Ageing can be seen in the skin before any other organ of the body. Changes are visible to us and as the skin ages, there is a reduction in both the number and size of skin cells. It functions less effectively as a protective barrier, temperature regulator, and there is a decline in the production of sweat, sebum and vitamin D. The skin becomes increasingly thin over time due to the steady reduction of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. Skin cells turn over less quickly and wound healing also becomes impaired.
“Besides intrinsic (chronological) ageing, the most damaging extrinsic factors are UV light, diet and smoking. All can be managed and improved with changes in healthier habits as well as lifestyle improvements.”
Dr. Robert Jens Schemmer FRCP(c)
Ageing is a complex process, reflecting biological, environmental, and genetic influences. It is multidimensional - influenced by cultural and societal standards. But from a dermatological stand-point, ageing is a biological reality with many contributing intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Similar to other organs, our skin undergoes inevitable functional decline due to the accumulation of stress, molecular and oxidative damage, as well as other environmental factors. And we know the consequences: wrinkles/fine lines, lack of firmness, vascular disorders, and hyper/hypo-pigmentation.
As the skin ages, there is a reduction in both the number and size of skin cells, which cause it to function less effectively as a protective barrier and temperature regulator. The structure of skin becomes increasingly thin over time due to intrinsic ageing effects, causing depletion of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. These changes result in the skin becoming increasingly dry and may also promote more fine lines, wrinkles and even deep furrows. Aesthetics aside, ageing also affects the skin’s immune response, increasing the risk of certain skin cancers. So, what can be done?
Ageing is a natural and inevitable thing; it cannot be prevented. The most important thing is to take care of your skin with a good skincare routine, healthy diet and lifestyle (limited drinking and no smoking) and of course, protecting ourselves from harmful UV solar radiation. Don’t fixate too much on turning back the clock; focus on protecting your skin, allow it to glow (with the help of good serums), and maintain hydration and moisture so that your skin has a nice texture. Skin can be beautiful at any age!
Factors Affecting Skin & Ageing
UV Light & Ageing: Approx. 50% of UV damage is caused by the formation of free radicals which are harmful to skin cells. UV light has been shown to activate enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases; these breakdown collagen, damaging the skin’s support structure, and consequently, make it sag or present deeper wrinkles. These enzymes also have the ability to prevent new collagen production. The result - sagging, wrinkles and thin, inelastic skin.
Sugar & Ageing: There is more and more research and evidence supporting the thought that sugar contributes to premature skin ageing and inflammation by a process known as glycation. The excess sugars accumulate over time, directly damaging collagen and elastin, which give our skin its structure, support and tightness. The result - reduced skin elasticity, textural changes, wrinkles, possible skin irritations and acne, and skin sagging.
Smoking & Ageing: Smoking has been associated with premature skin ageing and wrinkles, poor or delayed wound healing and the worsening of several skin diseases. The link between smoking and wrinkles has been known for many, many years. Research shows that women are more susceptible to this than men. Smoking is associated with fine lines around the eyes (crows feet) and mouth (smoker lines). Aside from early drinking, smoking causes a number of recognised facial changes. These include thinning of the skin, facial redness and prominence of the underlying bony contours of the face. Smoking appears to activate enzymes that break down collagen and elastin fibres. The result - reduced skin elasticity, skin sagging, redness, and premature wrinkles.
So, why do certain skin tones (ethnic skintypes) age ‘better' than others? Melanin is what gives our skin its colour, the concentration of melanin is x2 in darker skin tones compared to lighter skin tones. While increased melanin has the benefit of providing additional protection from many harmful effects caused by UV radiation (photodamage, skin cancers, etc), darker skin does have increased vulnerability to pigmentation disorders and scarring. Skin thickness also varies according to skin colour. Darker skin tones have a thicker and more compact dermis than lighter skin tones, and therefore, results in fewer wrinkles and fine lines. In addition, darker skintypes have a tighter matrix of cells within the skin layers and an overall greater lipid content percentage, thus, increasing the overall suppleness and hydration of the skin.
Across all skintypes and all skin tones, the ageing process is a cumulation of photodamage, fat redistribution/loss/gain, as well as changes within the connective tissue. The process of ageing continues to be a big concern amongst all societies; and this perpetuates certain problems such as lowered self-esteem, self-image insecurities, compulsive cosmetic treatments, and possibly mental stress - to name just a few. While there are ethnic differences when it comes to ageing, we believe that healthy skin is beautiful skin; regardless of skin colour, tone, age, or gender.
“When we understand the biology and science of our skin we can make positive and reversible lifestyle changes in order to better achieve the results and overall appearance of our skin.”
Dr. Robert Jens Schemmer FRCP(c)