At Neurohacker our mission is to advance the human quality of life. We do that by supporting every element of human optimization and with skin being the largest organ in our body, we believe that it deserves significant attention.
When it comes to radiant skin, we've got you covered. Today, Dr. Amy Killen, leading anti-aging and regenerative physician, specializing in “Skin and Sex,” is here to share cutting-edge therapies to help us biohack our way to natural, glowing, and youthful skin.*
Great Skin, From the Inside Out
Can you give us a high-level overview of your philosophy for achieving great skin?
Some people say that our skin is a window into what’s happening inside our body and that the best way to achieve radiant skin is to take good care of your body. That is absolutely true. But, you also have to take care of the window itself, if you really want your skin to shine for a good long time.
What are a few of your favorite foods and natural ingredients for supporting great skin from the inside out?
Skin health really does start on the inside.
Antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, and green, yellow and orange vegetables are great for the skin because oxidative stress is a primary culprit of skin aging.* These foods are generally high in vitamin C, one of the skin’s favorite antioxidants.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, avocados and olive oil, are great for decreasing skin irritation and maintaining healthy moisture levels in the skin. Tomatoes, rich in all the major beta-carotenoids, are another skin favorite, as are sunflower seeds, rich in Vitamin E.*
Finally, I’m a big fan of nitrate-rich vegetables, such as spinach and beets, which can increase nitric oxide production in the body. Lack of nitric oxide is an often overlooked cause of lackluster skin.*
Measuring Skin Health: How to Get Started
What are some ways we can measure skin health?
The best way to find out what’s really going on with your skin is to visit a physician. Special cameras, such as VISIA or PEAR 3D, take high quality pictures, measuring wrinkles, texture, pore size, sun damage, pathogens, oil, pigment and tone. Other instruments can measure skin pH (normal is 4-6) as well as things like skin barrier function and hydration.*
A less techie alternative is to create a photo area in your home where you can take close-up pictures of your skin in the same light, and at the same distance, over time. This is a great DIY way to see if new products are in fact making a difference.
Cutting Edge Skin Therapies Loved by Biohackers
Biohackers Use Stem Cells, Exosomes, and Microneedling for Better Skin. How Do These Techniques Work Exactly?
Stem cells are the cells within your body that are responsible for the upkeep of your tissues and organs. They are able to replicate as well as differentiate (i.e. give rise to different types of cells). One of the ways stem cells communicate with other cells is by releasing extracellular vesicles (such as exosomes), which are tiny “messenger bubbles” that contain growth factors, cytokines, and messenger RNA (mRNA).
Once released by stem cells, extracellular vesicles can be adopted by other cells, thereby changing the way those cells behave. For example, when youthful exosomes are internalized by older skin fibroblasts, the fibroblasts will begin to act like a more youthful version of themselves, cranking out collagen like they didn’t have a care in the world!*
Other properties of stem cells and exosomes, important for skin rejuvenation and healing are that their ability to reduce irritation, decrease scarring (fibrosis), increase angiogenesis (healthy blood vessel formation), reduce oxidative stress, and reduce apoptotic cell death.*
Because stem cells are too large to pass through the skin barrier, we use microneedling to get stem cells and exosomes into the skin. Microneedling is also helpful because it induces collagen and elastin formation (through mechanical stress) and gives stem cells and exosomes something to “hone in” on after application, leading to better results than if we injected the biologics without creating an injury first.*
Can you explain to us what PRP is and if PRP injections are worth it?
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) has been around for 30 years and shown in multiple studies to be a useful tool for improving skin color, tone, and texture. PRP is made by taking a sample of blood from the patient and centrifuging (spinning) the blood so the platelets become concentrated in one part of the serum. Platelets have within them a number of growth factors that can assist in healing and rejuvenation.*
PRP can be injected just under the skin or it can be applied topically after microneedling. PRP can also be combined with things like stem cells and exosomes to give it more of a “kick”. Like stem cells and exosomes, PRP can increase blood flow to an area and increase the release of collagen and elastin by skin cells. PRP is effective for creating healthier skin, reducing fine lines, reducing the appearance of scars and evening out color. PRP is NOT great at creating volume (you’d want a hyaluronic filler or similar for that) and it’s not going to remove all of your wrinkles (especially if they were created by muscles moving, aka “dynamic wrinkles”, which are only resolved with neurotoxins, such as Botox). For best results, a series of treatments are typically needed.*
What’s the 411 on microcurrent treatments and can they really stimulate ATP production?
Devices like NuFace, Foreo Bear and Ziip rely on microcurrents to improve the appearance of skin. One of the ways these devices are said to work is by increasing muscle activity and tone in the face. The problem with this is that loss of muscle isn’t one of the top causes of our faces looking older. Things like skin thinning and loss of collagen, redistribution of fat, and bone resorption are the main contributors to facial aging, not muscle loss.*
A mouse study showed that microcurrent increases ATP production, but this tells us very little about how that affects facial rejuvenation. Human studies are promising, but many of them lack important data, such as type and power of current and electrical signals delivered, so it’s hard to say whether the currently-available microcurrent devices are actually delivering the most effective types of current.
