As we age our skin loses elasticity, smoothness, and begins to form fine lines and eventually wrinkles. There are two general categories in which skin aging occurs. These categories are broken down into internal and external factors. Internal factors include the natural aging process, which also takes into account an individual’s genetic makeup. External factors are things that can be controlled such as diet, personal habits, and sun exposure. The following information discusses these two general categories and how the aging process works.
Skin is basically divided into three layers. The epidermis is the outer most layer. The middle layer is the dermis and the inner layer is called the subcutaneous. As aging begins, the epidermis begins to thin. This begins to happen as soon as our early twenties. As we continue to age, the blood vessels in the dermis are more susceptible to breaking. Collagen is a protein found in the skin. As we age the collagen production slows down. Elastin is another protein in our connective tissues that enables the skin to remain pliable and “elastic”. As this protein breaks down and becomes weaker with aging the skin is less elastic and sagging and loose skin appears. Both collagen and elastin are in the dermis, and this is where wrinkles and most aging takes place. Our skin also loses fat in the cheeks and chin area which causes sagging. The epidermis also loses its ability to retain moisture as the aging process occurs, thus the increase of dry skin. Finally, skin aging is affected by each individual’s genetics. Just as there are a wide range of ages when people begin to get gray hair, the loss of collagen and elastin occurs at different points in each individual’s life.
External influences, or what is called extrinsic aging, are additional factors that age skin. External influences on skin are things that often age skin more quickly than the normal aging process. These factors include smoking, sun exposure, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, and exposure to cold and wind. Even going to bed without removing makeup can prematurely age skin. Most individuals would not show excessive signs of skin aging until much later in life if not for these external factors. Skin on other parts of the body that have rarely been exposed to the elements almost always is firmer years after the face and hands begin to show signs of aging.
While the natural aging process isn’t something we can control, the external influences definitely are. Always using sunscreen, exercising, and eating healthy are simple things that will keep our skin looking healthy and young for years.