Of all the body’s organs that decline with age, none show it or make us as self-conscious as the our largest organ; the skin.
The skin ages in two ways essentially; intrinsically and extrinsically. Intrinsic aging is a natural part of life and results in thin, dry skin, wrinkles and over time, dermal atrophy. Extrinsic aging is caused by external factors such as air pollution, sun exposure, smoking and a poor diet. External factors tend to lead to coarse wrinkles, looseness, loss of elasticity and a rough texture to the skin.
With all these threats to the health of your skin, it’s only natural to wonder if there is a way to slow down the aging process and prolong a healthier look for your skin. While it isn’t quite possible to stop the aging process for your skin just yet, it is possible to do certain things that will prolong your skin’s health and youthful appearance.
Can We Make Our Skin Look Younger?
It’s only natural that skin experiences wear and tear just like the rest of the body and as you might expect, that wear and tear can’t be prevented to a certain extent. On the other hand, some of the wear we think of as natural, such as sun exposure and air pollution, can be prevented. But it’s important to understand how our skin ages.
Beneath the skin is a network of fiber, consisting mostly of collagen and elastin. These proteins keep skin firm so that when the skin is stretched, the skin snaps it back into place. But as we age, the fiber network weakens, and skin sags as it loses its support structure.
Skin becomes thinner with age and in doing so, it loses fat, causing it to also lose its smoothness. Gravity does its part in tandem with our genetic code, which can have unforeseen effects ranging from one extreme to the other.
So how do we keep skin looking young?
Control Sun Damage– Ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate skin and cause a great deal of the damage. It causes a breakdown in elasticity which leads to wrinkles and sun spots. To avoid this, you should always wear sunscreen, one that is SPF 30 or greater and doubles as a moisturizer. Hats can help limit the damage to your face and neck. Also, it’s important to stop working on your tan through sun bathing and avoid sun exposure when it’s at it’s most intense, usually between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is particularly important for older adults as risks of skin cancer increase with age.
Be Careful About Skin Products– Whether it’s your face wash, a tonic or a moisturizer, be sure to check the ingredients of skin care products you use and buy a gentle facewash as your skin tends to dry out and be less durable with age. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends regularly moisturizing your skin, but this oftentimes means switching your normal face cream for a “richer” one that both adds and locks in moisture.
Stop Smoking- If you’re one of the more than 34 million Americans who smoke cigarettes, you should be worried about the effect this habit has on the skin. Smoking is often defined by the dull complexion of people who smoke, their skin sometimes resembling leather. This is because smoking causes a decrease in circulation. Carcinogens in cigarettes are no help here and will contribute to the formation of wrinkles.
Understand Your Facial Expressions- The facial expressions we make are important as they engage the underlying muscles. Facial expressions have a funny way of becoming habit though, therefore creating lines in the areas where the facial muscles contract. Add in enough repetition and these lines become permanent creases as skin elasticity decreases. This can result in wrinkles such as Crow’s feet from constantly squinting, something that can be avoided simply by wearing sunglasses. Consider methods for eliminating habits that regularly cause you to have facial expressions which create lines.
While most of these methods won’t reverse the aging of your skin, they will give your skin a better chance at longevity and healthy function.