10 Causes of Skin Aging and How to Prevent Them

There are a variety of reasons why the skin begins to show fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, loss of firmness, lack of radiance and other signs of aging. A lifetime of accumulated sun exposure, free radicals and the natural aging process all play a role. Here is a closer look at what’s actually happening beneath the skin’s surface, as well as how you can improve the visible side effects.

1. Underactive Cells

The fibroblast cells responsible for producing collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid and heparan sulfate (which is a protein that plays a role in maintaining collagen and elastin) become sluggish over time. These naturally-occurring components of the skin are important because they give youthful skin its strength, structure and plumpness.  The proper skincare products should help coax fibroblast cells into making more of these components or replacing these ingredient topically.

2. Overactive Cells

Dark spots and uneven skin tone are a result of sun damage caused by UV rays, which prompt melanocyte cells to produce excess pigment (melanin) to defend the skin.  Tyrosinase inhibiting ingredients turn off the enzymes that cause melanocytes to make melanin and sunscreen can block activation of melnaocytes.

3. Glycation

When sugars bind to collagen, it becomes stiff and unable to lend the skin strength and structure. As collagen becomes compromised, the skin can appear thin, fragile and wrinkled.  There are no topical products that have been convincingly able to block glycation, so the best way to prevent this is lowering stress and decreasing sugar in your diet.

4. DNA Damage

UV exposure causes damage to the DNA of skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.  Sunscreen and DNA repair ingredients such as DNA repair enzymes and niacinamide can help decrease the risk of DNA damage from sun and pollution exposure.

5. Mitochondria

When these cellular “power plants” begin to function less efficiently, the cells do not have enough energy to repair DNA damage or produce new collagen, hyaluronic acid and heparan sulfate. As a result, lines, wrinkles and sagging skin begin to appear.  There is no way to repair your mitochondria so you should use daily antioxidants and sunscreen to protect the delicate skin cell mitochondria.

6. Lysosomes

When these cellular “garbage disposals” don’t function optimally, toxins build up and damage skin cells.  There is no way to repair your lysosomes but use of a daily sunscreen and antioxidant may protect them and help them retain their important functions.

7. Slow Cell Turnover

Skin stem cell division slows down with age and results in production of  fewer “baby” keratinocyte skin cells. This causes a dramatic increase in the time it takes for cells to move from the lower layers of the skin to the surface, where they naturally shed. This slows the healing process and keeps dull, older cells on the skin longer. This is why older skin heals slower and appears thin and dull. Increasing cell turnover is accomplished by activating these stem cells to divide more rapidly and make more “baby” skin cells.

8. Reduced Hydration Levels

With less natural moisturizing factor (NMF), hyaluronic acid (HA) and heparan sulfate (HS), skin cells lose the ability to hold onto water. In addition, decreased production of lipids and use of cholesterol lowering drugs can make the skin’s barrier less able to prevent water loss from the skin’s surface.

9. Muscle Movement

Years of muscle contractions around the eyes eventually lead to a decrease in collagen and elastin and, therefore, the appearance of crow’s feet. Since there’s no way to increase elastin production after it plateaus during puberty, prevention is key to maintaining smooth, youthful skin. Use of botulinum toxin injections to relax the muscles around the eye can prevent crow’s feet form forming. 

10. Inflammation

There are many causes of inflammation, but they all lead to the destruction of collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid and heparan sulfate, and, in turn, visible signs of aging. Use of anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients (such as Argan Oil, green tea and caffeine) and sunscreen can reduce inflammation.  Adding omega 3 fatty acids and oily fish such as salmon to the diet can also decrease inflammation.

How to Prevent and Improve Visible Signs of Aging

While impossible to stop time from marching forward, there are some steps you can take to significantly improve the appearance of visible signs of aging, as well as prevent further lines and wrinkles from forming.


The easiest way to slow skin aging is to use a daily sunscreen to block UV rays, along with an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, every morning. At night, retinoids such as retinol help to increase the skin’s production of collagen. The new Sente line of products (sold only by physicians) help replace lost heparan sulfate onto the skin’s surface.


To prevent glycation, keep blood sugar levels low with a healthy low glycemic diet and stress reduction. Consider adding an antioxidant supplement like polypodium leucotomos- a fern extract found in Heliocare that protects the skin from sun damage.

In-office treatments

At-home anti-aging efforts can be greatly enhanced with a variety of office-based procedures, including:

  • Skin tightening: Technologies such as Ultherapy, Venus Legacy and VelaShape can cause collagen to contract, helping to improve skin sagging.
  • Botulinum toxins: Injections of Botox, Dysport and Xeomin relax muscles to prevent and improve expression-related wrinkles.
  • Hyaluronic acid fillers: Juvéderm, Voluma, Volbella, Restylane and Belotero replace lost hyaluronic acid to increase skin volume and hydration and smooth lines and furrows.
  • Lasers, light treatments and chemical peels: These treatments are ideal for improving uneven skin tone, fading brown spots and reducing redness caused by inflammation.

All of these causes of aging can be decreased by good lifestyle habits and the proper skincare for your skin type EVERY DAY!  Start now- you will thank me in 10 years.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through

October 3, 2016 Skin Aging