Cheap, Beautiful Skin

Beauty Is Not Just Skin Deep

Posted May 01, 2014

What does a $46 billion hostile offer for a drug/cosmetics company and  physical exercise have in common? Is it that the office lobby of the upstart pharmaceutical company making the offer is also a basketball court?

No. It’s that both promise healthy, beautiful looking skin. Though at very different prices.

Valeant Pharmaceutical has merged and merged until it is now big enough – combined with a big league hedge fund – to go after Allergan, the maker of botox. Botulinum toxin has gone from something any parent opening an oddly shaped tin can feared might kill their kids to  quickest way to unwrinkled, gorgeous skin.

At a cost. At this stage, $46 billion and counting. Botox works.  But with the side effect of millions of frozen faces.

But what true price can be placed on beauty?

However, there appears to be another way to healthy, good looking, younger skin. It’s also one that taps in to how your body naturally regenerates itself.

Butt Checks

McMaster University in Ontario, home to some of the world’s most interesting clinical population studies, has done another, small one. It involved studying and then biopsying people’s rear ends.

Parts that get less sun exposure.

The issue, as described by Gretchen Reynolds in the April 22nd issue of the New York Times, was the aging of skin.

As we grow older, skin grows thicker – especially the outer layer. The inner layer gets thinner. The result – more flaking, discolorations – stuff that looks old.

The McMaster researchers decided to biopsy the lower “cheeks” of people to see if exercise made a difference.

It did. Older people who exercised more had much younger looking skin – in a place where sun exposure is relatively uncommon - at least in Canada.

But as anybody who studies such things knows, association is not causality. Were the exercisers just genetically lucky? Eaters of “healthier” foods? More likely to use yoga to settle stress than four beers and a pack of cigarettes?

So the researchers took a group of age 65 and older (“elderly” folks – yes, you know who you are) and have the kind of buttocks that Sex and the City aficionados know is the death knell of romance. Carefully selected for inactivity, this cohort was forced into moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day.

And then had their butts biopsied again. The result – much younger looking skin.

Thereby producing a potential answer to an American conundrum that engages some of the public far more personally than the fate of Ukraine or global climate change: how can I get nice looking skin – on the cheap.

Here are some potential answers:

A. Make sure your parents did not leave you uncovered at the beach when you were a kid. Secondary and tertiary burns in childhood don’t just affect skin clarity and beauty, but rates of cancer throughout life.

Okay, you can’t do much about that. But you can:

1. Walk. In sunlight. With friends.

Or alternatively, use an stepper/treadmill/elliptical/weight room/rower/exercycle or just plain squat a lot.

Walking back and forth to work or lunch or the grocery store may do it. Using perhaps a tenth of the time you do it moving very fast (for you) may turn on a whole host of genes that will make the regenerative job quicker.

2. Wear a hat. UV light causes lovely tans and darkened, quickly aging skin plus all kinds of different skin cancers.

You do want light on your eyes, for reasons of mood/body clocks/alertness/productivity. Some would argue you want it on some of your skin to make vitamin D.

But hats protect the places that really produce the most skin cancers.

And hats can be beautiful. Refined. Elegant. Expressive. Romantic. Fashion fabulous.

Hats have been so been for most of history. Why a celebrity obsessed culture has not yet responded to hats is a mystery.

Perhaps hats require certain, easily wearable hairstyles.  Which may be a very small price to pay for lovely, unwrinkled skin and smaller dermatologist’s bills.

3. Use sun screen.

The Australians did a clinical trial. One beach town got free sun screen – for more than a decade. The one next door did not.

Melanoma rates were half in the freely available sun screen town.

Melanoma, like other skin cancers, disfigures. It can quickly kill.  And it hits lots of young people.

Sun worshipping – with lots of open, spread skin – has its costs. Melanoma rates in the UK are up about several fold in the last few decades – supposedly the result of more and more Britons temporarily escaping the rainy, sceptred isles and burning themselves on Spanish, Italian and Greek beaches.

Much of that’s preventable.

Lovely, Inexpensive Skin

As the offer for Allergan shows, drugs that promise younger, better looking skin should remain lucrative for a long time. People will want “the pill” – the magic formula – that will disappear years and bring back the illusion of youth.

The human body knows better.

You don’t get something for nothing. Making things work requires effort. Particularly the kinds of activities,  like walking, it is designed to do.

The human body constantly remakes itself. Most of the heart is remade in three days. Much of your skin is wholly “new” in weeks.

But what you do to your body changes your skin. Just like it changes everything else that you are and become.

For your body is a regenerative information system. UV light is very different information from what pops off that yellow looking LED on your nightstand. And the body responds differently.

What would be the advantage to the country of more folks walking around wearing a hat, sunscreen on nose and ears?

More than younger skin. Here are just a few other advantages:

1. A longer lived population. 2. A happier, less depressed population 3. More productive people 4. Less pollution 5. Thinner waistline 6. Less diabetes. 7. Perhaps less money spent on health care.

We can do it. We can have cheaper, more beautiful skin for the larger population – without massive public outlays for botox and designer skin creams. 

Cheap, beautiful skin. Maybe that’s the kind of political platform both parties can support.