Anti-aging, Peptides, and Health
Aging is an inevitable, natural biological process. We appreciate aging in art, food, wine and liquor, cars, buildings, and even nature, but few of us appreciate our own aging.
Everyone wants to look beautiful, “young and flawless”, that’s the corporate definition of beauty. There’s a billion-dollar anti-aging industry promoting this temporary glamour, achieved primarily with peptides, fragments of proteins that make structural and functional changes to your body, just like drugs. Peptide drugs are already used to treat and manage disease. However, unlike peptide drugs, cosmetics containing peptides do not have to undergo any clinical trials or FDA approval before being sold to you, even though they perform similar functions in your body, such as modulating cell proliferation, cell migration, inflammation, angiogenesis, and protein synthesis and regulation.
A variety of cosmetic brands use peptides: Olay, Avon, Mary Kay, BeautyCounter, Crunchi, MadHippie, Osea, Tata Harper, and Twenty / Twenty. Though some use peptides as a selling point in their marketing and product descriptions, others are sneakier. They focus your attention on what’s not in their products: fragrance, phthlates, parabens. But what matters is what is in their products, verifiable (one hopes) by the ingredient list. It can be tricky to spot peptides on the ingredient list, as they are frequently hidden within trademarked ingredients, such as Matrixyl 3000.
Peptide-containing cosmetics are quick-acting, promise instantaneous, time-defying results, and frequently, artificially, transitorily, and unsustainably, deliver on that promise, but at what cost to your long-term health?
Whenever you buy a cosmetic, you are putting your faith, trust, health, and safety in the hands of the cosmetics industry, an industry that rarely, if ever, addresses consumer safety in any way other than after the fact. Matrixyl 3000 is the trademarked name for a specific mixture of palmitoyl tetrapeptides used widely in cosmetics. Palmitoyl peptides are cell messengers that stimulate protein remodeling, cell proliferation, and migration, and regulate the sequence of events required for skin healing. Skincare companies that use peptides, such as Matrixyl 3000, in their products almost invariably only conduct any testing, if any, to reassure that the short-term results seem fantastic, seemingly without any regard whatsoever for any long-term complications for the consumer/user/test subject/victim/plaintiff…You. But what happens when you fight the natural course of your biology by using anti-aging peptides on your skin for years, or even decades?
To skin cells, palmitoyl tetrapeptides resemble chewed up bits of collagen. When you apply products containing them to your skin, your skin cells panic at the seeming lack of intact cellular collagen, so they kick into overdrive, flooding your system with collagen, and your face plumps up and you lose your wrinkles…Presto! Magic! Except…The long-term effects of using anti-aging cosmetics are similar to those of opioid or other hard drug use, flooding your body with dopamine and endorphins. With peptides, just like hard drugs, to attempt to maintain and achieve the same effect, you have to keep using and increasing the amount you use. Then, to counteract the inevitable side-effects, you have to use more and more and different products, all in vain. Your vanity is crowding your vanity. Soon, your beauty regimen is expensive, time-consuming, and unsustainable. Your vanity has become cluttered in every way.
The real danger is that your body may then shut down collagen production (or some other metabolic processes), require more of the product to maintain some semblance of stasis, or worse, there may not be anything to hold the overreaction in check. What if your cells just keep making collagen and don’t stop? Your metabolic pathways are interconnected, so an increase in collagen has effects on other reactions in your body, and may stimulate a different pathway or pathways, that, with time and repeated use, lead to uncontrolled proliferation of your skin or other cells in your body…In a word, cancer.
(After more than a decade of fighting to prove causality, consumers of Johnson and Johnson talcum baby powder who ended up with cancer won their fight. Despite all of Johnson and Johnson’s avoidance tactics (such as filing for bankruptcy) they agreed to pay $8.9 billion to the plaintiffs.)
Remember, anyone can put anything in a jar and legally sell it as a cosmetic, and they frequently do.
Unlike with drugs, the FDA isn’t legally responsible for making sure your cosmetics are safe. Instead, the FDA relies on consumers to report any adverse reactions to cosmetics. Corporations exploit this and other loopholes by mislabeling drugs as cosmetics to avoid expensive and time-consuming clinical trials, enabling them to create new fads and cash in, and you, the consumer/research subject pay them to do their beta-testing on you in the marketplace.
Much like Instagram filters, skincare that promises young and flawless-looking skin provides little more than an illusion of skin health. It’s unattainable, unsustainable, and does not address your skin as the dynamic organ it is. Aspiring to this illusion of skin health by using anti-aging skincare products pits you against your own inevitable biological processes; you’re fighting a losing battle, feeding your insecurities, creating addictions, and wasting money.
Instead, why not work with your biology and Mother Nature? True beauty encompasses and is characterized by any attribute that provides an experience of pleasure or satisfaction. To look in the mirror and feel dissatisfied, insecure, and anxious doesn’t provide a feeling of beauty to anyone. Beauty begins within, from a positive mindset, positive habits, discipline, regular exercise, and good nutrition promoting a healthy gut, restful sleep, and healthy, functional skin.
Don’t try to cheat Father Time or fool Mother Nature. Make informed decisions about your skin care. Look for products informed by time-tested lore and clinically-tested science. Read the ingredient list. Take the long view, build long-term interrelationships and mutually-enhancing symbioses sustained by providing healthy, holistic, scientific skin care to benefit you for your lifetime. That’s beautiful.
A version of this blog post is published in my local newspaper, the Davis Enterprise. There is no paywall to view my articles in the Davis Enterprise. Simply click the X in the red circle to read my article.