Since man first found his first wrinkle, people have been searching for the fountain of youth — or at least the appearance of eternal vigor and vitality. Makeup artists have perfected the technique of masking wrinkles and fine lines, and Botox will freeze your face in place. The anti-aging skin care market will hit $11 billion by 2018. Looking young has long been the holy grail.

But people don’t just want to appear ageless anymore. They want to maintain genuinely youthful skin and feel spry well into middle age and beyond. Biotechnology is leading the way on anti-aging strategies, and the cosmetics industry is following its lead.

Beauty companies have begun to incorporate green biotechnology into their formulas, using biologically derived from marine and vegetable ingredients instead of synthetic materials. They also rely on biotech research to determine which compounds speed and deter the aging process.

However, people won’t retain wrinkle-free skin using organic night creams and moisturizers alone. Anti-aging technology requires both an understanding of epigenetics and how daily activities affect the skin.

Aging Is Not (Always) the Culprit

Most people don’t realize that the dark “age” spots on their hands or lines on their faces aren’t caused by aging at all; they’re the results of too much sun exposure. Every time you spend the day lounging on the beach or hiking in the summer heat, radiation from the sun creates free radicals in your body’s skin cells.

Free radicals can harm cells, and that damage shows up externally as wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and other undesirable marks. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 90 percent of the skin problems people associate with aging could be from sun damage instead.

If people were more proactive about protecting themselves from the sun, they would have less need of concealers and anti-aging treatments to cover and repair their skin. However, science offers hope for reversing that damage.

The Epigenetics Evolution

Epigenetics is the next frontier of anti-aging research and treatment. Scientists in this field study the ways in which different genes express certain traits. If people understood their physiological makeups, they would know which traits would help rejuvenate their skin and which leave them prone to age marks and sun damage.

Every cell in our bodies shares the same genome. Different genes are activated or deactivated based on environmental conditions. Epigeneticists examine the reprogramming that occurs within cells during these events. The more they understand this process, the better informed we all are about how to protect and repair our bodies.

Epigenetics is shaping the future of cosmetic products. We’ve already seen how biotech discoveries influence beauty care. Epigeneticists found that genes make proteins, and proteins enable communication between cells. That’s why peptides, which are strings of proteins, have proven vital to innovations in skin care and hair care. If we can stimulate cell communication, we can restore freshness and vitality.

Some active ingredients in skin care products may be able to direct the genes within skin cells, according to the cosmetic bioevangelist Rebecca Gadberry. It’s no wonder some of the biggest beauty brands in the world have instructed their research and development departments to jump on the epigenetic bandwagon.

Finding the Fountain of Youth

The key focuses for the biotech and cosmetic industries will be regeneration and rejuvenation. The latter is a mechanism by which aging cells are replaced by younger cells that maintain the organ’s current physiology. In regenerative treatments, newly born cells replace the damaged or nonfunctional cells to restore their earlier functionality. Both are designed to reverse the aging process, rather than merely slow or halt it for a time.

These technologies will transform the cosmetics industry. Rather than undergo invasive plastic surgeries that leave permanent scars, people will be able to use simple products to improve their skin. Regeneration could also help heal past scars and alleviate discoloration from sun damage and age.

Ideally, people would educate themselves about natural ways to protect their skin and stave off aging. Biotechnology will provide powerful solutions to skin issues, but there is no better method than being proactive about one’s health from the outset. An over-reliance on cosmetics to fix and conceal damaged skin will not entirely restore a worn-down physiology. However, biotech advances hold incredible promise for not only offering the appearance of youth, but also actually making people young again.

Author's Bio: 

Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company specializing in applied health systems. He also leads Skingenix, which specializes in skin organ regeneration and the research and development of botanical drug products.