Aging Skin: Signs and Causes
We all know that aging is inevitable. It’s just a fact of life. To quote Truvy, the
salon owner and ‘glamour technician’ from Steel Magnolias, “Time marches on, honey. And sooner or later, you realize it’s marching across your face.”
But what really causes aging? And how much can we actually do about slowing the aging
process? These questions have been asked for as long anybody can possibly remember and then some. Anti-aging and Cosmetic sciences have
focused on this issue and made some remarkable strides, both in learning about the causes of aging and in devising ways to slow its progress.
Causes of Aging:
All aging in the body can be categorized into one of two distinct types of aging:
Intrinsic Aging, caused by genetic programming, and Extrinsic Aging, caused by environmental factors. These two types of aging can
often work in combination to result in premature aging.
Intrinsic Aging – the “natural aging process” usually begins
in a person’s mid-20s. The skin’s production of collagen slows and the elastin in the skin has less spring. Dead skin cells shed less
quickly and new cell turnover slows. While these changes do start in the mid-20s, the signs of these changes don’t usually become
visible for decades. The following are some signs of Intrinsic Aging:
• Fine lines and wrinkles
• Thin, transparent skin
• Loss of underlying fat layers, resulting in sunken cheeks, hollowed eyes,
and loss of firmness in the neck and hands
• Bones shrink, leading to sagging skin
• Inability to sweat sufficiently to cool the skin
• Graying hair, hair loss and unwanted hair
• Thinning of the nail plate, developing ridges and loss of the lunula
Because an individual’s genes control the natural aging process, some people may find
their first gray hair or crow’s feet in their 20s, while others may be 40 with no visible grays or wrinkles at all. For the same reason,
some people may find that certain areas of the body show signs of aging earlier than others. A woman may not notice any signs of gray,
or wrinkles on her face, yet discover that her hands are looking more and more like her mother’s as weeks pass.
Extrinsic Aging – the aging caused by external sources
affecting the body, is made up of many factors which can work in combination to age the skin faster than what would be “normal”
based on an individual’s genetic make-up. The most common cause of extrinsic aging is sun exposure, but there are other factors.
Some of these are repetitive facial expressions, sleeping positions, gravity, and smoking.
Sun: Unless protected, even a few minutes of exposure to the
sun each day of a period of years can create noticeable changes in the skin. Skin cancer, freckles and age spots aren’t the only risks.
Sun exposure is also responsible for spider veins on the face, rough and leathery skin, fine wrinkles, loose skin, blotches in the
complexion, and thick, wart-like, rough, reddish patches on the skin called actinic keratoses.
Dermatologists call the aging caused by sun exposure “Photoaging”. The amount of
photoaging that occurs depends largely on a person’s skin color and their history of exposure to the sun. Persons with fair skin are
more susceptible to photoaging effects than those with darker skin. The fair-skinned individual with a certain amount of sun exposure
could develop serious effects from photoaging, while the darkest skinned person might only develop fine wrinkles and a mottled skin
tone from the same exposure.