Beauty has always been in the eyes of the viewer. And youth, through the ages, has been considered the quintessence of beauty. Young looking skin continues to represent a huge market, worth millions of pounds in the UK every year, as men and women look for new ways to fight the signs of skin aging. As a result, a plethora of anti-wrinkle, anti-aging products for skin and skin conditions regularly flood the market. But is this obsession with young-looking skin a new phenomenon?
The simple answer is no. The ancient Egyptians and the Chinese were the first to document their attempts to stop the ceaseless march of time, highlighting the effects of certain types of herbs, mineral treatments, diets and exercises on the state of the skin, all intended to curb the inevitable first wrinkles and keep young and beautiful. But the study of anti-aging techniques is not a simple vanity: it has developed over thousands of years into a complex study of molecular biology, botany and even philosophical and psychological research.
During the ancient Egyptian dynasties, olive leaves were considered an anti-aging remedy. Vedic culture emphasized the diet and exercise as a way of curbing the aging process, as well as on the Indian subcontinent. Ayurvedic medicine focused on the juvenile effects of yoga, meditation and, again, herbal remedies and potions and anti-aging poultices. This research continues today, with the "next big thing" being proudly announced by leading manufacturers. These "magic" ingredients include everything from ginger to caffeine, but is there a basis for these claims that a single product can reverse the damage to the skin, which is inevitable in life?
The alchemists have spent centuries searching for "the elixir of life" – a mythical ingredient that would give them access to the "fountain of youth" and eternal life. At this point, we do not understand molecular biology and the fact that the aging process is genetically encoded in our DNA. Yet even today, modern genetics is still looking to pave the way for a longer life and focuses its studies on people over 100 years to discover what makes their bodies more resistant to cell degradation associated with aging. This includes a study of the skin and how its structure evolves over time. This research was inaccessible to our ancestors, who turned to the natural world to find an ingredient that would allow them each time to keep a skin looking young and beautiful.
But many times, modern skin care products refer to these ancient civilizations to find their inspiration, and olive oil has made a comeback as an anti-aging ingredient in many modern products. It seems that the Egyptians were on something. But instead of basing our trust in these new anti-wrinkle creams on mythology and esoteric reasons, science is now playing a major role in a multi-million pound industry to find a modern "Elixir of Life". It is largely pseudo-science, designed to separate a society desperate to retain its youthful appearance through its money. But of all the pepto-chines and "scientific" commercials that have little or no meaning for the average citizen on the street, there may be an old remedy that actually conditions the skin, reduces the signs of aging and gets rid of these pesky wrinkles. Although no one can beat the clock, perhaps looking back at ancient civilizations, we can slow it down a bit.