It’s no fun to look in the mirror and see the signs of aging. Skin ages at variable rates depending upon a person’s genetics and lifestyle habits, particularly regarding sun exposure. Sun-related skin damage or photo-aging accounts for up to 90% of visible skin aging, which illustrates the importance of wearing a sunscreen. Most people start to see wrinkles when they smile or form other facial expressions in their late 30s or early 40s. By age 50, most people have wrinkles when facial muscles are at rest, but skin aging isn’t only about wrinkles. Other signs of “mature” skin include brown spots from increased pigmentation, skin laxity and an increased risk of skin tumors.
Causes of Skin Aging
Various changes that occur over time combined with exposure to the sun lead to the wrinkles, pigmentation and loss of firmness that are so characteristic of aging skin. The deeper layer of the skin called the dermis thins out with age and the collagen fibers within the dermis that give skin its firmness become damaged and disorganized as a result of years of sun exposure. Changes in another type of fiber called elastin fibers also contribute to skin laxity and saggy skin.
Skin cells in the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis also undergo changes with aging as they decrease the rate at which they divide and are sloughed off. This causes skin cells to build up on the surface of aging skin, causing it to look dull and rough in appearance. Gone is the pink glow of youth as skin starts to look more sallow in color.
The rate at which skin aging happens is partially related to genetics, but lifestyle factors also play a major role. Sun exposure is the number one environmental factor that speeds up aging skin. A close second would be smoking. Other factors that accelerate skin aging include excessive alcohol use, a poor diet and stress.
Fortunately, there are treatments that can slow down the skin aging process and make aging skin look better. One of the most important is to wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB light. It should be worn every day, regardless of the weather. Damaging ultraviolet rays can still inflict their damage even on cloudy days.
But what if the damage has already been done? One proven anti-aging treatment commonly found in skin care products is topical retinol. Retinol is a form of vitamin A similar to the retinoic acid found in prescription products such as Retin-A. Retinols have the benefit of being weaker, so they’re less likely to cause skin irritation. Many people are unable to tolerate prescription-strength retinoid creams due to redness, peeling and irritation.
There are effective anti-aging treatments that are safe and affordable.
Retinols treat aging skin by increasing the synthesis of collagen and reducing its breakdown. They also reduce the clumping of cells on the surface of the skin that makes skin look rough and dull while increasing blood flow to the skin surface. This makes the skin look more youthful. It also helps to correct pigmented areas over time. Various products contain not only retinol but other ingredients such as green tea, which has antioxidant benefits and helps to reduce inflammation.
There are also other products that are formulated with retinol including clarifying lotions, masks, moisturizers, night repair creams and eye treatments. Retinols are one of the most powerful anti-aging weapons in the skin care arsenal because they are proven highly effective.
There are other treatments for aging skin that dermatologists perform in their office or in a surgical suite like facial peels and laser resurfacing. Botox can be used to treat dynamic wrinkles and injectable fillers can be used to fill in static wrinkles that are visible even when the face is at rest. Unfortunately, these treatments are expensive and have potential risks. Some of them also require you to hide your face during the healing process Regular use of a product containing retinol can have benefits without the risk or down time of cosmetic procedures.
The Bottom Line?
There are effective anti-aging treatments that are safe and affordable. It’s important to start with the basics - gentle cleansing, moisturizing and sunscreen use. Most people can also benefit from treatments that contain retinol to stimulate collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines and give skin a more youthful glow.