Having said all of that, I’m currently working with a company (SkinStim) that has discovered bioelectric signals that stimulate specific proteins to be released. They own patents for being able to stimulate important skin-relevant proteins such as tropoelastin (elastin), COL17A1 (collagen), as well as signals for stem cell homing, DNA repair, muscle and nerve repair and healthy blood vessel creation. This technology has applications in skin, as well as things like hair growth support and sexual optimization, all of which are within my “Sex and Skin” wheelhouse, so I’m pretty excited about the possibilities.*
Does light therapy play a role in skin rejuvenation? If so, what devices or treatments do you love?
Photobiomodulation, or low level light therapy (LLLT), has several applications in skin health. When light in the red and near-infrared ranges (600-1200 nm) is applied to the skin, several things happen. One of the most-discussed events is that the light enhances mitochondrial ATP production, which means more energy is available for the cells to use. Such LLLT can also improve stem cell migration, proliferation and signalling and can decrease oxidative stress in the skin.*
What does all of this mean? It means that light can be an effective tool to facilitate skin healing as well as skin rejuvenation. I recommend red light therapy to my patients after my in-office procedures to reduce bruising and redness and to reduce “downtime”. I also use red light therapy myself several times a week as part of my preventative skin aging regimen.* I like to lie in my bed, wrap a red light therapy device around my head, turn on some white noise and take a “face nap”. My kids know they are NOT to disturb my “face nap” sessions!
Light can be an effective tool to facilitate skin healing as well as skin rejuvenation.
By the way, red light therapy is also an effective tool for promoting hair growth and is great when used intra-vaginaally to improve female sexual function.* Who knew?!
What are your thoughts on yoga/facial exercises? Can these techniques reduce fine lines and wrinkles?
There is some evidence that facial exercises can improve facial tone. However, many wrinkles are actually caused by the movement of muscles, so the idea that all of your facial muscles need to be strengthened makes no sense. We use neurotoxins (think: Botox) to reduce muscle activity in specific areas of the face, which results in fewer wrinkles. If we were to strengthen all of our facial muscles indiscriminately, there’s the very real possibility that we’d create MORE wrinkles, not less.
Dr. Amy Killen’s List of Must-Have Skin Care Essentials
Serums, creams, topicals...what can’t you live without? What new stuff are you exploring?
I have many brands that I love but there are a few key products that I keep coming back to again and again. SkinBetter Science has a great morning antioxidant serum called Alto, as well as my favorite retinoid product, Alpha Ret. It’s the only retinoid I’ve used that doesn’t irritate my skin, but still provides amazing results. I also love Alitura Naturals’ Gold serum, especially when my skin is feeling vulnerable. A new discovery is Lira’s MYSTIQ oil for all-day hydration. My go-to mineral sunblock is by Elta MD.*
Get to Know Dr. Amy Killen
Tell us a bit about your practice. What percentage of your patients are looking to reduce fine lines and wrinkles? What percentage are dealing with acne, eczema, dermatitis or similar skin disorders?
My practice is devoted entirely to treating individuals looking to slow down the skin aging process. I’m not a dermatologist so I don’t treat skin disorders. My integrative and regenerative approach to skin health is laser-focused (excuse the pun!) on creating healthier skin and promoting confidence in my patients as they age.*
What books are you reading right now?
I’m an avid reader and usually have several books in progress at the same time. Right now I’m reading “Dune” for my Sci-Fi fix, “The Body Electric” for my Science Is Cool fix, “The Alchemist” for my Stop Making Excuses and Just Do It fix, and “Mistress of Rome” for my Emperors, Gladiators and Concubines fix.
Your personal favorite quote?
“It’s better to be brave than perfect.” I’m not sure who said it first, but I love it.
What is one biohack you cannot live without?
Eight hours of sleep. It’s not a biohack but it’s an often under-estimated source of greatness.
Last, do you consider yourself a good sleeper? When did you realize you were one? What helped you become a good sleeper?
I was an awful sleeper for decades. I spent 10 years working as an emergency physician, where I slept very little and could feel my telomeres shortening by the day. Then, I had my three kids within two years, and took sleep deprivation to a new level. It wasn’t until I transitioned to doing anti-aging and regenerative medicine eight years ago that I learned to really sleep. It is the single best thing I’ve done for myself to improve not only my health, but also my sanity.*
Walk us through your sleep routine from dinner until you hit the pillow. What devices, supplements/teas, tech, textiles, etc. do you use?
After dinner, I’ll often watch TV with my kids for thirty minutes before I tuck them into bed. I like to sit on my PEMF/infrared mat while snuggling with them during this time. Sometimes, we’ll hit the hot tub instead. Then, I’ll spend at least thirty minutes alone in my bed, reading. I take my nighttime vitamins about thirty minutes before sleep. These include magnesium glycinate and melatonin, which both help me relax.* I have an Ooler cooling pad that I set to 72 degrees for bedtime and I also have an amazing eye mask that I love called the Sleep Master Mask (thanks, Tim Ferris!) that I never sleep without. I finish it all off with a white noise machine and a cool room and I sleep like a (well-trained) baby!
Connect With Dr. Amy Killen
To keep up with the very latest in skin health research follow Amy on Instagram and keep up with her latest articles. To work with Dr. Amy Killen as a patient, check out BioRestoration Medical & Aesthetics or Docere Clinics, both located in Utah.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and services mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
The recommendations in this article represent the opinions and experience of the interviewee, and are not a guarantee, promise, or reflection of other users’ results.