Aging and Your Skin

Dermatologie Rejuvenation Clinic


Basically, skin aging is divided into chronological aging (ie. your natural, inherited family trait for aging) and photoaging (ie. sun induced, or more precisely, ultraviolet light-induced aging resulting from years of accumulated exposure.) The structural, functional, and metabolic changes in your skin that characterize chronological aging parallel the aging and degenerative changes in other body organs. Because of this, investigators are studying skin aging for clues to organ aging in general. Since senior citizens represent the fastest-growing segment of the American population - more than 30 million and climbing - the study of aging and its consequences is of no small importance.

In brief review, some of the major changes in skin structure and functions associated with chronological aging include thinning of the uttermost layer of the skin (the epidermis); diminished production of collagen; degeneration of elastin fibres; the development of abnormalities within the many small, delicate blood vessels supplying the skin; diminished sweat gland activity; decrease in the number of pigment cells (melanocytes) in skin and hair; steady decline in oil (sebaceous) gland secreation; and deterioration of the skin's immune system. Photoaging is a separate process and largely involves damage to collagen and elastin fibres within the midlayer of skin (the dermis).

Skin aging doesn't begin at age sixty-five. Different segments of your skin age at different rates. For example, deterioration of elastin fibres begins as early as age thirty, becomes more pronounced by age fifty, and eventually involves the majority of fibres by age seventy.

Similarly, the abnormalities involving the small blood vessels become pronounced after age seventy. Pigment cells remain fairly constant in number and function until middle age, after which they begin steady decline. Finally, oil, and sweat gland secretions follow a steady decline after young adulthood.

These changes and others have profound effects of skin health, appearance and on general health and longevity. For example, thinning and flattening of the epidermis leads to impairment of the skin's extremely important barrier functions, causing problems by allowing certain drugs and irritants to be more easily absorbed. It may also increase skin susceptibility to shearing stress, thereby promoting blister formation; this may explain why removing taped bandages and Band-Aids so often rips skin in the elderly. Degeneration and decreased production of the supporting elastin fibres also slows wound healing. More over, deterioration of the small blood vessels may reduce the rate at which allergens or irritants are cleared from the skin. Decreased sweat production impairs body temperature regulation. Diminished oil gland secretion may contribute to skin scaling and flakiness. Decreases in pigment cell numbers and functioning may permit greater ultraviolet light damage and thereby enhance photoaging. And this decrease is also responsible for the greying and whitening of your hair, long held to be hallmarks of aging. Finally, diminished skin immunity may pave the way for recurrences of certain infections, such as shingles or the development of skin cancers.

The effects of photoaging are profound. They include wrinkling and sagging, the development of leathery skin, mottled discolourations (ie. Liver spots) and "broken" blood vessels, and the formation of pre-cancers of the skin and skin cancers.

While it is obvious that the impacts of chronological aging and photoaging over time combine to effect sweeping changes in skin appearance, it has become increasingly apparent that concern for one's appearance changes little with age. However, swayed by the belief that it is almost inappropriate to demonstrate concern for one's appearance during later life, many physicians push aside cosmetic issues when dealing with older patients. However, it has been statistically proven that deterioration in appearance can trigger or aggravate depression, and that actually a concern for one's appearance is a sign of emotional health - a sign that the individual is still interested and involved in life, which is great.

Given the emphasis on good looks and youthful appearance today, choosing the most flattering shades and colours of cosmetics and knowing the best ways to apply them become even more important for older people. Consulting with a trained cosmetologist to learn the most effective makeup techniques for you can be one of the most worthwhile steps towards achieving glowing skin. In fact, some studies have shown that learning how to give yourself a professional looking makeover (facial cosmetics and hairstyling) provides significant beneficial short- and long-term effects upon self-image, the ability to socialize with others, and the establishment or restoration of a more positive attitude toward life in general. For these reasons, we believe that one of the most important steps you can take is to treat yourself to a professional cosmetic makeover. Try it. You'll like it.