During our early adolescent and
teenage years, most of us rarely think about our skin and the aging
process that will one day affect the condition and appearance of our skin.
However, after our early 20s, aging changes will begin to show up in the
skin; changes which will progress as we age into our 30s, 40s, 50s and
It's never too late to begin taking care of your skin
and protecting it from future damage. Although your skin will continue to
age as you get older, you can take certain precautions and use certain
products to help keep your skin looking healthy, refreshed, and youthful.
How Does Skin Change With
As we approach our 30s, our body's production of
collagen and elastin (two substances that give the skin
firmness and elasticity) begins to slow down. The collagen and elastin
also begin to loosen and unravel which results in skin that sags and has
poor elasticity. A young person, with plenty of both collagen and elastin,
has firm, smooth, unwrinkled skin. As that person ages, the loss of
collagen and elastin causes the skin to become looser and less supple.
At the same time, fat cells beneath the skin may begin
to disappear. With the loss of this supportive fat, collagen, and elastin,
plus the pull of gravity, the skin begins to sag and form wrinkles. The
skin also loses the ability to moisturize itself and retain moisture with
age, leading to skin that is drier, possibly with itchy, irritated
With age also comes the appearance of those familiar
lines and wrinkles that we associate with older skin; frown lines
(those between the eyebrows) and crow's feet (lines that radiate
from the corners of the eyes) begin to appear as a result of permanent
small muscle contractions.
Your Habits, Your Skin
In addition to the natural processes that occur in our
bodies and skin as we age, other long-term habits can cause damage to our
Sun exposure is the most damaging external factor that
affects the condition and health of our skin and is the primary cause of
prematurely aging skin (called photoaging) and skin cancers
(including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma).
In fact, many of the features we associate with aged skin are actually
caused by sun exposure, and not by the natural aging process. Photoaging
can cause a number of skin conditions, including:
- Fine wrinkles
- Liver spots (a.k.a. age spots)
- Dilated blood vessels
- Roughened skin
Smoking cigarettes is also harmful to the skin. Smoking
causes the blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to narrow
(constrict), which reduces the blood supply, reduces the amount of oxygen
available to the skin, and reduces the removal of waste products and dead
cells. This process contributes to the reduction in collagen and elastin
and prevents Vitamin A from bonding with skin cells to repair skin damage,
leading skin to have a grayish or bluish cast and a leathery texture.
Smoking also restricts circulation, taking away the rosy blush of young
skin. The facial expressions smokers make when smoking may also cause
wrinkles, with wrinkles appearing around lips pursed around a cigarette
and around eyes that squint to keep out smoke.
Common Signs of Aging Skin
When skin ages and accumulates damage from
sun and other habits, a number of skin conditions may result including:
Also known as "age" or "liver" spots, lentigines are flat, brown spots
that usually show up on the face, hands, back and feet. These spots are
not dangerous (and are not a sign of liver disease). If, however, you
notice a dark, flat area with irregular (not rounded) borders, see a
dermatologist to ensure that it is not a melanoma.
Older skin bruises more often than younger skin and takes a much longer
time to heal. Bruises that don't heal after a week or so should be seen
by a dermatologist.
As skin becomes less elastic, it begins sag, particularly around the
eyes, mouth, forehead, and cheeks.
- Often called "broken capillaries," telangiectases are visible, dilated
blood vessels in the face, usually caused by sun damage.
- These are rough, warty, reddish or brownish growths, caused by sun
damage and are often a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma (skin
These are red, protruding growths on the body caused by dilated blood
vessels. They are harmless and occur in about 85% of those over
- These are brown or black raised spots, or warty growths on the skin's
Keep Your Skin Looking