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The fibroblast is one of the most important cells involved in ageing skin. You can find it in the lower layer of the epidermis and the dermis. It has many functions, one of which is the production of key components like hyaluron (filling + hydration), collagen (strength + structure) and elastin (flexibility + stretch). It particularly has to work hard to replenish hyaluronic acid or hyaluron as this filling component only has a half-life in the skin of several hours up to a day. Good quality collagen can last 15 years and elastin up to 70 years. It is also believed to be involved in the clean-up of dysfunctional components, like for example broken elastin, which is visible photodamage-damage and called solar elastosis. Fibroblast senescence (agedness) does also increase the risk of age spots. In proper ageing skin management, the fibroblast is a key target-cell.
Many aesthetic in-office treatments like ultrasound, radio-frequency, chemical peelings, laser etc. are based on causing controlled damage to the skin provoking wound-healing. This is the base of their rejuvenating or aesthetic impact. The number of new fibroblasts (myofibroblasts) is increased during the wound-healing process. Some injectables, like for example hyaluron-fillers cause the fibroblasts at the injection site to stretch and bio-stimulate collagen production. There are specific bio-stimulating injectable treatments. The most popular ones are Sculptra®, Radiesse®, Ellanse®, and a new one which combines hyaluron-filling and bio-stimulation is HArmonyCa®.
As we age the fibroblast is undergoing some changes because of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. It loses it’s production power, it flattens, loses mechanical tension and therewith the ability to interact with other cells in the skin. It is becoming “tired and deaf”. My hypothesis was that injecting large droplets of hyaluron into the dermis might cause the fibroblast to become “lazy” via a negative feedback mechanism: when something is present in abundance, the fibroblast might not be stimulated enough to work hard to replenish it. This is not yet scientifically proven.
It is important to keep the fibroblast in good shape and biologically active. We can stimulate it’s biological activity with skincare containing bio-stimulators, or ingredients which activate the production of important skin components by the fibroblast. On the other side we need to protect the cell from damage.
Bio-stimulating active ingredients in skincare which have shown to particularly stimulate the fibroblast* are for example:
Protection from photo-damage we can achieve with a combination of sunscreen and anti-oxidants, more specifically Licochalcone A. Licochalcone A has a proven broad ability to protect the skin from damaging free-radicals or oxidative stress from UVA, UVB and HEVIS (High Energy Visible Light) affecting keratinocytes and fibroblasts.
I am not yet aware of skincare ingredients which increase the number of (new) fibroblasts, like the semi or minimal invasive in-office treatments. It’s an interesting field to explore if this is possible without injury, inflammation or irritation. However, you probably get "more bang for your buck" by starting a a skincare routine with focus on bio-stimulation and protection of the fibroblast pre- and post minimal and semi invasive aesthetic treatments. This could be something we will proof with a clinical study.
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