Skip to content

The Science of Skin Care: Energy Production in the Cell

In my opinion, mitochondria, antioxidants, and protection from UV are the keys to keeping skin healthy for the many years our skin has to do its job. In other words, the need to protect skin from UV and strong oxidants, and to protect the integrity of mitochondria is NOT age specific. It is not practical to have several mitochondria creams to target different ages. It is easier to formulate the best possible mitochondria cream (Revitalizing Night Cream) and “layer” products to complement its action. For example, a woman of 50 may wish to layer Anti-Aging Cream on top of Revitalizing Night Cream and/or Collagen Serum.

Let me explain why mitochondria are so important and so worth the best possible care we can afford. You may have read this information before, because cell structure and energy production are so important to our lives and to Skin Actives.

Mitochondria provide energy as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the form of energy our cells can use to do “housekeeping,” grow, and divide. This is true. Not just for us humans, but for all eukaryotes (organisms with nuclei). Mitochondria use molecular oxygen to extract a lot of energy that would otherwise be lost, and foodstuff is eventually converted to low energy water and carbon dioxide.

The science behind these statements is so complex and so awesome, that you would have to study carefully several textbooks or read the Nobel lectures of many awardees to comprehend it. I am not trying to make it easy (that’s impossible) but just to convey its importance.

This great energy-converting efficiency comes at a cost: mitochondria produce strong oxidants like hydrogen peroxide, superoxide, and hydroxyl radicals as by-products. All of the cell’s sophisticated antioxidant mechanisms (including vitamin C, glutathione, vitamin E, and various antioxidant enzymes) can’t completely protect mitochondria from slow but persistent damage. This oxidative stress makes mitochondria age at a faster pace than the rest of the cell, because oxidation of lipids, proteins, RNA, and DNA is faster. Indeed, oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA (the only organelle with its own DNA outside the nucleus) is 8 to 10-fold higher than the damage found in nuclear DNA. Oxidative damage also adversely affects the inner mitochondrial membrane, where the crucial enzyme ATPase is located and where ATP is produced. The phospholipids of the inner mitochondrial membrane change and become even more sensitive to oxidative damage. These changes are bound to affect membrane fluidity and permeability, and will certainly impair the ability of mitochondria to meet cellular energy demands.

Oxidant-induced acceleration of senescence has major consequences for mitochondria. Aged mitochondria lose efficiency in their job of extracting the last bit of energy from foodstuff, and enzyme activity and substrate binding affinity decrease. It has been found that this decay in function can be partially reversed in aged animals by feeding them the mitochondrial metabolites, acetyl carnitine and lipoic acid. Information of this sort provides circumstantial evidence for the mitochondrial theory of aging (a.k.a. free radical theory of aging), which states that the slow accumulation of impaired mitochondria is the driving force of the aging process.

Even if we don’t accept the theory that mitochondrial aging is the cause of overall aging, there is no doubt that deterioration of mitochondria is at least partially responsible for the aging of the whole organism. Up to now, this information has been translated into the topical application of alpha lipoic acid, acetyl carnitine, and various antioxidants in anti-age skin care products. We take the effect of oxidants on the cell very seriously, so we have been offering acetyl carnitine and alpha lipoic acid both, as pure chemicals and in ready-to-use skin care products. We also broadened the spectrum of antioxidants (see for example our Antioxidant Booster) and lipids (ELS) for the prevention and reversal of skin damage. Addition of mitochondrial concentrate to our actives and ready mixed products is a natural step in the efforts of Skin Actives Scientific to bring the benefits of scientific knowledge and technology to our clients.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak