Back in 2016, we made a summary of Olay and P&G’s Multi-Decade and Ethnicity Study which was presented at the Dermatology Update conference, an ambitious study that aimed to really break down at the cellular level what happens to the skin as it ages, and what we could do about it. In 2018, there was a follow-up presentation, and this is a quick summary of it.
The Multi-Decade and Ethnicity Study (MDE study for short) is an ambitious project that aims to delve into the changes to the skin that occur at the fine molecular level using a systems biology approach – integrating various analyses from simple observation and questionnaires to detailed analysis of genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, and metabolomics. This study is still in progress – it’s a multi-decade study after all – following up with subjects representing different decades in their life over time. In 2016, the data for Caucasian and African American skin was released, and in 2018, the data for people of Chinese ancestry are now being released. Studies on Hispanic people are currently being worked on.
Recap from 2016:
For the full summary, do read our DermLetter article on the MDE study. It really is interesting stuff and worth your time to read. There’s also a video recap as well. To summarize and recap the findings that were presented at the Dermatology Update 2016:
Some people really are lucky:
- There is some genetic basis for “exceptional agers” or people who look up to 10 years younger than their actual chronological age.1
- Part of the long-term goals of this research is to identify commonalities among these exceptional agers and see if any interventions may help those of us who aren’t so lucky from a genetic standpoint.
- While everyone has the same genes relevant to looking youthful – DNA repair and replication, chromatin remodeling, cell growth, response to oxidative stress, etc. – are expressed better with age in the exceptional agers.
- There are more exceptional agers among the African American group compared to the Caucasian group.
Different ethnicities show different signs of aging:
- Lighter skin-toned people tend to suffer from solar elastosis and wrinkling. People with darker skin tones, on the other hand, have more pigmentation problems such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or melasma.2
- African Americans definitely do benefit from the extra SPF that their skin tone provides. The effect is most prominently seen in people in the 60+ age group, which makes sense as they have had the most time of accumulated sun exposure to illustrate the difference.
Sun protection is king:
- Sun exposure is the most important predictor of skin aging in the future.
- The evidence with African Americans and aging adds to evidence that exposure to UV rays makes a difference long-term.
- Analyzing skin samples of the test subjects from different body areas (face, forearm, buttocks) allows researchers to analyze the effect of sun damage over time. The buttocks’ skin, which is almost always covered by clothing, contrasts with other areas of skin that are typically sun-exposed.
2018: MDE Follow-up
Research is still ongoing.
- The scope and depth of this project are astounding. It follows up with patients over decades (as suggested by the name) and analyzes from many angles from visual down to the metabolites.
- At the 2016 update, the data on African American and Caucasian skin were analyzed. At the 2018 update, the data from the skin of people of Chinese ancestry were reported.
- Further expansion into people of Hispanic ancestry is in the works, as well as the follow-up.
- This will provide interesting data on the protection that skin color confers and the possibility that there may be other relevant genetic factors at play that were previously unknown.
- There is a lot of potential for discoveries into aging, genetics, and ways to mitigate or improve skin in various environmental ways.
Genetics matter; environment also matters:
- Sun protection is re-emphasized. It’s old news but so important that it requires further emphasis.
- Some ingredients show promising evidence at the in vitro (lab) level – these can potentially be incorporated into a skincare regimen.
- Lifestyle makes a big difference over time. Genetic factors definitely play an important role, but it’s not the whole story.
- There may be interventions that alter the likely course of aging and its effects.
Future Potential for intervention: Key Ingredients
- Certain ingredients have been shown to confer various benefits in lab testing.
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is a key ingredient and one that is also well known and substantiated by other evidence. Niacinamide may help counteract the decrease in cell energy that comes with age.
- Peptides can help boost collagen and elastin to help boost the overall look of the skin.
- Carob extract may be able to increase wound healing in the skin.
- Dill extract can increase the expression of elastin enzymes.
- Olive oil derivatives can increase the expression of enzymes of antioxidant capacity. It can help the skin protect itself from oxidative stress or sun damage.
- It’s important to remember that this study is still at an early stage. Lab testing results (petri dish and cells) may not always translate well to living human beings where there are numerous complexities that aren’t present in lab testing.
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1Pg. 6 for some cool data on actual vs. perceived age
2Another interesting finding was that many patients were more mixed than they thought when they did genetic testing through 23&me, a commercial DNA testing company, cooperating in this MDE study.