The ageing process is heavily influenced by environmental factors such as diet, exercise, exposure to micro-organisms, pollutants and ultraviolet light. It is also largely determined by genetic factors. For this reason, two people of the same age may differ markedly in terms of both physical appearance and physiology.
- a) Intrinsic ageing, our genetically determined process.
- b) Why is the degradation of elastin so impactful on the skin’s ageing process?
- c) Extrinsic ageing, our environment and lifestyle choices.
- d) The role of UVA and UVB on premature skin ageing.
- e) Smoking and alcohol suppresses immune boosting Vitamin A.
- f) Food intolerances can cause imbalances that trigger ageing.
- g) Medications and mental wellbeing, their side effects on the skin.
- h) Simple steps we can take to preserve youthful skin.
a) Intrinsic ageing, our genetically determined process
Intrinsic ageing is an inevitable, genetically determined process. It occurs naturally and is affected by the degenerative effects of free radicals, hormonal shifts and the body’s reduced ability to repair skin damage.
Signs of intrinsic ageing include skin sagging, thinning, cracking and the appearance of fine wrinkles. Oxidative stress, inflammation, glycation and genetic mutations are all factors that affect the rate of intrinsic ageing.
Oxidative stress plays a majority role in the ageing process. Free radicals (sun damage) cause uneven skin tone and texture. They can also cause skin sagging and laxity by breaking down the essential proteins that support the skin; collagen and elastin.
As the first line of skin defence, inflammation defends against foreign invaders. It instigates the wound healing response. However, excessive inflammation is linked to many skin diseases and conditions and is a catalyst for the visible skin ageing process.
Excessive inflammation damages the body and in doing so, the skin. Chronic inflammation can cause the immune system to attack normal skin tissue and result in degradation of collagen fibres that smooth and firm the skin.
Although a part of the everyday diet and a vital source of body fuel, glucose (sugar) can have a negative impact on the skin. A chemical process called glycation occurs when excess glucose begins to stick to collagen and elastin. The final result is the formation of advanced glycation end-products in the skin. AGE’s are rigid and lack elasticity which leads to laxity, thinning and cracking.
As the skin ages the keratinocyte life cycle, the skin’s natural turn over process, slows down. The average life cycle of 28 days increases to 40-60 days, this causes a build-up of excess cells and dull dry skin.
Hormones play a part. Oestrogen levels have a link with the retention of water in the dermis. It increases hyaluronidase which triggers the production of hyaluronic acid by the fibroblast cells. Peri and post-menopausal women have a diminished dermal volume because oestrogen levels have lowered.
Androgen hormones override the regulation of sebaceous gland size by oestrogen and so causes an overgrowth of sebaceous tissue. This can sometimes take on more of orange-peel textured skin and bring about the formation of hyperplasia as a sign of skin ageing.
b) Why is the degradation of elastin is so impactful on the skin’s ageing process?
The degradation of elastin is particularly impactful on the skins ageing process as once damaged, it will not actively regenerate. Collagen naturally begins to deteriorate at age 30-35 while elastin at age 20-25.
c) Extrinsic ageing, our environment and lifestyle choices
Extrinsic ageing is a result of lifestyle and environmental factors. Most premature ageing is caused by over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays. However, there are additional contributing factors. Lifestyle choices significantly contribute to skin ageing; excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, poor diet & nutrition and individuals lack or overexertion of exercise.
A healthy, efficient cardiovascular system is essential for systemic health. Whether the system ages naturally or indirectly through actions such as smoking, it will become less efficient. This will result in a negative impact on all other major organ systems. Over time, the lack of oxygen and nutrients would allow the formation of harmful free radicals that slowly damage elastin and collagen.
Vitamin C, a potent antioxidant is able to interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. This makes topical supplementation of Vitamin C very useful in the fight against free radicals.
Atmospheric factors such as air pollution and extreme weather conditions can contribute. Air conditioning, for example, reduces humidity in the air. The lack of humidity can affect the water content of the outer layer of the skin. Those who find themselves consistently in air-conditioned environments are more prone to skin dehydration which can age the skin.
d) The role of UVA and UVB on premature skin ageing
UVA activates melanin pigment already present in the upper skin cells. It penetrates into the deeper skin layers, where connective tissue and blood vessels are affected. As a result, the skin gradually loses its elasticity and starts to wrinkle. Excessive exposure to UVA causes premature ageing.
UVB stimulates the production of new melanin. It also stimulates the cells to produce a thicker epidermis. UVB is responsible both for the darkening and thickening of the outer cell layers – these reactions are the body’s natural defence against further UV damage. Excessive exposure to UVB causes sunburn which increases the likelihood of developing skin cancer.
e) Smoking and alcohol suppresses immune boosting Vitamin A
Smoking, often attributed to lung cancer, is one of the biggest threats to skin health. This along with alcohol can wreak havoc on the body’s natural defences against bacteria and infection.
Both smoking and alcohol affect immunity-boosting Vitamin A. Smoking causes the narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body. This includes those that supply the outermost layers of the skin with oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, the skin is slowly starved of vital oxygen and other substances including Vitamin A.
