The language of skincare is revealing. We talk of ‘pampering’ and ‘nourishing’ our skin to counteract the harsh effects of time and the stresses imposed by environmental factors, such as UV rays and pollution.
But I want to challenge this concept. Instead, we should be thinking of restoring skin to its native state of health. After all, you don’t build muscular strength by pampering your muscles. You exercise them appropriately and let the body respond. The same applies to your skin.
This is more than just a metaphor. Science is uncovering the mechanism that enables mild stress to reverse damage at the cellular level. It’s a process called hormesis.
Accumulation of molecular damage and increased molecular heterogeneity are hallmarks of cellular aging. Mild stress-induced hormesis can be an effective way for reducing the accumulation of molecular damage, and thus slowing down aging from within.
It’s early days, and the best way to use hormetins (i.e. hormesis-inducing substances) is still being explored. But here’s an idea: don’t pamper your skin with your favorite product every single day. Repeated use of one product may be hampering your skin’s ability to react to change and resist the normal stresses of life.
Instead, vary your regime. Rotate different products and ingredients weekly or monthly. Train your skin to deal with change. Make it work a bit.
Just as an athlete trains for a race by varying her distances and taking rest days, you can restore your skin’s fitness by mixing things up.