Photoaging, also known as extrinsic aging, is the process by which skin ages after repeated exposure to solar radiation. Ultraviolet light strikes molecules in the skin, breaking bonds and creating free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that target DNA. This can be detrimental to cellular health and structural proteins in the surrounding tissue. Increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, decreased production of collagens, and increased production of metalloproteinases are thought to mediate the process of photaging.1
A recent study (June 2017) found that myrcene, an essential oil constituent, can slow the extrinsic aging of the skin. Myrcene is a monoterpene compound found in Lemongrass, Thyme, Cardamom, and many other essential oils. Korean scientists irradiated human dermal fibroblasts with UV light and evaluated the aging effects on these cells with and without exposure to myrcene.1 They measured the levels of ROS, levels of specific biomarkers including the metalloproteinases MMP-1 and MMP-3, and the secretion of type I procollagen. They found that myrcene exposure decreased the levels of ROS and metalloproteinases, while increasing type I procollagen secretion.1
These results suggest that essential oils rich in myrcene may be effective at promoting healthy-looking skin, especially for individuals whose skin is consistently exposed to solar radiation. While essential oils do not serve as direct protection from the sun like sunscreen does, they do support cellular health in the skin and help ensure that the only aging your skin shows is the normal, healthy aging that we all experience over the years.