We already know that cholesterol is the raw material used to make all of the sex hormones within the body, vitamin D, and bile acids. We also know that the brain and nervous system need a lot of cholesterol, and that cholesterol plays an important role in the immune system. Epidemiological studies have shown a strong association between higher cholesterol levels, reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of infections and a longer life. Cholesterol is also an essential part of the cell membrane and it is this function that has now led to cholesterol being used in a range of anti-aging skin products.
The outermost layer of the skin (medically called the stratum corneum) protects us from dehydration and external dangers. Three major lipids are important for this layer: ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol.
When the level of cholesterol and the other fatty acids within the stratum corneum is reduced it is thought that tiny gaps can appear between the cells and the skin loses moisture quicker, becomes tight, dull and deflated. The skin ages faster and is less able to function as a protective barrier. This has led to the development of anti-aging cosmetics that contain cholesterol and other fatty acids.
Cosmetics containing cholesterol like the one shown retail for around £100 (US$140)!
Yet another reason not to worry about cholesterol-rich foods and to think twice before artificially lowering cholesterol with statins or anything else.
This mechanism could also be one of several reasons why a range of skin problems have been reported with statins.
- This entry was prompted by a cosmetics feature in the Daily Mail.
- Image attribution - Wbensmith [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- The product image is for illustrative purposes only and there is no intention to endorse the product shown. The best way to ensure adequate cholesterol levels is to consume a balanced diet which includes cholesterol containing foods.
- Also see, Lipids and Skin Barrier Function. Contact Dermatitis. 2008 May;58(5):255-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2008.01320.x.