The appearance of your skin is strongly influenced by two types of aging. Intrinsic (internal) aging is caused by the genes we inherit. Extrinsic (external) aging is caused by environmental factors such as exposure to the sun.
For your skin, this means less collagen and hyaluronic acid to support and fill out layers of skin. Environmental effects, pollution, sun exposure, stress and smoking can all increase this effect. Over time, this combination of factors contributes to the three D’s of aging.
- Deterioration – fine lines, wrinkles, skin texture change
- Descent – droopiness or sagging skin
- Deflation – loss of fullness or volume
As your body ages, the appearance of your skin changes. Some of these changes are determined by your genes. Visible signs can begin as early as age 25 when the natural regenerative process begins to slow down. As aging occurs, a person’s skin cells divide more slowly and the inner layer of the skin (or dermis) starts to thin.
As if getting older isn’t enough of a natural stress on our skin, other factors such as extremes of cold or heat, excess sun, psychological stress and poor nutrition can all contribute to prematurely aging our skin.
Loss of Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid plays an important role in the way our skin looks, feels and functions. Hyaluronic acid retains water like a sponge, absorbing more than 1,000 times its weight. This helps to hydrate our skin, improving overall appearance.
As we age and our skin is exposed to environmental pollutants and the sun’s ultraviolet rays, our cells gradually lose the ability to produce hyaluronic acid. Skin begins to thin and become more fragile. Wrinkles develop as our collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid break down, causing the skin to lose elasticity and volume.
The skin’s ability to retain moisture diminishes, the sweat and oil-secreting glands degenerate, depriving the skin of protective water lipid emulsion, creating dry and looser skin. Skin also loses fat over time, looking less plump and smooth. In addition, the ability of the skin to repair itself diminishes with age, so wounds are slower to heal.
Frown lines (lines between the eyebrow) and crow’s feet (lines that radiate from the corner of the eyes) appear because of persistent small muscle contraction. Habitual facial expressions also form characteristic lines and contribute to drooping eyelids.
Nothing ages our skin more than the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun accounts for about 90% of the symptoms of premature skin aging – and most of these effects have occurred by the age of 20. Ultraviolet light causes damage that leads to skin disorders, skin cancer, and wrinkles – for which treatment is often desired or required.
Even small amounts of ultraviolet radiation can damage collagen fibres, which are the major structural protein in the skin. During the skin’s repair process, more collagen is produced, but some is also broken down, leaving an uneven patch of disorganized collagen fibres called a solar scar. If this process of imperfect skin rebuilding occurs over and over, wrinkles will result.
Cigarette Smoke and Pollution
Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke and pollution can accelerate skin aging by producing oxygen free radicals. These molecules are normally present in the body, but in excessive amounts they can damage cells and interact with our DNA, leading to wrinkles and possibly cancer.
Compared to non-smokers, cigarette smokers are significantly more prone to lip wrinkles (because of the facial motions involved in smoking and because smoking contributes to skin thinning) and skin cancer (because cigarettes contain cancer-causing substances).
Gravity and Facial Expressions
Gravity is constantly pulling at the skin, making it sag. Eyelids fall, jowls form, and the upper lip becomes thinner while the lower lip becomes more pronounced.
At the same time, repetitive facial movements lead to fine lines forming. Each time we use a facial muscle, a groove forms beneath the surface of the skin. Frown lines (lines between the eyebrows) and crow’s feet (lines that radiate from the corners of the eyes) appear because of persistent small muscle contractions.