The 10 Causes of Aging Skin – And How to Treat Them
Signs of aging such as lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin are caused both by intrinsic factors such as genetics, and extrinsic factors such as UV exposure, diet, and other lifestyle habits. Both contribute to the breakdown of specific processes within the skin that translate to an aging appearance.
Fortunately, there are advanced topical skincare products and in-office treatments that can help to reverse and slow down these signs of aging. To understand how best to treat aging skin, it is helpful to first understand the ten causes of aging skin and how to target each one through the proper skincare regimen.
1. Lazy Cells
As we age, the stem cells and fibroblasts that are responsible for producing collagen, elastin, heparan sulfate, and hyaluronic acid gradually become “lazy” or underactive. Thus, our skin begins to produce fewer and fewer of these vital components, contributing to lines, wrinkles, and thinning skin.
Topical retinoids and vitamin C are two topical ingredients that can help to stimulate the production of collagen within the skin, reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. You can also take vitamin C supplements to help boost this process, as vitamin C plays a vital role in collagen production.
Other cutting-edge topical ingredients such as heparan sulfate and defensins have also been shown to reduce signs of aging. Heparan sulfate is needed in order for skin cells to “hear” messages from growth factors telling them to make more collagen.
Defensins work by stimulating a specific type of stem cell to increase cell turnover. This same stem cell may also help to generate new fibroblast cells, which manufacture collagen and other important components.
2. Hyperactive Melanocytes
Melanocytes are specialized cells found in the deepest layer of the epidermis. Inside melanocytes, organelles called melanosomes use an enzyme called tyrosinase to produce the pigment melanin. Melanin is responsible for giving your hair and skin their color.
However, when melanocytes become overactive, their melanosomes begin to produce too much melanin. This results in dark spots on the skin and uneven skin tone.
Genetics play a role in how much melanin your skin naturally produces – which is why pigmented skin types are more susceptible to pigmentation problems. However, sun exposure also greatly contributes to melanin production, and is the leading cause of dark spots and other signs of skin aging.
Wearing daily sunscreen is the best way to prevent overactive melanocytes. Skin-lightening ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid, and hydroquinone can help to fade away dark spots to reveal a more even and brighter skin tone.
Glycation is the chemical process in which sugar molecules such as glucose and fructose bind to and damage proteins like collagen. High glycemic index (GI), or high sugar, diets accelerate the process of glycation, which contributes to aging by damaging vital collagen proteins.
The best way to prevent signs of aging caused by glycation is to limit your sugar intake. While sugary sweets and drinks are easy targets, large amounts of sugar could be lurking in other more inconspicuous foods like cereal, yogurt, and fruit juice.
4. Broken DNA
Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun damages the DNA of skin cells by creating a reaction between two thymine molecules, which are bases of DNA. While your body has the ability to repair this type of DNA damage, extensive damage can lead to skin cancer or cell death.
Prevent DNA damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer by avoiding unnecessary sun exposure and always wearing sunscreen. Use at least SPF 15 on a daily basis, and SPF 30 or higher when you will be outdoors for 30 minutes or more.
5. Damaged Mitochondria
Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of cells. These organelles are responsible for producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), or energy, so that the cell can perform its normal functions.
However, mitochondria produce waste products called reactive oxygen species (ROS) through this process. When too much ROS accumulates, mitochondria become sluggish and do not produce ATP as efficiently. This slows down cellular function, so that processes like the repair of DNA damage and the production of collagen, heparan sulfate, and hyaluronic acid also become slower and less efficient.
Antioxidants like green tea, argan oil, vitamin C, resveratrol, and coenzyme Q10 work to reduce and neutralize ROS, helping mitochondria to perform their best.
6. Poor Lysosome Function
Lysosomes are specialized cells that function as cellular “garbage disposals.” They contain digestive enzymes that break down worn-out cellular components and other waste products, and also get rid of toxins and even harmful bacteria.
When lysosomes are not functioning properly, toxins and other harmful compounds can build up within cells and cause damage.
7. Slow Cell Turnover
As we age, the cells in our body – including the skin – do not regenerate as quickly as they used to. Keratinocyte cells are made in the basale layer of skin, which is at the very bottom of the epidermis. They must then travel upwards all the way to the stratum corneum, or the outermost layer of skin, where they push out and replace the old cells. This results in a fresh, radiant layer of skin on the surface.
However, as the cell turnover rate slows down, it takes longer and longer for new keratinocytes to travel to the skin’s surface. This leaves dull, lackluster skin on the surface for longer, and also slows down the healing process of damaged skin.
Chemical exfoliation is one effective way to speed up the cell turnover process. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid accomplish this by loosening the “glue” that holds old cells together, forcing them to slough off so that new ones can replace them.
Topical retinoids can also accelerate the cell turnover rate, in addition to stimulating collagen production.
Our skin has a built-in hydrating technique called natural moisturizing factor (NMF), which is made up of amino acids and humectants. With age, the amount of NMF that your skin produces declines, leading to dry, thinning skin and bothersome symptoms like itching and flaking.
To rehydrate your skin at any age, use a barrier repair moisturizer such as Zerafite Barrier Repair Moisturizer to replenish the ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol that your skin needs in order to retain moisture and keep irritants and allergens sealed out.
9. Expressive Facial Movements
We make facial expressions all day long – from laughing and smiling to frowning and grimacing. Years and years of the facial muscle contractions required to make those expressions can break down the amount of collagen in the skin, leaving static lines, wrinkles, and creases on the skin.
Some studies show that starting BOTOX injections early may help to prevent the formation of pronounced lines and wrinkles later in life. However, BOTOX at virtually any age can help to improve the appearance of wrinkles in the forehead area, between the brow, and at the corners of the eyes.
10. Too Much Stress
Chronic stress negatively affects nearly every area of the body, as well as a person’s mental and emotional health. When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which elevates your blood-sugar levels. In a fight-or-flight situation, this extra boost of sugar could help you to escape danger. However, when you are constantly in a state of stress, this excess sugar causes a myriad of detrimental effects on the body, including damaging the collagen proteins necessary for healthy, youthful-looking skin.
To avoid this, take steps to reduce stress, such as using aromatherapy, meditating, going for a walk or jog, or listening to soothing music.
Understanding the root causes of lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, and dark spots can help you both prevent and treat these common signs of aging, no matter your age. Work with a skincare professional in your area to develop a customized skincare regimen that will target and treat your specific aging skin concerns.
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