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Think about this: How quickly would our cities and neighborhoods become overwhelmed with garbage if there was no waste removal system in place? Piled-up trash would cripple the infrastructure so that normal society could no longer function efficiently or smoothly. Without autophagy—the process through which every cell in our bodies repairs and recycles itself— the same thing would happen to our skin.
In the short time since the amazing science of autophagy won the Nobel Prize in 2016, increasingly more astonishing findings have been made, with studies demonstrating that the process of autophagy is integral to human existence. “Autophagy is critical. An animal can’t live without it,” says Dr. Richard Wang, PhD, dermatologist and leading researcher at the Center for Autophagy Research at the University of Texas Southwestern. “For efficient functioning, you can’t have bags of garbage sitting around your house, or your cells.”
When autophagy—which is derived from ancient Greek, meaning “self” (auto) “eating” (phagy)—is functioning optimally, it’s efficiently clearing out toxins and extracellular junk, ensuring that cellular functions such as collagen production and cell turnover remain up to speed, and that skin stays plump and glowing. It’s a cellular housekeeper, actively purging toxins and dead cell material, and keeping the skin’s immune system—and all-important barrier—robust. When the autophagy process is impaired, whether due to age, stress, or general malfunction, the skin is more susceptible to damage from environmental aggressors, stratum corneum turnover slows, and fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear. This is when cells need assistance from external autophagy-inducing molecules to get the job done.
After testing hundreds of topical ingredients to determine which ones most effectively activated autophagy in skin, Wang identified four: ceramides, polyphenols (such as the antioxidants in citrus bergamot), trehalose (a natural plant sugar), and caffeine. These autophagy-boosting ingredients power the exclusive Cellular Rejuvenation Complex, which appears in every OMI product and is clinically proven to rejuvenate aged, devitalized skin. This groundbreaking new way of approaching skincare could be a veritable fountain of youth for skin cells: Experiments have shown that activating autophagy pathways can enable 60-year-old skin to behave as young as 28.
We’ve all been diligently incorporating antioxidants—which act as a line of defense to protect skin from damage by pollution, UV, and chemicals in the environment—into our skincare regimens for years, but now it’s time to consider autophagy, the next big A. “Antioxidants’ main ability is to sop up damaging particles, like peroxides or oxygen radicals before they do the damage,” says Wang, “but autophagy is a way to repair proteins and machinery that have already been damaged.”