Alcohol has a similar effect by destroying the body’s supply of Vitamin A. Topical supplement of Vitamin A, otherwise known as retinoid, is used in the skin turnover process. This help to generate new cells that replace dead cells.
f) Food intolerances can cause imbalances that trigger ageing
A poor diet will have a negative effect on skin health and can be a cause of premature ageing. Digestion of certain foods or unknown intolerances can cause a cascade of chemical or hormonal imbalances. These changes can speed up the ageing process internally and will show externally on the skin.
Certain food groups can be particularly damaging, these include; dairy, gluten, sugar and alcohol. Each can tax the body in specific ways but ultimately contribute to a cluster of symptoms such as puffiness, wrinkles, sagging, spots and changes to pigmentation.
The vitamins and minerals our body needs comes from our diet. Supplements shouldn’t replace a varied and balanced diet. In some cases, however, supplements can offer us a boost. Taking a food intolerance test can make things clearer and aid in our vitamin selection and food choice for skincare maintenance. Eating the wrong foods or foods that we are intolerant can degrade our skin health.
Health results – See how well your body is likely to be able to absorb vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, iron, Omega 3 & 6 and vitamin C. With these results, you’ll see how to optimise your diet and lifestyle to help you feel your best and have more energy.
Food intolerance – Find out whether you’re likely to feel anxious after consuming caffeine, get a red face from drinking alcohol, or whether you’re likely to be gluten intolerant.
Sleep intolerance – See if caffeine is likely to affect your sleep or if you might have a tendency to grind your teeth at night.
Fitness – Such as whether you’re more likely to store fat or put on muscle, and how well you’re likely to be able to perform at speed and strength-based exercises.
Pregnancy – For women, you will be able to see how your weight is likely to change during pregnancy as well as how your vitamin levels are likely to be affected.
g) Medications and mental wellbeing, their side effects on the skin
Taking medication can have adverse effects on the skin. Sun sensitivity a common side effect of specific drugs can cause damage leading to burns and sunspots to accelerated ageing and skin cancer. Specific acne medication can affect hormonal levels which can impact the skin.
Antidepressants block acetylcholine in the body, a known neurotransmitter responsible for sending and receiving signals between nerves. When this function is inhibited, unwanted side effect can occur within the skin including; dehydration, dryness, skin & sun sensitivity.
Topical steroids most commonly cause skin atrophy or skin thinning. Skin problems that can arise from topical steroids include a comprised barrier function. The skin will be more susceptible to bacteria and toxins which are able to make their way deep into skin layers causing disruption and infection.
General poor health can lead to premature ageing of the skin. The skin is the last in the queue when it comes to bodily nutrients. If support is needed elsewhere, the skin will be neglected. Healing capacity is reduced following surgery or an illness. In the case of long term illness, signs of premature ageing are likely to be apparent.
Skin problems that have a physiological basis can be exacerbated by stress and other emotional factors. They include, among others, acne, cold sores, rosacea… Autoimmune diseases such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.
If we are experiencing ongoing stress, a fight-or-flight reaction can occur in an unrelenting way. As a result, stress chemicals are released into the body. This can have an effect on the rate our body ages by creating biological changes. Furthermore, people who are depressed often do not eat well, sleep sufficiently nor exercise.
h) Simple steps we can take to preserve youthful skin
- Use sunblock. Sun exposure is the most prolific cause of premature ageing. The darker your skin, the greater your natural protection. We are all at risk, however, and all of us benefit from sun protection. This is particularly true if following a skincare routine containing resurfacing products or regenerative treatments such as chemical peels.
- Eat a balanced diet. We can get the nutrients our skin needs from the food we eat. Eating healthy can become costly and time-consuming. Try to eat more of what is good and less of what is bad as opposed to dieting or restrictive eating. Something we can realistically maintain long-term. Too much sugar is particularly bad as we’ve learnt it can break down elastin and degrade collagen; our skin’s scaffold.
- Drink more water. 2.5ml a day is our aim for optimal hydration. Water is essential for skin health and maintenance. Drinking water is not a cure for dry skin. This is something we treat from the outside. External factors such as cleansing products and our environment. Oil glands ultimately determine how dry the skin will be.
- Identify food allergies and intolerances. They disrupt our digestive system, unbalance our hormones and show up through our skin.
- Smoking and drinking should be avoided. Both have a negative effect on our skin.
- Skincare – Use the right products for both our skin type and the current condition.
- Exercise. We’ve discovered how hormones can wreak havoc on our skin. Feelings of sadness can make us immobile. Exercise increases blood flow which in turn carries vital nutrients to our cells including our skin. Recommend gym & beach body.
We must keep our minds healthy. Depression can lead to stress & anxiety where our stress-coping hormone cortisol is triggered. In high doses, it can take a toll on our skin.
Acne is caused by inflammation, stress & anxiety cause chronic inflammation. Cortisol has the power to accelerate skin ageing by causing a drop in other hormones such as DHEA.
So what can we do? Relax. Speed more time on the activities we enjoy and do more.
Aromatherapy is a personal favourite. It’s versatile and effective in many ways. Essential oils are natural fragrances. As well as uplift our mood, they can be used to scent our skincare ranges. The properties can be tailor-made to our skin type; frankincense for oily, rose for dry and so on. Have a look around for some guides and recipes.