Caring for Ageing Skin and How to Prevent Premature Ageing
How does skin age and how should you care for it?
The first signs of ageing, where you can see visible changes on the surface of the skin, start from around the age of 25. Fine lines appear first and over time you will notice a loss of volume and loss of elasticity in your skin.
Our skin ages for a variety of reasons, some of which are totally natural and cannot be altered. Nevertheless, there are factors that can cause skin to age prematurely and you can influence these. Taking a holistic approach to your lifestyle and skincare can help to reduce the visible signs of skin aging and prevent premature skin aging.
If you understand how internal and external factors affect your skin’s structure then you can help make informed choices about treatment and care.
Signs of ageing
Fine lines and wrinkles are usually the first noticeable signs of skin ageing. Initially you might see laughter lines around the outer corners of the eyes, typically only visible when your skin moves as you change facial expressions (known as dynamic wrinkles). As you age further, these wrinkles become more prominent, eventually evolving into permanent wrinkles that are visible even when your face is not moving.
Loss of volume
Loss of volume and facial contours is very gradual and can be difficult to identify. Early signs are often seen around the lips when lipstick starts to bleed. A loss of facial volume tends to result in sagging skin, flattening of the cheeks and looser skin around your neck. All these things change the overall contour/appearance of the face. A fold often develops between the nose and the mouth and this is also linked to sagging skin and a loss of volume.
Loss of elasticity and deep wrinkles
As your skin matures its structure weakens and it loses elasticity and firmness. Skin becomes drier and loses the radiance associated with young skin. These changes become visible at different ages because our skin is very individual, but are most commonly experienced by those who are 50+.
What causes the skin to age?
Ageing of the skin takes place in all layers of the skin, but shows itself on the surface. Briefly:-
A loss of hyaluronic acid content, slower cell turnover and reduction in sebum production on the skin’s surface makes roughness and dryness more likely. This layer of the skin becomes more sensitive to the sun’s rays and is also less efficient at healing itself. A reduced immune function can lead to an increase in skin infections together with slower wound healing.
Collagen is one of the skin’s building blocks and from about the age of 25 collagen decreases by 1% each year. This is accompanied by a decline in functional elastin which leads to dermal tissue disorganisation. Skin structure is compromised and fine lines and wrinkles are more likely. Elasticity continues to reduce and deeper wrinkles form as we age further. The production of hyaluronic acid slows down so skin cells are less effective at binding in water and skin is prone to dryness. It also becomes weaker and more prone to damage and broken capillaries. In addition, there is a reduction in micro-circulation which means less efficient delivery of nutrition and oxygen to the surface. This leads to a decrease in the radiance seen in more youthful skin.
In the deeper layers, the most notable changes are the reduction in size and number of lipid-storing cells in the adipose layer. This results in sagging skin, a loss of volume and deeper wrinkles together with hollow temples and cheeks.
Internal causes of ageing
Decreasing levels of oestrogen result in reduced messaging between cells.
Poorer blood supply
A poorer supply of blood to the skin means the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s surface is impeded. Radiance therefore fades and skin becomes duller.
The phototype and skin type we are born with make a difference to how quickly signs of ageing appear on skin’s surface. For example:
Fair or phototype I – II and/or sensitive skin is more prone to wrinkles at an earlier age than darker phototype V - VI
Phototype III can be prone to uneven skin tone, but wrinkles appear at a later age than for other phototypes
External causes of ageing
External factors affecting the speed with which the skin ages are all due to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress releases free radicals (molecules that consist of a single unpaired electron in an outer shell). Free radicals cause premature ageing by damaging skin cell structures and breaking down skin components such as hyaluronic acid, collagen and functional elastin. Under normal circumstances, free radicals are caught and neutralised by antioxidants in the skin. However, over time, the skin becomes less able to de-activate free radicals resulting in damage to all components of the skin’s cells.
Oxidative stress is triggered and accelerated by a variety of lifestyle factors:
The sun’s rays are the primary external cause of skin ageing via oxidative stress. Skin damage caused by the sun, photoageing and uneven pigmentation, is often one of the first visible signs to appear. And it’s not just prolonged UV exposure that causes skin damage. Every day exposure effects skin too.
Exposure to pollution can trigger the release of skin damaging free radicals. Pollution also worsens the effects of sun exposure accelerating oxidative stress.
The chemicals and nicotine contained in cigarettes are responsible for an upsurge in the number of free radicals in the skin. Like pollution, they intensify the effects of sun exposure leading to oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are molecules with the ability to neutralise the free radicals that damage skin and speed up skin ageing. Eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of caring for our skin as it ages.
Skin will age more quickly if it is poorly cared for or if you use products that irritate skin. Thorough cleansing using gentle products appropriate for skin type, together with the regular application of care products targeted at skin’s primary concern, will help to care for skin. Effective sun protection is key to preventing premature skin ageing.
How to care for ageing skin and reduce premature skin ageing
The three key signs of ageing are fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin and a loss of volume and elasticity. A holistic approach to lifestyle and skincare can help to prevent premature skin ageing and reduce the visible signs of skin ageing. As oxidative stress is the primary external cause of skin ageing, lifestyle changes should focus on minimising its effects.
Protect your skin with a good SPF (minimum SPF35) all day, every day
Keep your skin well cleansed and protected from the environment with a good quality, natural moisturiser.
Avoid smoking and exposure to smoke.
Eat foods rich in antioxidants – particularly high in antioxidants are carrots, apricots, other orange and yellow fruit and vegetables, blueberries, leafy green vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, pulses, oily fish and nuts.
A good skincare routine is an essential part of a holistic approach to treating all signs of ageing. If your skin is healthy, good care will ensure it stays in good condition. A basic routine should include cleansing, hydration and sun protection.
Regular, effective cleansing is essential to remove make-up, dirt and chemicals from the skin which can trigger oxidative stress.
Hydrated skin will help with loss of volume by plumping up wrinkles, redefining facial contours and improving the skin’s elasticity.
Protecting your skin from the sun, even on cloudy days, is THE most important step in preventing premature skin ageing.