All You Need To Know About Skin Ageing - Part I
Okay, this is my first installment on skin ageing. Yes I’ve divided the whole topic in smaller installments for two main reasons:
· One because the scope of this topic is seriously ‘larger than life’ & one article is way little to actually even touch the topic barely. If I had to write it all down about everything I knew about skin ageing & ways we can counteract the effect of this natural process, it’d take weeks to cover & in the mean time the blog will not be updated & you guys will mistake me as dead.
· Secondly because it is not only about ageing, it is about what ageing is & how it progresses & what external factors do affect the rate at which it affects our skin & ways we can conquer it. So you see, it is indeed a multidimensional topic way beyond the scope of a single article.
Let’s just begin this casually & see how far I can cover today in a single article & according to that I’ll add further installments.
About ageing, the first question that I encounter most is how we can reverse ageing. To be true, we can’t actually reverse ageing but we can only reverse some effects of ageing or what is popularly known as signs of ageing like fine lines, expression lines, and wrinkles.
Ageing is a natural process, that even with controlling external factors, happens naturally. But you’d see, some people have aged exceptionally well & look almost the same as they used to, 20 years back. Most movie stars, models, fitness/wellness gurus fall into this category.
This is because if internal factors remain unchanged, but external factors (sun exposure, proper diet, a valid fitness regime, regular intake of supplements, antioxidants, skin treatments) highly controlled, only the maturity reflects on your face & nothing else shows that you’ve aged.
This is exactly why I find a person in his/her 30s/40s look much better than his/her 20s self. They simply look wiser & the wisdom acquired through experience reflects (ofcourse where other factors remain unchanged).
But in most cases this does not happen & that’s why we relate to a person being in 30s/40s to having high body fat, balding head, wrinkles & fine lines on face & limbs, sagging breasts (for women), having less energy & those love handles.
What I believe is that with proper knowledge we can easily conquer these signs of ageing. So, in this article let us discuss what external factors actually effect (affect???) our physical appearance as we age.
1. Since ageing is a natural process, scientifically this has an explanation. You might have heard about skin cell turn over.Do you know what it refers to?
Skin cells, like other cells in our body keep regenerating because the older cells wear out after performing their jobs (according to their location & genetic determination) & this is why we live. Cells have short life span & they divide to give out more cells in working condition(exception: neurons or brain cells). By mitosis, one cell divides into two sister cells of similar labour specification & thus the system runs.
The main difference in a young person & the older one is the rate at which the cell divides. The skin cells, at the optimum level, get replaced by younger cells every 28-30 days. This is the skin cell turn over rate. At a younger age, this rate thrives at the desired level but as we age, the rate of cell division slows down, & thus the skin cell turn over rate lengthens from 30 to 40 days, or sometimes 50-60 days.
This results in accumulation of dead/damaged cells (that are not efficiently replaced by young cells) which do not have the same elasticity as young fresh cells & this is when fine lines & wrinkles start to appear.
The cell division slows down because of the phenomenon that a viable cell only divides upto certain times in its life time. This is called the Hayflick limit. This is determined by the telomere (end of the chromosome), which with each cycle of replication is shortened & it only divides upto when the telomere is shortened to a critical length that it cannot divide anymore.
This is the principal reason of ageing. Now this is a natural process but there are external factors that seriously affect the cells’ health & division capacity. To discuss ageing, we need to address those factors first.
2. Sun exposure is the number one cause of skin ageing right now. Yes that includes the background light as well at home.
Generally it is believed that the consolidated amount of sun exposure before eighteen years of age determines the rate of skin ageing later in life as well as how strong the signs of ageing will be. This is atleast true in my case that I’ve seen my mum developing skin bumps at a later age & despite sticking to a strict sun protection regime (as well as working out daily, taking good care of skin/ diet, massage , peels), they keep popping up & the dermatologist says it’s because of sun exposure.
This may or may not be true for everyone. But being the prime reason of ageing sun-protection should be at the top of your priority list. Basically sun damages the skin via UVA & UVB rays.
UVB being the shorter wavelength ray, does more of a short term damage like immediate burning, tanning (for Flitzpatrick scale of skin colour VI onwards) but in the long term they do as much damage as its longer wavelength cousin UVA. It is said daily <2 minutes of sun exposure (to direct sunlight) for 5 years is enough to cause skin cancer (melanoma), rest assured speeding up ageing.
UVA on the other hand is a long wavelength ray, which instead speeds up ageing faster & tans skin slower than UVB. Many of you already know that sunlight causes DNA damage & particularly this UVA is notorious in doing that.
DNA is made up of 4 nitrogenous bases namely Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine & Guanine. UVA penetrates deep into the skin & generates Thymine-dimers (2 bases of chemically bonded adjacent Thymines instead of the normal sequence) & such abnormal alteration can not only cause breakdown of skin proteins like elastin, collagen but also causes an aggressive form of skin cancer called melanoma.
