All About Your Skin and Aging

How your skin ages will depend on a variety of factors: your lifestyle, diet, heredity, and other personal habits. For instance, are you a smoker or did you ever smoke? Smoking can produce free radicals, once-healthy oxygen molecules that are now overactive, unstable, and can damage skin.

There are other reasons behind aging skin, too. Other factors contributing to wrinkled, spotted skin include normal aging, exposure to the sun (photoaging), and loss of subcutaneous support (fatty tissue between your skin and muscle). Other factors that contribute to aging of the skin include stress, gravity, daily facial movement, and obesity.

Skin Changes That Come With Age

  • Skin becomes rougher.
  • Skin develops lesions such as benign tumors.
  • Skin becomes slack. The loss of the elastic tissue (elastin) in the skin with age causes the skin to hang loosely.
  • Skin becomes more transparent as we age. This is caused by thinning of the epidermis (surface layer of the skin).
  • Skin becomes more fragile as we age. This is caused by a flattening of the area where the epidermis and dermis (layer of skin under the epidermis) come together.
  • Skin becomes more easily bruised. This is due to loss of support around blood vessel walls as we age.

Changes Below the Skin

  • Loss of fat below the skin in the cheeks, temples, chin, nose, and eye area may result in loosening skin, sunken eyes, and a “skeletal” appearance.
  • Bone loss, mostly around the mouth and chin, may become evident after age 60 and cause puckering of the skin around the mouth.
  • Cartilage loss in the nose causes drooping of the nasal tip and accentuation of the bony structures in the nose.

Other Skin Changes

Gravity, facial movement, and even sleep position are the secondary factors that contribute to changes in the skin. When the skin loses its elasticity, gravity causes drooping of the eyebrows and eyelids, looseness and fullness under the cheeks and jaw (jowls and “double chin”), and longer ear lobes. Facial movement lines become more visible after the skin starts losing its elasticity (usually as people reach their 30s and 40s). Lines may appear horizontally on the forehead, vertically on the skin above the root of the nose (glabella), or as small curved lines on the temples, upper cheeks and around the mouth. Smokers tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. Dry skin and itching is common in later life. About 85% of older people develop “winter itch,” because overheated indoor air is dry. The loss of oil glands as we age may also worsen dry skin. Anything that further dries the skin (such as overuse of soaps or hot baths) will make the problem worse. If your skin is very dry and itchy, see a doctor because this condition can affect your sleep, cause irritability, or be a symptom of a disease. Rarely, some medicines can make the itchiness worse.

Prevention

You do not have control over sagging skin,  but you may help reduce the process. Stick to a healthy diet, wear sun protection outdoors and avoid smoking. Most importantly, keep skin hydrated and cleansed at all times. Moisturized or oily skin doesn’t sag as quickly as very dry skin. Over time, collagen in your skin decreases, which further weakens facial structure. When collagen is lost, wrinkles start to form and skin loses firmness. Replace collagen through treatments, creams or tablets.

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