"There is a generally accepted hypothesis about the mechanism of skin ageing, and we have critically reviewed it. On several points, we disagree with this hypothesis," he says.

At a certain age, our skin starts to wrinkle and sag. It happens to everyone, and no one seems to like it. A multi-million dollar industry has grown up around it, offering products that promise to slow down this process.
Now, young Dutch researcher Feiko Rijken says it's all based on a misconception, and that the prevailing theory that sun exposure ages our skin is not the real explanation for the process.

Simple idea

According to Rijken's theory, put forward during his recent doctoral dissertation at the University of Utrecht, skin damage resulting from sun exposure is caused by cells involved in fighting infections. This is in contrast to the generally accepted theory that excessive exposure to sunlight releases certain skin enzymes that cause wrinkles.
But let's not get too technical. Suffice it to say that if Rijken is right, it could shake up a large sector of the anti-ageing cosmetics industry.


And it is a huge industry, as methods to reduce, if not stop, the visible effects of time have spawned a multi-billion dollar global industry with profits in the US alone reaching 40 billion euros a year. People go to great lengths to prevent the visible signs of ageing, with diets, vitamin supplements, resort treatments, Botox injections and even plastic surgery to name but a few of the options available.
Those seeking a less medicated route turn to all sorts of products to protect their skin, such as pressed apricot pits, salt, sponges or brushes.
Anti-ageing experts are supposed to help us choose wisely from the plethora of products available, and certainly not all of them are enthusiastic about the industry.

Ageing is not about taking less care of our body

Author and biologist Aubrey de Grey believes that much of the current commercial anti-ageing"science" is nonsense. De Grey is not impressed by most of the products on the market; however, he believes that, in a few decades, we will be able to halt the ageing process.
"We may be able to get better results on ageing by repairing molecular and cellular damage than by simply reducing damage," he says.
Aubrey de Grey believes that the answer to ageing lies not in taking less care of our bodies, but in doing more for them, much more. Grey looks forward to the day when we will be able to replace cells in the same way we replace car parts today.

While Rijken and De Grey share their scepticism about the anti-ageing industry, they are on opposite sides. While De Grey advocates broad changes in the way we think about ageing, Rijken is more realistic, at least when it comes to the sun and what it can do to the skin.
"We know what the cause is and we can control it effectively. So I would opt for prevention," he proposes.
Although his idea might completely change our understanding of how skin ages, his advice for containing the ravages of time is old school: "don't expose yourself to the sun, use sunscreen and whatever happens, don't get burnt".

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