As of age 25, our skin begins to show signs of aging. Your age though, is just one factor that impacts how your skin looks and feels. There are many internal and external causes to skin aging. Your genes play a part, but your lifestyle habits play key roles — and only you are responsible for those.
It’s no secret that the body gets older every day. Sometimes however, the signs of aging appear too early on the skin and may indicate a serious problem. Making unhealthy choices can cause prematurely aged skin, and this makes you look older than your peers. As a result, the skin becomes looser, weaker, less elastic, and drier. In addition, the fat pads under the skin begin to disappear. Wrinkles form, and the skin begins to sag.
Skin Anatomy and Aging at a Cellular Level
[frame src=”https://rg-cell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/skin-anatomy.png” link=”https://rg-cell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/skin-anatomy.png” target=”_self” width=”250″ height=”231″ alt=”Human Skin Anatomy” title=”Human Skin Anatomy” align=”right” prettyphoto=”true”]The three layers of the skin each play a part in the aging process. The uppermost layer of the skin is called the epidermis, and this is the layer that is most exposed to the environment and which shows the signs of aging. The epidermis is comprised of keratin, which strengthens the skin, melanin, found in the basal layer of the epidermis, responsible for depth of skin color.
The cells of the epidermis, keratinocytes, move from the bottom layer of the epidermis to the top layer building up a large amount of keratin and developing a tough outer shell. Once these cells reach the top layer, they flake off. If this process becomes abnormal the skin can look scaly.
Epidermis also contains pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, that give skin its color. New epidermal cells are born in the basal cell layer of the epidermis. These mature as they gradually rise to the surface where they ultimately die and are sloughed off. With age there is a reduction in the number of melanocytes in the range of 8‐20% per decade. The skin of older people is less protected by sun because melanin which is reduced in the elderly tend to absorb carcinogenic UV radiations.
Underneath the epidermis is the dermis. Unlike the epidermis, this layer is entirely made up of living skin cells. The majority of age-dependent changes that occur in our skin happen in the dermis, which can lose from 20-80% of its thickness during the aging process. The dermis is made up of networks of elastic fibres (elastin) for suppleness and dense fibres (collagen) for strength. As we age, not only is the collagen and elastin produced at a slower rate, which impacts the skin’s inability to repair itself, but the organization of the protein also changes, affecting the skin’s structure. These changes in the scaffolding of the skin cause the skin to wrinkle and sag. Also, sebaceous glands get bigger but produce less sebum, and the number of sweat glands decreases. Both of these changes lead to dry skin.
Finally, a layer of fatty tissue, hypodermis, lies below the skin and gives it structure. It contains adipocytes (fat cells) that insulate the body and help to preserve heat, as well as other connective tissues. Since this deepest layer of skin supports and nourishes the two other layers, changes in this layer account for many of the typical signs of facial aging. Hypodermis aging is marked by the loss of fat tissues. This loss affects the shape of your face.
Visible Signs of Aging Skin
Wrinkles: With age, skin cells divide more slowly, and the skin’s inner layer, called the dermis, begins to thin. That starts to undo skin’s stretchiness and structure. Aging skin also starts to lose its ability to hold on to moisture, makes less oil, and is slower to heal. That all contributes to the wrinkling process.
Wrinkles are depressions in the skin’s surface that may be coarse or fine, depending on their depth. Wrinkle depth may extend from a few micrometers to several millimeters.
Wrinkles are a natural part of aging, but they’re most prominent on sun-exposed skin. Although genetics are the most important determinant of skin structure and texture, sun exposure is the major contributor to wrinkles.
The increased activity of free radicals are causing the deterioration and eventually the collapse of the fibro-blast (collagen and elastin fiber network) resulting in wrinkles. One more cause of wrinkle formation is the diminished production of hormones, especially estrogen and testosterone, responsible for skin’s firmness and resiliency.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, wrinkles are also caused by sun exposure, and wrinkles are intensified by smoking. Facial wrinkling increases with the amount of cigarettes and number of years a person has smoked.
Dryness: Many older people suffer from dry skin. As we age, our skin gradually loses the ability to retain moisture and becomes dry and looks lifeless. The skin feels rough and scaly and often is accompanied by a distressing, intense itchiness.
About 85% of older people develop “winter itch,” because overheated indoor air is dry. The loss of oil glands as we age may also worsen dry skin.
Age-related dermal changes such as a thinner epidermal layer, a reduction in skin cell turnover, and the skin’s limited capacity to retain moisture contribute to xerosis (dry skin). Skin loses its elasticity as the production of collagen and elastin decreases. Additionally, hyaluronic acid isn’t produced at the same rate as in earlier stages of life, creating an imbalance between the production of hyaluronic acid and its breakdown by enzymes. Because of these changes, skin becomes progressively thinner, more fragile, less elastic, and drier.
Age spots: The cause of dark spots characteristic for older people is the consequence of increased lack of coordination between the production of melanin (brown pigment) and the speed of cell division. They are also called “liver spots”, although there is no relation of these with the functioning of liver. According to the National Institutes of Health, liver spots are common in people over 40 who spent a lot of time in the sun over the years.
Age spots range from freckle-size to more than a half inch across and can group together, making them more prominent. They usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders and arms — areas most exposed to the sun.
Sagging: The most common cause of sagging skin is aging. As you age, your skin loses the collagen and elastin, your skin’s supportive connective tissue, that make it look soft, plump and youthful. In addition, facial muscles can weaken with age, which takes a toll too. Getting older means more exposure to the dreaded pull of gravity; which we know causes skin to sag a little further down with each passing day.
For the face, this means that as soon as we stand, everything moves downwards – the eyelids fall, the jowls form, the nose tip points downward, the upper lip disappears while the lower lip pouts and even the ears get longer.
As your skin begins to sag and age, you’ll likely notice an increase in wrinkles. With saggy skin, you may notice folding and wrinkles, especially around areas on your face where you express emotion, like around your eyes and mouth.
Thinning: As you age, your skin goes through many changes. One major change you may notice is thinner skin that is easily damaged.
As people grow older, their skin tends to become more fragile, and they lose the nice layer of fat that lies right under the skin, which used to protect them from bumps and bruises.
The basal cell layer of the epidermis slows its rate of cell production and thins the epidermis. As we age, the fatty substances, as well as the layers of fat in our skin, diminish. Collagen and elastin, which support our skin structure, weaken and our skin becomes thin and saggy.
Broken capillaries: Broken capillaries or telangiectasia are facial blood vessels that have become dilated and are believed to be the result of some damage. On the skin, telangiectasias, will look like very small lines that range in color from red through purple and blue.
When small capillaries near the surface of the skin dilate and become visible, they are often called broken capillaries or spider veins. Typically broken capillaries are caused by sun exposure, inflammatory conditions (such as acne or rosacea), smoking, alcohol and aging. Due to the thinning of the skin they become more visible, especially on the cheeks and the nose area.