Skin Ageing

The physical signs of ageing skin are listed below, you may show some signs earlier than others.

Thinning of the skin - This effects the epidermis and dermal layer of the skin
Sagging of the skin - This occurs as the skin produces less elastin, collagen and fat
Age spots - These occur as a result of sun damage - see dull skin and age spots
Dryness - This occurs as older skin becomes less efficient at protecting itself against moisture loss Who is most at risk? Everyone is at risk of ageing skin. It is an outward sign of the overall ageing process. However, some people may show signs of ageing earlier because of their genes and the lifestyle choices they make. Smokers and sun worshippers are likely to see wrinkles and sagging on their face years earlier than the normal ageing process.

What causes it?
The skin's biggest enemy when it comes to premature ageing is sun damage or photo ageing. Other factors, all of which we have control over, have a big influence on how quickly our skin ages are:

    • Sun and UV tanning exposure
    • Smoking
    • Excess alcohol
    • Poor diet

And finally, there are factors that we have less control over but still cause ageing nonetheless, these are:

        • Genetic factors
        • Pollution and the environment
        • Increased activity of some facial muscles
        • Loss of fat from cheeks
        • Movement of fat to the jowls and lower eyelids
        • Neck ageing from loss of fat and increased muscle "bands"

The Sun
The more your skin is exposed to the sun, the earlier your face will show signs of ageing. UV rays on the skin results in two changes that make our skin age . Firstly, UV rays breakdown the collagen and elastin in our skin which causes sagging, and secondly, they cause the skin to defend itself by producing skin pigment (Melanin), patches of over production of melanin eventually results in age spots . UV is also responsible for most skin cancers. See the section on sunscreen for more information on how to avoid the damaging effects of the sun's rays.

Smoking
Smoking causes ageing of the skin in two ways. Firstly, it narrows the blood vessels and affects the body's ability to carry oxygen to the skin; this is known as bad circulation and can affect the hands and feet as well as the face. Secondly, it destroys collagen in the skin which contributes to sagging. Firstly, it narrows the blood vessels and affects the body's ability to carry oxygen to the skin; this is known as bad circulation and can affect the hands and feet as well as the face. Secondly, it destroys collagen in the skin which contributes to sagging. Strong evidence can link smoking and toxic second hand smoke with premature ageing of the skin, which is why dermatologists have welcomed the recent smoking ban. Strong evidence can link smoking and toxic second hand smoke with premature ageing of the skin, which is why dermatologists have welcomed the recent smoking ban.

Alcohol
Alcohol has almost the opposite negative effect as smoking in the sense that instead of narrowing the blood vessels, it dilates them (this is also a side effect of drinking coffee). This is what causes the red flush you see when you have had an alcoholic drink. If you are a heavy drinker, the red flush can become permanent and also result in enlarged veins and spider veins. Alcohol will also dehydrate your body and skin, causing blotchiness and uneven skin tone. In most cases, alcohol will also worsen existing skin problems such as Acne and Rosacea .

Diet
What you eat can affect the appearance of your skin.People with a poor diet that lacks in minerals and vitamins but is high in glycaemic foods such as unrefined sugars, are likely to have a pasty, uneven complexion. Foods that contain anti-oxidants, to help fight against the free radicals that age your skin and contribute to skin cancer, should be included in your diet, as should Vitamins A, C and E which help your skin to rejuvenate and fight the effects of UV light. Finally, your diet should also include Iron and a balance of other minerals that contribute to healthy skin, hair growth and strong nails.

Pollution and the environment
Pollution in the air causes chemical damage to our skin. Antioxidants help to reduce this damage. Continually moving from the extremes of hot to cold atmospheres (central heating in winter, air conditioning in summer) can cause our skin to become dry. Think about how your skin feels at the change of seasons.

Treatment
There are three major areas in your life which you can make changes to help avoid premature ageing of the skin. Firstly, read the information on sunscreen so that you truly understand the importance of wearing sunscreen every single day. The sun is the biggest influencing factor in ageing of the skin.
Cover up and wear at least an SPF15 sunscreen with broad spectrum UVA protection on all exposed areas of skin. Secondly, look at your lifestyle choices:

        • Give up smoking
        • Cut down your alcohol intake
        • Eat a healthily balanced diet
        • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
        • Exercise regularly to help increase blood flow to the skin
        • Avoid smoky atmospheres Finally, if you are already showing the signs of ageing skin, invest in a good skincare regime.