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BIOHACKING 101

WHAT IS BIOHACKING?

You’ve probably heard the term biohacking applied to almost everything recently from special diets to grounding (walking barefoot in nature) to bulletproof coffee to implanting electronic devices under our skin. But what does biohacking mean? Is it more than just a buzzword and marketing tactic for health and wellness products? And how can we apply it to skincare?

ORIGINS OF BIOHACKING

The idea of biohacking our health came about in concert with the explosion of the internet in the early 2000’s. If we can hack into computers, understand their language, and then control their ability to perform tasks, can we do the same thing with human biology?[1] Can we take control of and optimize our mental and physical health? There seems to be two types of biohacking: a more intense version where people experiment with implanting microelectronic devices and a more approachable version where we canexpose ourselves to certain molecules or lifestyle habits in order to biohack our health at a cellular level. This article focuses on the latter.

EXAMPLES OF BIOHACKING

The beauty of biohacking is that it can be approached from many different angles; it can include supplements that modify our metabolism, diet changes, controlling our exposure to certain wavelengths of light, experimenting with saunas and ice baths, optimizing our sleep schedule and beyond[2–4]. These hacks were born of a deep, molecular understanding of certain biological mechanisms— once we learn how the body works, now we can control it. For example, researchers have spent many years trying to figure out why exercise is so good for us and if there is a way to mimic it, possibly with an exercise pill[5]. The bottom line is that all of these hacks serve to optimize or improve the quality of our daily lives so we can function more efficiently, longer. 

BIOHACKING IN SKINCARE

When we think oftheskin barrier,we can see a wide variety of mechanisms at play with the potential for biohacking. Our improved understanding of the skin barrier has led to the highlighting of active ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, caffeine and many more. Each of these is meant to enhance individual components of the skin barrier like antioxidant capacity, autophagy, or collagen production, for example. New actives appear all the time with new approaches to targeting these mechanisms, driving innovation in the skin care field. Besides topical actives, there are many biohacking procedures one can try that target multiple mechanisms at once. Some examplesinclude techniques like facial massage to stimulate blood flow[6], red light therapy to attenuate inflammation[7], and cryotherapy to reverse wrinkling[8]. More invasive approaches include microneedling to stimulate your skin's natural repair mechanisms[9], platelet-rich plasma (PRP) facials which can provide strong brightening and tightening effects[10], and lastly, stem cell therapies to replenish the natural depletion of stem cells we experience with age[11]. 

References:

  1. Yetisen AK (2018) Biohacking.Trends Biotechnol 36, 744–747.
  2. Wexler A (2017) The Social Context of “Do-It-Yourself” Brain Stimulation: Neurohackers, Biohackers, and Lifehackers.Front Hum Neurosci 11,.
  3. Laukkanen JA, Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK (2018) Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence.Mayo Clin Proc 93, 1111–1121.
  4. Campbell PD, Miller AM, Woesner ME (2017) Bright Light Therapy: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond.Einstein J Biol Med 32, E13–E25.
  5. Li S, Laher I (2015) Exercise Pills: At the Starting Line.Trends Pharmacol Sci 36, 906–917.
  6. Caberlotto E, Ruiz L, Miller Z, Poletti M, Tadlock L (2017) Effects of a skin-massaging device on the ex-vivo expression of human dermis proteins and in-vivo facial wrinkles.PLoS One 12,.
  7. Barolet D, Christiaens F, Hamblin MR (2016) Infrared and Skin: Friend or Foe.J Photochem Photobiol B 155, 78–85.
  8. Palmer FR, Hsu M, Narurkar V, Munyon T, Day D, Karnik J, Tatsutani K (2015) Safety and effectiveness of focused cold therapy for the treatment of hyperdynamic forehead wrinkles.Dermatol Surg 41, 232–241.
  9. Alster TS, Graham PM (2018) Microneedling: A Review and Practical Guide.Dermatol Surg 44, 397–404.
  10. Du R, Lei T (2020) Effects of autologous platelet-rich plasma injections on facial skin rejuvenation.Exp Ther Med 19, 3024–3030.
  11. Nowacki M, Kloskowski T, Pietkun K, Zegarski M, Pokrywczyńska M, Habib SL, Drewa T, Zegarska B (2017) The use of stem cells in aesthetic dermatology and plastic surgery procedures. A compact review of experimental and clinical applications.Postepy Dermatol Alergol 34, 526–534.

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