Although I want to make this short as this is no science tutorial, but upon creation of thymine dimmers, the repair mechanism is turned on & here the tumor suppressor gene p53 is activated which repairs the damage & in the way of doing so, to further protect skin from such assault, it turns the melanogenesis pathway on causing tan however, this repair process is immensely erroneous causing mutations. So now you know you’re literally playing with fire (DNA damage-repair mechanism) to get tanned & ageing is just the mildest of side effect that you can expect (the highest being cancer). Thus wrinkles are the collateral damage, not the exact side effect.
I’ve heard some would argue sunlight is important in synthesizing vitamin D. I get that. Except for Norse people, we need direct sun exposure to get that dose of vitamin D for bone health. But I would not trade cancer for vitamin D, neither I find sagging skin a good bargain.
We have supplements, fortified food to do that. So I’d highly suggest wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen on a daily basis, reapplying every 2-3 hours or even more frequently if you’re sweating, even at home.
3. Unregulated Blood Sugar can not only wreak havoc on your health & cause various diseases/metabolic syndromes like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure but can also speed up skin ageing.
Yes this is as true as my existence. I’m not talking about diabetes here but only consumption of a high carbohydrate diet on a regular basis (the effect doubles if you don’t like working out) for long accelerates ageing & causes excessive dryness.
So it’s always advisable to stay away from simple sugars (except for a post workout meal, where it is important in restoring the energy level fast & grow muscles, retaining water for a hypertrophic look) & cut back on starches if you want good skin.
4. Although I know it’s hard to make everyone believe but your skin type is a prime determinator of how well you’ll age.
Usually people with oily skin will age at a slower rate & ward off fine lines/wrinkles for longer than other skin types especially those with dry to extremely dry skin because oily skin is naturally rich with sebum (Natural Moisturizing Factor).
Yes it is the same sebum that we curse on a regular basis for clogging pores.
Actually as our skin ages, we tend to lose oil (sebaceous) glands which make our skin dry & thus wrinkles appear easily. You might have heard that moisturizing is important in slowing down ageing.
How many times have you been advised to flaunt a dewy makeup because the expert thought it makes you look younger (much younger than a matte look). This is exactly the principle behind the highlight/strobing trend we’re experiencing right now. Mature skin makeup is all about fresh, dewy moisturized look.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not asking you to trade acne for younger looking skin. A well maintained (acne free) oily skin not only slows down the signs of ageing, but also looks good & is generally hardier. There are non comedogenic products available in the market which can help you immensely with handling oily skin.
Dry skinned people should concentrate in moisturizing the skin as often as it needs.
5. Proper hydration is another factor that directly influences the rate of skin ageing. I know lot of people would confuse this with moisturization anyway.
It’s not their fault. Moisturization & hydration are two words often used synonymously however, in reality (on skin related matters), moisturization refers to the oil content of skin while hydration refers to the water content of the skin.
This is exactly why, you’ve been advised by your granny to stay hydrated. Even oily skin, despite of having high oil content can be dehydrated at times. Remember those times, when even after applying moisturizer your skin would feel tight & uncomfortable!!!
This is why drinking adequate water is important as well as preserving water content of skin. Hyaluronic acid does exactly that. You’d find thousands of anti ageing products that mention hyaluronic acid as a primary ingredient. Application of a product containing 1-1.5% hyaluronic acid once at night daily can help you in keeping skin hydration at an optimum level.
6. Oxidative damage is another demon that almost destroys skin on a regular basis. You see, some part of it is inevitable like what we call internal factor of ageing, which is natural & we can do very little about it.
But oxidative damage that happens on a larger scale is mostly influenced by external factors like pollution & toxins or even stress. Oxidative damage refers to cellular oxidation by highly active superoxide oxygen & nitrogen radicals (free radicals) generated at cellular level by toxins, pollution & increased level of stress hormone cortisol which in turn breaks down skin collagen & resulting in skin losing its elasticity & makes wrinkles appear.
Free radicals can only be neutralized by anti oxidants such as vitamin C.Vitamin C not only acts as an anti oxidant but is also a catalyst in the process of synthesizing collagen which is mandatory for proper skin elasticity.
So it’ll be really benefitting to use an anti oxidant based serum on a regular basis (Q10, vitamin C/ E based serum). But please be aware that such elements are highly unstable upon sun exposure. So only use this at night.
7. This is the last but most important factor that accelerates ageing: poor circulation. However the good news is circulation can be easily improved by working out regularly.
Sometimes, metabolic syndromes like diabetes can cause poor circulation which can also be covered by moderate to strenuous work out. This will improve the overall health.
However, these days different facial massage techniques are making a strong case. This includes massaging your face with a soothing jade roller or employing the Chinese Gua Sha Technique. These are all aimed at proper lymphatic drainage which is important in getting rid of toxins.
Many such massage videos are available on youtube & remember, lymphatic drainagerequires low pressure. Regular practice of this can show you great difference in a few months.
These are the most important effectors when it comes to skin ageing. If you know more, I’d request you to include that in the comments section below. I’ll cover the rest in following installments about skin ageing, so stick around for more.
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