What is the No.1 cause of aging skin?
“Without a doubt, sun exposure is the single biggest cause of premature ageing.”
What is aging skin?
Aging is an unavoidable process of living and our skin, as the most visible part of our body, displays all the signs of the aging process.
How we treat our bodies, both internally and externally, will affect how our skin ages. This includes what we eat, drink as well as those not so healthy habits such as drinking alcohol or smoking. The good news is that there are steps that we can take to reduce the effects of aging to keep the skin looking and feeling healthy.
Symptoms of aging skin
As a result of the natural aging process, your skin will begin to take on certain characteristics. Below, we have listed a few of them:
As we get older, the fibres in the skin (elastin) break down and begin to lose their ability to snap back causing wrinkles. These changes in the skin are due to external factors such as sun exposure and gravity but also to other factors such as smoking. The reason why smoking ages the skin is not clear but may have something to do with the physical process of smoking as well as the effect of the smoke coming into contact with the skin.
As we get older, our skin tends to get dry and rough, particularly in the lower legs, elbows and forearms. With dry skin comes itchiness. Although external factors may be to blame, the amount of sweat and old glands does reduce with age and therefore may contribute to this symptom.
Age spots (also referred to as “liver spots”) are flat, brown or black spots that most often appear on your face, arms, hands and shoulders or the areas of the body that are most often exposed to the sun. It is worth noting that the name “liver spot” has nothing to do with the liver and is only a reference to the colour. The main contributing factor to age spots is sun exposure.
With age comes an increased tendency to bruising, particularly on the arms and legs. This is mainly due to a reduction in the connective tissue and fat surrounding blood vessels making them more susceptible to injury. Along with bruising, the skin also takes longer to heal due to a flattening of the area between the upper and lower layers of the skin i.e. epidermis and dermis.
The skin may take on a transparent appearance which is caused by a thinning of the upper layer of skin i.e. epidermis.
Loss of volume
This is a symptom typically seen in the cheek area of the face but is also visible in the temples, chin and nose area which may result in loose skin around these areas.
Other symptoms will include a loss of bone around the mouth and chin and cartilage loss in the nose area.
Causes of aging skin
Now that you know what you have go to look forward to (sorry!), we can now look at the main causes of aging.
Without doubt, the sun exposure is the single biggest cause of premature aging. To be clear, skin will age. However, symptoms such as age spots, wrinkles, dryness can be made worse due to sun exposure. These aging symptoms can be delayed by simply staying out of the sun whereever possible and using effective sun protection when the skin is exposed to the sun.
Other factors that contribute to the appearance of age symptoms are gravity, consistent facial movements, sleeping position and smoking. We have all seen expression lines which can appear on the forehead, in between the eyes (glabella) and around the eyes (crow’s feet). These are areas of the face that are used consistently and are therefore more susceptible to wrinkles. Your sleeping position may contribute to creases in the temple area (above the eyebrows near to the hair line). Finally, the physical action of smoking is more likely to cause wrinkles around the lip area.
Treatment for aging skin
There are several treatment options to alleviate the symptoms of aging skin. The skincare industry for anti-aging products is huge and what solution you decide to take is sometimes a case of how much you wish to spend. However, in this section, we have discussed in general terms what treatments are available to combat the symptoms we have already discussed.
Many creams on the market cannot claim to reverse wrinkles and most, at best, can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles by plumping up the surrounding skin. Other treatment options include skincare products containing Retinol or laser treatments.
If your aim is just to treat dry skin, this can be done by using products that prevent the loss of moisture from the skin and creating a protective barrier on the skin. They are available as ointments, creams, lotions depending on the severity of skin dryness.
Age spots can be treated in a variety of ways including anti-aging creams or laser treatments.
Aging skin – skincare advice
There are many practical steps that you can take to reduce the signs of aging. Of these, reducing your exposure to the sun is the most important. We have detailed below a few practical steps you can take to protect yourself from the aging effects of the sun.
- Always use a SPF cream as part of your daily skin routine. Remember that ultraviolet rays are not limited to sunny days but are present all times of the year. Reapply sun protection throughout the day if needed.
- Concentrate the application of sun protection on areas of the body that are most exposed i.e. face, arms legs and pay particular attention to those often ignored areas such as the eyelids, nose and neck area (front and back).
- Your skin needs time to absorb the sun protection cream or lotion so follow the instructions if it suggests that you wait after applying it before going outside.
- As the sun tends to be strongest in the middle of the day, avoid getting burned by seeking shelter if necessary.
- Wear a hat on very hot days and if possible keep the body covered up with long-sleeved t-shirts and long skirts.
- Make sure your sunglasses have UV protection and choose sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV rays. Some manufacturers label their sunglasses has having “UV absorption up to 400nm” which is the same as 100% UV protection.
- Remember to check the skin for any changes. Look out for changes in any existing moles, skin lesions or new moles. If in any doubt, speak to your GP or dermatologist who will examine these for you.