AS YEARS PASS the inevitable occurs - SKIN AGEING.
Understanding what causes and accelerates this process can help us to take control and preserve our youthful glow.
As we age, dermal and epidermal layers of the skin become thinner, there is gradual loss of collagen and elastin (the skins scaffolding), our skin loses the ability to preserve moisture, and our facial bones are resorbed. This all leads to the increased laxity of facial skin and change in facial volume and contour.
So what actually causes skin ageing?
There are two main components responsible for skin ageing :
- Intrinsic factors, which refer to the natural processes of ageing determined by an individual’s genetic make-up.
- Extrinsic factors, which are external environmental factors such as excessive sun-exposure and poor diet. Extrinsic aging factors account for up to 85% of premature ageing, so it’s well worth investing time in taking control of these preventable factors.
Sun exposure is the largest contributor of extrinsic ageing. The ultraviolet (UV) light contained in sunlight is the main cause of skin damage.
How does the sun cause the skin to age?
UV light causes harm by; causing release of damaging substances called free radicals. UV light also depresses natural protective substances in the skin, called anti-oxidants and by damages your genetic material (DNA) which impairs repair mechanisms within the skin. Use of tanning beds have the same effect of sun exposure. Research has in fact shown that regular use of tanning beds not only accelerates ageing, buts also triples the chance of developing the skin cancer, melanoma.
Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that damage living cells. They can come from the environment, things we consume or can originate from the body itself. Sources of free radicals include:
- Every day air pollution, smog, UV rays (80% of free radical damage to the skin is caused by UV rays)
- Fried foods, alcohol , tobacco, pesticides
- Lack of sleep and , stress, tiredness
How do free radicals cause the skin to age?
The answer is - by oxidation . Oxidation is when free radicals damage parts of the cells, such as proteins, DNA and cell membranes. When this occurs, the cell is no longer able to function normally. Free radical damage can therefore lead to tissue damage, the result of which can be wrinkles, dehydration and loss of youthful volume.
As oxidation occurs, the body tries to compensate for this by activating an inflammatory response. Unfortunately the inflammation is not always isolated to the area of destruction, and instead spills over to surrounding healthy tissues. Inflammation can cause break down of collagen and elastin in the skin, which can lead to premature sagging, lines and wrinkles.
How to prevent free radical damage
Anti-oxidants are the skin’s superhero against free radicals. Vitamins A, C and E are all potent anti-oxidants that can help prevent free radical damage in the skin. Using skin products or eating foods that are rich in these vitamins can therefore prevent premature ageing.
It’s well known that smokers tend to age more prematurely compared to non-smokers. These changes can occur only after 10 years of smoking.
How does smoking cause the skin to age?
- Chemicals in tobacco smoke can produce free radicals in the body. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can damage the skin by interfering with cell DNA, proteins and cell membranes. As a result, collagen and elastin - the proteins that give your skin it’s strength and elasticity, can break down. Loss of collagen and elastin can lead to skin sagging and wrinkles.
- The nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the skin. This leads to impaired the blood flow. As a result, your skin doesn’t receive as much oxygen and important nutrients.
- Repeated facial expressions made when smoking, for example pursing your lips when inhaling, and squinting these eyes to keep out the smoke, may contribute to wrinkles.