Lipofuscin: When Pigmentation isn’t Hyperpigmentation

You may have lipofuscin, but never heard of it before. Lipofuscin is the name given to yellow-brown pigment formed as a result of the oxidation of protein and lipid residues and is found in tissues such as the liver, kidney, heart muscle, adrenals, nerve and skin cells. It is produced by cellular wear and tear.

Although it’s not certain what causes lipofuscin, it appears to be cellular waste that cannot be broken down or removed from the cell and is thought to be symptomatic of cell damage. Lipofuscin is made up of lipids as well as sugars and metals, including mercury, aluminum, iron, copper and zinc. Evidence suggests that lipofuscin can impair the functioning of seemingly unrelated cellular systems and its accumulation is thought to be implicated in:

  • Macular degeneration, a degenerative disease of the eye.
  • Neurodegenerative disorders (eg Batten disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, certain lysosomal diseases, acromegaly, denervation atrophy, lipid myopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and centronuclear myopathy.

Antioxidants such as glutathione and acetyl-l-carnitine appear to reduce or halt the production of lipofuscin. Other possible treatments include ginko biloba and DMAE.

Lipofuscin accumulation on the skin is often confused with solar lentigines . It will not respond in the same way to treatments used for hyperpigmentation, because it is not the same. Like solar lentigines however, ultraviolet radiation plays a role in its development. For this reason, prevention (as with most things skin care) is important:

1.       Apply a broad spectrum UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 daily, year round. Our customers love Anthelios sunscreens and we concur.

2.       DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol). This naturally occurring substance has been shown to help cells rid themselves of lipofuscin, while allowing them to retain useful nutrients. DMAE also helps strengthen cell walls, resulting in better skin tone and elasticity.

3.       Alpha Lipoic Acid. Another naturally occurring antioxidant that is both water and oil soluble, enabling it to be effective both inside & outside the cell and the cell membrane.

4.       Retinoids. We love, love this ingredient at PhaMix and it’s no surprise that its addition is beneficial. Beyond all the many positive effects that retinoids have on skin cells, they also offer antioxidant benefits. When used in conjunction with Vitamins C and E, the trio will assist lipofuscin lesions. Try Apothekari A is For Anti-Aging Retinal Serum.

5.       Vitamins C and E. These two vitamins often work in synergy to protect cell membranes and scavenge free radicals. They are essential components of any anti-aging regimen and no less important when it comes to lipofuscin.

6.       Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). You already know that EFAs are important to good health including that of your skin. A deficiency can lead to dryness, scaly skin and compromised cell membranes. Try to incorporate these into your diet by consuming fish, nuts and seeds. Take a supplement if you don’t think you’re getting enough.

While the quest for perfect skin continues, keep in mind that it is always easier to prevent than cure. For this reason, whether it’s lipofuscin or other age related skin disorders, it’s never too early to learn about and integrate an anti-aging regimen into your lifestyle as soon as you can. Beyond just skin treatments, it’s important to be aware of the impact that nutrition, environment and genetics have on our skin.