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Aging Skin

 

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 beyond.

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 Age?

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 patches.

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 skin.

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:

 

  • Lentigines - 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.

  • Bruises - 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.

  • Wrinkles - As skin becomes less elastic, it begins sag, particularly around the eyes, mouth, forehead, and cheeks.

  • Telangiectasias - Often called "broken capillaries," telangiectases are visible, dilated blood vessels in the face, usually caused by sun damage.

  • Actinic keratoses - These are rough, warty, reddish or brownish growths, caused by sun damage and are often a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer).

  • Cherry Angiomas- These are red, protruding growths on the body caused by dilated blood vessels. They are harmless and occur in about 85% of those over middle-aged.

  • Seborrheic Keratoses - These are brown or black raised spots, or warty growths on the skin's surface.

Keep Your Skin Looking Younger

 

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