When it comes to the aging of hair and nails, nutrition is a concern. But Hernan Lorenzi, a researcher from the Department of Infectious Diseases, J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, who has studied the microbiome in space, says scientists are already trying to counter any negative effects Martian living may have on the gut using probiotics and technologies for growing fresh foods.
And there’s another issue — and a rather disturbing one, at that: “Astronauts’ fingernails [sometimes] fall off during spacewalks due to the pressure that pressurized gloves put on their fingertips,” says Lorenzi. So the more time we spend in those suits, the greater our chances of being fingernail-less in our golden years.
The Toll of Zero Gravity on Your Muscles and Bones
While leaving gravity might reduce the appearance of wrinkles, it complicates pretty much everything else. Kris Lehnhardt, element scientist for exploration medical capability at the NASA Johnson Space Center and a senior faculty member at the Baylor School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine and Center for Space Medicine, explains that “floating around in space is a little bit like the type of sedentary lifestyle that can happen as folks get older, leading to loss of muscle and bone, as well as decreased heart health.”
In fact, according to Olabisi, bones resorb in space — which basically means bone tissue breaks down and is absorbed into the bloodstream. “Astronauts have come back from space with osteopenia and osteoporosis,” she says. The long-term impact this bone and muscle loss may have on the face has yet to be seen — it could mean thinner faces as our cheekbones waste away.
For now, the focus is on helping the body by way of weight-bearing exercise machines while away from the effects of gravity. But more help could be on the way — Lehnhardt adds that there are spacesuits in the works that could provide resistance similar to what you might experience on earth.
One thing that probably won’t change is how teeth age. According to Lehnhardt, that process should mimic what you’d see back home as long as you eat a nutritious diet (which Lorenzi notes is already a top priority) and have access to dental care.
The Bottom Line
Sure, you have the possibility of ultra-thin translucent skin, a plump and fluid-filled face, no fingernails, a bald head, and spindly legs as an elder Martian. But you can probably cross an increased chance of needing dentures off the list.
Beth Shapouri is a beauty, health, and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow her on Instagram.
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