Scientists have divided aging skin into two distinct types; skin that has aged due to either intrinsic or extrinsic causes. Intrinsic causes are those that are the result of the unavoidable aging process, which generally begins when we are still in our 20s, although visible changes may not become evident for years to come. Most people usually begin to show signs of aging when they are in their mid 30s.
Intrinsic aging is predetermined by heredity, which obviously can't be changed but can still be effectively managed to minimize the signs of age.
As we grow older, our skin naturally produces less and less collagen and elastin, which are substances that allow it to retain its shape without sagging or wrinkling. Skin is less able to bounce back into shape from things such as a weight loss or gain, and it also does not retain water as easily as it once did, which is vital for soft skin.
Signs of intrinsic aging of the skin include:
- Dry, itchy skin
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Thin, transparent, or sagging skin
Extrinsic aging, unlike the unavoidable intrinsic, is the result of external factors from the environment such as smoking or overexposure to the sun or harmful chemicals.
Causes of extrinsic aging include:
Sun damage: "Photo-aging" is the actual term used in the dermatological world to describe the type of aging that is caused by sun damage. Without protecting our skin each and every time we are outdoors, we are vulnerable to a host of noticeable effects from the sun's rays. Age spots, freckles, wrinkles, spider veins, and blotchy or rough, leathery skin, not to mention deadly skin cancer of course, can all be attributed to sun exposure.
The severity of photo-aging depends upon the person's natural skin coloring as well as their history of exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. While people with fair skin may develop greater signs of photo-aging and run a higher risk of skin cancer, darker skin is still susceptible to wrinkles, and a mottled, leathery complexion as well as melanoma.
Smoking: Researchers have long since discovered that the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke also affects our largest organ, the skin, as well as our lungs and heart. While the adverse effects may not be readily apparent to younger smokers, studies have shown signs of facial wrinkling under a microscope in people as young as 20 years old who smoke. However, even those who have smoked for years at a time will shown signs of improvement in the quality and tone of their skin if they stop smoking.
Poor nutrition: A well-balanced diet that is rich with antioxidants and includes all of the essential vitamins and minerals is important for healthy, young looking skin.
Facial expressions: Repeated facial movements using the same muscles may lead to fine lines and wrinkles over a period of time.
Gravity: Gravity takes it's toll on our skin usually beginning in our 50s, when our body's production of elastins dramatically decreases.
While we certainly can't stop the intrinsic aging process, we can however, alter our lifestyle and do what we can to protect our precious skin from harm such as quitting smoking, avoiding UV rays and harmful chemicals.