Aging Skin Introduction

With each passing year, our bodies slowly age. Perhaps some of the earliest and most noticeable signs of our age are the changes that occur to our skin. Until individuals reach their mid-twenties the skin remains relatively youthful, showing little signs of change. However, as we enter our thirties fine lines start to creep in around our eyes, and as we progress into our forties, fifties, and beyond, we are reminded of skin damage from years past with the development of a rough skin texture, age spots, deeper wrinkles, and sagging skin. This module will help you understand not only why your skin ages, but what you can do to slow the aging process down and how to reduce the signs of aging you may already have!

Skin Anatomy Overview

Before you understand how your skin ages, you need to understand what makes up your skin. Your skin consists of two layers known as the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, or outer layer of the skin, acts as the skin’s primary defense against the environment, and prevents moisture loss, which you will learn more about later in the program. The cells that make up the damaged outermost layer of your skin are continuously shed and are replaced by newer cells from deeper layers of the epidermis. This process, known as skin renewal, is what keeps your skin looking fresh and revitalized. In addition to several important structures, the dermis is comprised primarily of a network of collagen and elastin fibers that provides the skin with structure, support, and elasticity.

The Natural Aging Process

Have you ever wondered why some people look like they are in their twenties when they are actually closer to 40? While many factors contribute to the different rates at which we age, one of the primary reasons we age so differently is due to genetic factors. Just as genes from our parents determine our hair and eye color, they also determine how we age. Your genes control several natural processes that cause your skin to age. Let’s take a closer look at some of these different factors.

Intrinsic Aging Factors

Beginning in your mid-twenties, the rate of skin cell renewal actually slows. As this happens, your skin becomes thinner which makes it more prone to damaging environmental elements like the sun, harsh weather conditions, and pollution, which causes it to develop a dull, rough, or uneven texture. In addition, the network of collagen and elastin fibers that is so important to maintaining the skin’s structure and elasticity breaks down and slowly diminishes, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, and loose, sagging skin. Lastly, lipids that form a barrier against water loss in the stratum corneum break down in response to changing hormone levels. The skin’s moisture barrier becomes leaky, allowing water to escape the skin, which may cause your skin to become drier with age.

Sun Damage

The normal aging process can be accelerated by a number of factors from your environment. Repeated, long-term sun exposure is the primary cause of premature aging. Ultraviolet light from the sun causes melanocytes to produce too much pigment, which results in the formation of freckles and age spots. Damage from ultraviolet light also accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis. This is why people who spend a significant amount of time outdoors without proper protection usually experience deeper lines and wrinkles and greater skin laxity. Even more serious, ultraviolet light can damage the DNA in skin cells and melanocytes, which can lead to different forms of skin cancer.

Other Extrinsic Aging Factors

In addition to the sun, there are a number of environmental and mechanical factors that can affect how your skin ages. Environmental factors that can play a significant role in skin aging include the climate, air pollution, and cigarette smoke. Some of the mechanical factors that contribute to aging include gravity and repetitive muscle movements.

Skin Health in Your 20s & 30s

If you have maintained a good skin care routine and avoided substantial sun exposure, your skin should look and feel beautiful in your twenties and your thirties. The rate of skin renewal slows, but by exfoliating your skin on a regular basis, you can increase the cell renewal rate to maintain a fresh and healthy glow. By the time you reach your thirties, collagen and elastin fibers begin to decrease slightly. As a result, the first signs of aging may start to appear as fine lines around your eyes and mouth. You may also experience a slight change in skin texture, and a decrease in your skin”s overall moisture content. Using a daily moisturizer with sunscreen and continuing to exfoliate will help keep your skin looking radiant. If you are looking to improve the texture of your skin, ask your dermatologist about a prescription medication like RENOVA® that can help with fine wrinkling or simple in office procedures like superficial chemical peels or microdermabrasion. Men and women who are looking for quicker, more dramatic results may choose BOTOX® Cosmetic to help reduce the appearance of deeper wrinkles.

Skin Health in Your 40s & 50s

Signs of aging become increasingly apparent in your forties and fifties. Although your skin can still look healthy and vibrant, the effects of long-term sun exposure, repetitive facial expressions, and the normal aging process start to accumulate. The fine lines around your eyes and mouth deepen and forehead lines and glabellar creases may begin to appear. Age spots and other pigmentation irregularities generally start to appear in sun-exposed areas. If you would like to reduce the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles, collagen and hyaluronic acid fillers or BOTOX® Cosmetic are minimally invasive approaches that may work well for you. Additionally, chemical peels, intense pulsed light therapy, and laser resurfacing may help to improve your skin tone and texture and increase collagen production.