Success in mapping the human genome has fostered the concept of the exposome, according to a report from the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).1 Since the exposome refers to everything an individual is exposed to throughout life—from solar exposure, air pollution and hormones, to nutrition and psychological factors2—understanding our own genetics and epigenetics elucidate how our health can be impacted by these factors.
Credit for the term exposome is given to C.P. Wild,3 who in 2005, explained, “There is a desperate need to develop methods with the same precision for an individual’s environmental exposure as we have for the individual’s genome. I would like to suggest that there is a need for an ‘exposome’ to match the ‘genome.’ This concept of an exposome may be useful in drawing attention to the need for methodologic developments in exposure assessment. …” He added, however, that developing reliable measurement tools for such a complete exposure history is extremely challenging—although two decades ago, investigating an estimated 10 million single nucleotide polymorphisms in the human genome also seemed daunting.3
Exposomics refers to the study of the exposome, which relies on internal and external exposure assessment methods based on genomics, lipidomics, proteomics and others to determine exposure, effect of exposure, disease progression and susceptibility factors.1 The vast amount of data generated from these studies are used to find statistical associations between exposures and effects.
The negative effects of components of the exposome on skin health have gained recent industry interest. This may be due to reports that clinical signs of aging are primarily influenced by extrinsic factors—especially sun exposure; UV exposure is believed to account for 80% of visible facial aging signs.4
Further, hyperpigmentation is known to be caused by chronic UV exposure while particulate matter can cause skin lentigines and pigmentation. Changes in hormones with age, malnutrition and even the lack of sleep can contribute to a pro-inflammatory state.2
The mechanisms with which an organism (e.g., human skin) copes with exposure are largely determined by genes and proteins, according to a study in Nature Briefing.5 These collectively defend against, detoxify and eliminate chemical stressors. “This integrative network includes receptors and transcription factors, biotransformation enzymes, transporters, antioxidants and metal- and heat-responsive genes, and is collectively known as the chemical defensome,” the authors wrote.
The cosmetics industry is well-positioned to leverage aspects of the defensome in products to protect the skin and skin health against the larger exposome; whether by neutralizing negative effects or by boosting the body’s own defenses. Following are some expert insights on just how we are doing this, as well as directions for future exposome protection.
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (accessed 2022, Mar 11). Exposome and exposomics. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/exposome/default.html
- Passerson, T., Krutmann, J., Andersen, M.L., Katta, R. and Zouboulis, C.C. (2020 Jul). Clinical and biological impact of the exposome on the skin. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32677068/
- Wild, C.P. (2005, Aug 15). Complementing the genome with an “exposome”: The outstanding challenge of environmental exposure measurement in molecular epidemiology. Available at https://aacrjournals.org/cebp/article/14/8/1847/258124/Complementing-the-Genome-with-an-Exposome-The
- Flament, F., Bazin, R., Laquieze, S., Rubert, V., Simonpietri, E. and Piot, B. (2013). Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3790843/
- Eide, M., Zhang, X., Karlsen, O.A., Goldstone, J.V., Stegeman, J., Jonassen, I. and Goksøyr, A. (2021, May 18). The chemical defensome of five model teleost fish. Available at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-89948-0