental stressors such as UV damage, pollution, tobacco, can lead to free radical damage and cause uneven skin tone, brown spots, roughness and fine lines and wrinkles.”

This continual assault on skin is known to be one of the biggest contributors to ageing. This process of continual stimulation within the protective reactors in the skin, ultimately releases enzymes called MMPs (Matrix Metallo Proteinases), they break down tissue – injured tissue, the very tissue that gives our skin strength, structure and resilience…among them collagen and elastin fibres. These become disorganised, non structured and irregular – which in turn results in the surface complexion becoming aged through discoloration, lines and texture irregularity.

As Dr Garshick points out; “The key to good skincare is not waiting until you can see the problem to start taking care of your skin. Skincare should be built into a routine to prevent or minimize the chance of the problems from even developing.”

So what’s the answer…nature or nurture? Does our family define the way we age and how our skin will behave? Well in truth, you can’t stop time, but you can slow it down and biology does not need to entirely define your destiny.