WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR SKIN AS WE AGE?
The aging process of the skin due to the passage of time itself is relatively slow. If time were the only factor, we would rarely see changes in our skin prior to our 70’s. However, various environmental factors – especially sunlight – can age our skin more quickly. In fact, damage to our skin from sun exposure (called photoaging) is the leading contributor to aging of the skin, and it is why we are constantly being bombarded with messages to wear sunscreen.
The three biggest concerns that people have as their skin ages are:
- WRINKLES AND FINE LINES
- UNEVEN TEXTURE AND DRYNESS
- UNEVEN COLORATION
Why do wrinkles form? As our skin ages, there is markedly reduced amount of collagen and elastin. The collagen and elastin fibers that do exist begin to degrade, making them brittle and prone to breakage. The UV radiation from sun exposure further breaks down the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin. The decrease in amount of collagen and elastin fibers, and the abnormalities in the existing fibers are what contributes to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
The basis for these changes are decreased activity of the fibroblasts in the dermis. More sluggish fibroblasts produce fewer collagen and elastin fibers and cannot repair existing ones efficiently. The reduction in fibroblast activity also means less hyaluronic acid being produced, contributing to the loss of firmness and volume in the skin and making it prone to sagging.
DID YOU KNOW?
The activity of glands in your skin also decreases with age. A decrease in oil gland activity can further contribute to dry skin as you age. And a decrease in sweat gland activity can affects the body’s ability to adapt to warm environments. This explains why the elderly are more susceptible to conditions such as heat stroke.
UV radiation can also cause some keratinocytes to begin multiplying rapidly, while it can triggers others to die. This can lead to an uneven texture of the skin, with some areas feeling rougher and thicker than others. In other areas, the epidermis may become much thinner than normal, which can contribute to dehydration of the skin, causing further loss of volume and subsequent fine lines. The thinner epidermis can also make the skin more susceptible to other damage.
Even without sun damage, the epidermis thins naturally as we age due to the passage of time and a natural decrease in cell division. This is part of the reason your skin gets drier as you age.
Aging also decreases the activity of melanocytes, resulting in a decreased production of melanin. But UV radiation can also cause melanocytes to clump together, concentrating skin color in certain areas while leaving other areas less pigmented. This can cause uneven skin coloration and “age spots” on the skin.
DID YOU KNOW?
Age spots used to be called “liver spots” because they were mistakenly believed to be caused by liver problems. But the majority of age spots are solar lentigos – or areas of concentrated pigment in the skin due to an increased number of melanocytes in that area.