Skin Aging: What’s Causing Those Wrinkles?
Bad news, friends: we’re all aging. You are aging as you read this blog post, just as I was aging while I wrote it. It’s an inevitable part of our shared experience of being alive; maturity comes to us all.
This is by no means a bad thing across the board. Maturity means wisdom, it means perspective, it means having accomplishments to look back on and experience to drawn on. But it also means that some things in the body don’t function as well as they once automatically did.
What’s hit hardest by the aging process?
This is particularly true of our skin.
Skin is affected by the same aging processes as the rest of our bodies: cells die and regenerate slower, hormone levels decline, general deterioration carries on. This is called an intrinsic ager, and there’s nothing much we can do about it; as we get older, our cells’ abilities to repair themselves slows.
But our skin gets hit even harder by the aging process than the rest of our bodies. This is because our skin is exposed to external environmental factors that don’t impact our other organs. These factors break down collagen and impact the DNA structure of the cell. Over time, the cell is more likely to replicate that damage and as the damaged cells multiply our skin looks worn. DNA aging also impacts the production of collagen, which is the main component of connective tissue. Collagen is responsible for limiting the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and saggy skin.
Unfortunately, collagen production decreases as we age, and we start to see those signs of aging in our skin. Fortunately, we can address the extrinsic, external factor, and by doing so slow down some of the effects of aging that show up on our skin.
So what are those external factors? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest culprits.
Don’t get me wrong, the sun is great. It warms us and provides light and our skin does need some exposure to the sun to get our Vitamin D quota. But sun also creates photoaging, which is, you guessed, it, a sun-induced skin aging. It’s a cumulative process, and people with outdoor lifestyles or who live in sunny climates, or who are lightly pigmented, will experience the highest degree of photoaging.
The Canadian Dermatology Association defines photoaging as a premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), primarily from the sun but also from artificial UV sources (such as tanning beds). Signs of photoaging include leathery, sagging skin; spider veins on the nose, cheeks, and neck; the appearance of fine wrinkles around the eyes and mouth and frown lines on the forehead; and taut lips that start to lose some color and fullness.
Exposure to sun also increases the occurrence of age spots and other forms of discoloration. American Fitness Professionals & Associates reports that the skin reaps the benefits of Vitamin D up until the 20 minute mark of sun exposure. After that, the benefits are counteracted by the damage of the UV rays to the skin. And let’s remember that the sun doesn’t have to be shining to cause damage. It can affect you on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days as well. Dr. Neil Sadick, a New York City-based dermatologist, told Health.com, “Skin-damaging UV rays can penetrate through glass, so you need to apply sun protection even indoors.” Dr. Sadick suggests a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection which blocks both types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. You want to pick an SPF of at least 30.
There’s really no upside to smoking, no matter how cool you think it looks. Besides a strong association with all kind of systemic diseases, smoking is also connected to many dermatological conditions. Besides increasing your risk of melanoma and oral cancer, smoking can causing premature aging and poor wound healing.
How? Tobacco smoke impairs the production of collagen, which is an essential protein for the health and appearance of skin. Collagen is a building block for elasticity, which keeps skin taut, and can help to even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Smoking also increases the production of tropoelastin and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), which leads to the breakdown of collagen, elastic fibers, and connective tissues.
Smokers develop fine lines around the mouth, deeper forehead wrinkles, and are twice as likely to develop bad teeth. It’s not a cute look.
Alcohol is pretty rough on the skin. Over time, heavy drinkers can develop skin that is discolored, has poor muscle tone, and often has broken blood vessels or small spider veins.
Booze is also a natural diuretic, so the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become, and the more prone you are to rosacea outbreaks. Cutting back a bit means your liver won’t have to work so hard to flush out toxins and impurities from your body
If you’re thinking about drinking something, try water! Not only does hydration help skin stay plump and smooth, but having a higher water intake increases blood volume. This aids in circulation, meaning that your blood is better at delivering nutrients to your skin, and also washing away waste that can clog things up.
Not enough sleep, too much stress
Want great skin? Get great shut eye. Our skin battles against stressors like UV rays and pollution all day. A study conducted by Estee Lauder found that poor sleepers took a longer time to recover from those environmental stressors, and showed increased signs of aging generally. Researchers found that poor sleepers showed increased signs of fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and slackening skin with reduced elasticity. Good sleepers, on the other hand, recovered more efficiently from stressors to the skin.
Carolyn Jacob, MD, a director at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, told Health.com that sleep is vital because stress hormones drop back to normal levels at night, giving our skin cells the time to repair and rejuvenate.
Dr. Jacob also noted that stress raises the levels of the hormone cortisol, which increases oil production and can lead to bouts of acne. Because stress is also The Worst for our skin. Besides throwing off the hormone levels in the body, stress can disrupt the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, which can also cause acne.
Constantly furrowing your brows or pursing your lips when stressed? This can lead to deeper wrinkles in these areas. Consider deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga, to keep that mind clear and forehead smooth.
Keeping your face clean is a tricky business. Build up of perspiration and oils can irritate the skin, but so can scrubbing the skin too vigorously to get it clean. In both cases, that irritation can accelerate the aging of the skin.
Acne treatments in particular dry out the skin, which can cause more damage, creating a tough, wrinkled face. When you deplete the skin’s natural oils, the skin loses its elasticity and the face ages. Moisturizing daily and applying sunscreen can help combat dryness and protect from UV rays.
Even without the harsher acne treatments, it’s important to not throw out the good with the bad when it comes to cleansing. If we’re washing our faces too often, it can dry out the skin and remove protective oils.
Beyond the face
And don’t just focus on the face! Remember to treat your hands and neck with the same care you show your neck, because they’re just as exposed to the environmental factors. Get that moisturizer and sunscreen on them as well.
When choosing an anti-aging moisturizing cream, look for one with Vitamin A acids, Vitamin C or alpha hydroxy acids, which help enhance the production of collagen in the skin. Beware of creams that claim to have collagen actually in them, since the skin is not effective at absorbing external collagen.
Hyaluronic acid deficiency
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a type of sugar that is produced by the body and found in connective tissue, including the skin. It enhances the sliding between adjacent tissue layers, works to bind collagen with elastin, and maintains the extracellular space to provide an open and hydrated structure for the passage of nutrients in the epidermis. HA is also involved in tissue repair in the skin.
HA does that repair by being a tiny sponge for moisture that can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. The acid acts as a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains the moisture in the air nearby by absorbing it, drawing the water vapor into or beneath the surface of the humectant object.
That ability for hyaluronic acid to hold in moisture makes it hugely beneficial for our skin. As Beauty by the Geeks noted to The Telegraph, “In a sense, hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge holding vast amounts of water in the skin, effectively plumping out the skin and by doing so it can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as improving the skin’s hydration and texture of the skin.”
Unfortunately, our body’s natural production of hyaluronic acid slows down as we age. A lack of hyaluronic acid leads to less lubrication and less elasticity in the skin, which leads to sagging and wrinkles. If we don’t want those things (and who does, really?) we need to look to other sources of HA to keep the skin looking plump and smooth.
The best product for hyaluronic acid
Our favourite product? The brand new Beauty on Contact by Responsive Skin Care, which uses sodium hyaluronate for its quick absorption. Vitamin B3 is another major ingredient. It’s also known as niacin, which boosts blood circulation and accelerates and enhances tissue repair.
Learn more about Beauty on Contact at the link below, and start nurturing your skin to reverse the effects of extrinsic aging factors – and look 10 years younger!
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