Iron and iron chelators: a review on potential effects on skin aging

Curr Aging Sci. 2013 Dec;6(3):225-31. doi: 10.2174/18746098112059990037.


Similar to oxygen, iron is essential for aerobic life and energy production. Akin to oxygen, iron can be toxic and accelerate the aging process. Indeed, via the Fenton and Haber Weiss reactions, iron potentiates the generation of highly reactive oxygen free radicals such as hydroxyl radical, thus stimulating oxidative damage. The possibility that women's longer life span relates to a lower iron status due to iron loss during reproductive life has been considered as a valid hypothesis, while hemochromatosis has been proposed as a model of iron overload to examine the effects of iron on the aging process. Iron plays an aggravating role in many diseases in which iron deprivation has been shown to be beneficial including ischaemia-reperfusion injury, neurological disorders and muscle diseases such as Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. In the skin, excess iron combined with UV radiation exerts pro-oxidant effects while scavenging of free iron prevents or inhibits the toxic effects of UV radiation on both nude mice and human skin. In this review, we propose that iron chelators and/or iron deprivation might play a significant role in the prevention of aging- associated diseases and conditions, in particular in the skin, and increase quality of life. Controlled iron deprivation might be achieved by regular blood donation in which case the quality of life of both the donor and the recipient is improved. Increasing the frequency of blood donation may thus significantly contribute to both individual and social wellbeing. Furthermore, we propose the skin as an accessible model for the study of aging and the effects of iron / iron deprivation on the aging mechanisms. Finally, we suggest that the development of topical iron chelators might represent a novel and simple approach to prevent skin aging, when such prevention has proven an important factor in increasing an aging populations' quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoprotection
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / prevention & control
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism
  • Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Aging / drug effects*
  • Sunburn / metabolism
  • Sunburn / prevention & control


  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Iron