Image: Etsuko Naka
The skin changes as we age. However, some of us may age faster than the others. This can be a result of different factors including stress and lifestyle choices.
Factors Affecting Skin Aging
Stress is inevitable and although it’s seen as vital in improving productivity and efficiency, long-term exposure to stress can have detrimental effects on the health including the skin. Studies have it that stress can speed up the aging process by shortening the length of each DNA strand.
Every person has 23 pairs of chromosomes (23 from the father and 23 from the mother). Each chromosome serves as a DNA library with ends protected by structures called telomeres. Telomeres lose their structural integrity when they become shorter. When this happens, cells age and die faster.
Researchers found out that exposure to stress in various stages of life can accelerate shortening of telomeres.
Lifestyle choices can also have an effect on the speed of aging. A diet high in processed food doesn’t do anything good for the skin. Too much sugar, for instance, can cause skin dullness and wrinkle formation. In the bloodstream, sugar attaches to protein in a process called glycation. This process causes damage on the skin’s collagen and elastin. This can eventually lead to the skin getting brittled and wrinkled.
Several studies suggest that smoking can damage the skin through its effect on the capillary and arteriolar blood flow. Research also suggests that smoking may also cause damage to the connective tissues that help in maintaining healthy skin.
Too much alcohol consumption may also speed up the skin’s aging process. It has a dehydrating effect on the skin and decreases the body’s level of vitamin A which is vital for cell renewal and turnover. Deficiency in vitamin A also make it difficult for the body to fight off free radicals that cause skin damage.
Unprotected sun exposure doesn’t just increase your risk of skin cancer, it can also cause your skin to age prematurely. It can cause the skin cells of the upper and middle layers of the skin to die. While a single sunburn may not have detrimental effects on the skin, constant exposure to the sun without any form of protection can have compounding effects which can accelerate the skin’s aging process.
When to Start Checking for Signs of Aging
Since the speed of skin aging varies from one person to another, you shouldn’t wait for you to be in your 40s to start checking for signs of skin aging. By that time, it may be too late to do something about it.
Even if you’re still in your 20s, you can start checking for signs of skin aging such as:
Fine lines and wrinkles are the first noticeable skin changes that may appear starting at the age of 25. They can be found in different areas of the face including the forehead, outer corners of the eyes (also known as the crow’s feet or laughter lines), and between the nose and the mouth. These lines can get deeper as the skin further loses elasticity and volume.
- Skin sagging
Skin sagging is another sign to watch out for. Characterized by loss of contours, skin sagging can happen as a result of loss of volume. This can change the contour of the face and give one a sad or depressed look.
We normally lose our skin’s elasticity and firmness as we age. Typically, it can happen starting at the age of 50 and onwards.
Skin dryness may cause the skin to look ‘crepey’ and may cause formation of deeper lines or wrinkles.
You need to act immediately once you spot any of these symptoms. You may want to consider changing your facial routine, seeing a skin care specialist, or trying facial yoga. Trying any of these can help in preventing further skin damage.