Meet the pH and Peptide Expert
Dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf has a researcher’s approach to skincare. Her scientific expertise includes an in depth understanding of how factors like pH and peptides influence skin and aging, and a belief that lifestyle and nutritional factors have a tremendous impact on the health and wellness of skin, from the inside out. Dr. Graf is a former fellow of NIH, The US Medical Research Agency, and the author of Stop Aging, Start Living.
You received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the NIH for your research on peptides. What are peptides and how can they contribute to skin health?
Peptides are tiny sequences of amino acids that act as signals and messengers for any and every function in the body. They are extremely intelligent and are able to recognize specific receptors in the body – much like a key that can turn on your car. That is the way I like to describe peptides; if you push a car it won’t get very far – but by inserting a tiny key with a simple turn – you can start the engine of a car simply and efficiently. However, my car key will not start your car; thus the specificity.
As someone who embraces a holistic approach to skincare, what are the main things you would advise women or men to do to achieve a beautiful complexion?
Remember there is an inward and outward connection, and we must take good care of both. What we put inside our bodies will dramatically affect our skin while what we apply from the outside will have dramatic effects as well. Skin is a mirror to the rest of the body. If we are not feeling well, it is reflected in our skin, which is the largest organ in our body, and reveals so much.
What is the meaning behind the title of your book “Stop Aging, Start Living?”
We are designed with the incredible ability to heal and repair – unlike a car or a machine that cannot. That is where the idea comes from, of creating an internal environment where our bodies can function optimally to a cellular level by being able to produce our own natural protective and reparative enzymes. This, in fact, can create a vibrant internal glow that will enhance our everyday life to the fullest.
How do we do this?
The whole point of the book was that for years we’ve been trained to take tons and tons of antioxidants, and the philosophy centered on how to deal with damage that was already occurring. The presumption is that the damage is done, and we are just hitting back. We are not built like cars. We have an incredible biological system and we make our own antioxidants. We should be able to defend and arm our own cells to prevent us from even getting to the point of damage in the first place.
How did you come to this understanding?
There are many Nobel Prize studies on the topic. I read a lot, and came back to one study that drove it home for me. In 1933, Otto Warburg was able to grow both cancer cells and normal cells. He placed both cell types in culture dishes and grew them in two different conditions, high oxygen alkaline pH and low oxygen acid pH. He found that the normal healthy cells could not survive in the acid low oxygen conditions while the cancer cells grew abundantly. Conversely, he found that the normal healthy cells were able to thrive in the high oxygen alkaline conditions whereas the cancer cells could not. This clarified the importance of alkalinity and health.
What role does pH play in the health of the skin?
pH plays a major role in the overall health and well-being of the body, as the skin is the largest organ and the window to our internal health. When we speak of optimal pH – we are really talking about an internal environment where every cell in the body is able to function optimally, which results in vibrant health.
Our pH level is a measure of acidity and alkalinity. As we age, we progressively collect more acid, and our bodies also become more acidic when disease occurs.
Following a Mediterranean diet – leafy green vegetables, high fiber, fruit, water, and a small amount of protein (about 20%) – is an ideal way to keep your pH in balance. The people of Crete have the lowest incidence of arthritis, and they follow a Mediterranean Diet.
When acidic foods like lemon are metabolized, their pH determines their effect on the body. There is also some alkaline foods that are acid producing, such as milk and yogurt. They leave behind an acidic ash that can aggravate certain conditions including acid reflux. When people adopt a diet of alkaline producing food, these conditions tend to improve. Minerals are very alkaline producing. Try to stay away from acid producers that have no nutritional value, but at the very least, balance them with something with alkalinity, like green drinks (grass blended shakes, for example), which give you a boost.
Please share with us your newest findings on the link between tanning beds and melanoma.
I have seen young patients over the past 20 years – as young as 17, with melanoma –who have spent time in pre-prom and pre-vacation tanning beds. Now there are studies confirming that indoor tanning increases the risk of developing melanoma by over 70%. Indoor tanning also increases melanoma risk more so than just beach tanning. Between 1997 and 2006 there has been an increase in the incidence of melanoma by 2% each year.
What do you predict will be the next hot trend in the field of dermatology?
I believe there are several: the peptides will continue to evolve – we have only scratched the surface, as we will be better able to use peptide signaling to turn on and off the aging processes. This, by the way,is how we will continue in the same trend as treating diseases; one can look at premature aging as a disease of sorts. The other trend that I see is in the field of energy, which has enormous potential though we are far from the end. We are energetic electrical beings and we use electricity to diagnose (EKG, EEG). If the electrical system that propels the heart stops, we die. As we come closer to isolating photons (still in the hands of the thermodynamic and quantum physicists) we will be able to use single energy units to treat diseases, repair cell membranes, etc.
What is “Cosmolecular Science”?
I coined the term as a cross between the words cosmeceutical and molecular.
Cosmeceuticals were a turning point in skincare. With the advent of Retin-A and alpha hydroxyl acids, skincare became scientifically based; we could put something on that would make a difference under a microscope.
My research showed that we can listen in on conversations between cells. We can communicate with cells on a molecular level. Look at major companies making most intelligent skincare that gets in and communicates with the cells. It’s targeted skincare with a delivery system.
Anyone using an active ingredient is using something that makes a difference in this way, like peptides.
You are very passionate about the science.
I love the science – most of the “Aha!” moments are when the puzzle pieces match together. Glycolysis and fermentation were not described until the 1960s, but today we can look back and put together the pieces of the puzzle.
What’s in your bag?
- Neutrogena Ultra-Dry Touch – SPF 85
- Avene Haute Protection-SPF 50
- MAC Make-up remover wipes
What’s your favorite bag?
I’m a Louis Vuitton enthusiast – these bags are indestructible and are able to take all the abusive overstuffing I do.
Are you a mom?
Yes – I have a 20 year old son and a daughter who is about to turn 18.
Do you ascribe to mass, class, or both?
In terms of mass, major brands use technology that is as advanced as high-end products.