Skin Deep

Can you trick your body into looking and feeling younger?

Some people go to great lengths to turn back time, and for these men and women, skincare, injectables, lasers and surgery are just the tip of the iceberg. I recently learned about a new trend called biohacking, and part of this practice involves using exercise, meditation and other means to affect hormone levels in the body. Proponents of this approach claim it improves energy levels, sleep, sex drive, weight loss and more.

Exercise is at the core of biohacking, and it’s no secret that exercise releases endorphins that make us feel great. (That’s why we call it a “runner’s high.”) But exercise does a lot more than prompt our bodies to release endorphins. Exercise has been proven to raise levels of growth hormones and growth factors in the body, and it’s widely accepted that these naturally produced chemicals make us feel younger and more vital because they act as communication signals between cells. There are more types of growth factors than I can name here, but consider this study, which proved exercise does indeed increase levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in women.

Exercise raises growth hormone and growth factor levels by stimulating mitochondria, which are the cells’ “engine.” Mitochondria need oxygen to produce the energy that sustains each cell, and as oxygen levels increase with exercise, so does the mitochondria’s output. On the flip side, another study has shown that a decline in mitochondrial activity is linked with the decline of muscle that accompanies aging, and that physical activity keeps the cellular engines running.

The growth factors associated with exercise likely has an effect on the skin. There aren’t topical creams that can stimulate the cells’ own growth factor production because we don’t have anything that can penetrate the mitochondrial membrane just yet. So until we do, you’ll just have to hit the gym instead, which as we know has far-reaching benefits for the entire body. Keep up the fitness routine (along with daily sunscreen, antioxidant and retinoid use), and consider that the secret for beautiful, youthful skin.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.