Do Genes Control How We Look? How Can We Modify our Own DNA?
According to research, aging comes in two different types and these are internal or intrinsic aging due to inherited genes, and external or extrinsic aging due to environmental factors like being exposed to the harmful rays of the sun.
Internal aging is a continuous natural phenomena and this starts when you are in your middle 20s. The production of collagen and the flexibility of elastin inside the skin slow down. Collagen is a natural protein that holds your body together and it makes the skin strong and elastic. Elastin is a substance which makes your skin return to its place. When you age, dead skin cells will not shed off quickly and production of newer skin cells will be slower unlike when you were younger. All these changes happen in your 20s but the aging signs will only be noticeable after a few decades.
The signs of aging that affect the skin include:
• Fine lines and wrinkles
• Skin that becomes transparent and thin
• Eye sockets and cheeks that become hollow
• Neck and hands becoming less firm
• Bone loss from the skin which makes the skin sag
• Itchy, dry skin
What is the biggest deal on skin aging?
It is the genes that control the speediness of the aging process. Genes control how quickly the normal aging process unfolds. While there are individuals who develop wrinkles during their 20s, others will have them in their 40s or even 50s. There are also sufferers of the rare condition Werner’s syndrome which speeds up the aging process. These people will look old when they reach their 30s. Some of them even develop grey hair even if they are still teenagers. Others develop cataracts during their 20s. Werner’s syndrome sufferers usually live until 46 years old. External factors can make the aging process faster and this shows up in the skin. Usually this is due to sun exposure. The other factors that age the skin prematurely are smoking, gravity, facial expressions and sleeping positions. All dermatologists warn their patients to stay away from the sun. If they need to get under the sun due to work, they need to protect themselves. Exposure to the sun, even for only a few minutes daily, can alter the appearance of the skin noticeably. You can get actinic keratosis, age spots, blotch complexion, facial spider veins, fine wrinkles, freckles, skin that is leathery, loose or rough and skin cancer when exposed to the sun often.
Aging due to sun exposure is called photo-aging by dermatologists. The quantity of photoaging you have will depend on your skin color and the amount of time you are exposed to the sun. Those with fair complexion who are always exposed to the sun will have more photoaging signs as compared to people who have dark skin. If you have dark skin, the photoaging signs you may develop are botchy skin complexion and fine wrinkles. Facial expressions are said to maintain a younger look but dermatologists say they actually cause wrinkles and fine lines. When you move a facial muscle, a groove will form under the skin’s surface. This causes lines with every facial expression made. When the skin becomes less elastic, it ceases from returning to its state where there are no lines. The grooves formed will be etched permanently on the face and will manifest as wrinkles and fine lines.
Except the genes, it all comes down to:
- sun exposure
- leaving make up on for a long time
- not having proper cleaning manners
Another cause of aging skin is gravity, which always pulls down the body. When you age, the changes caused by gravity become noticeable. When you turn 50, the elasticity of the skin significantly goes down and these changes will become more prominent. The eyelids will fall, the ears will extend, the nose will droop, jowls will form, the upper lip will become unnoticeable and the lower lip will be more obvious due to gravity. When you place your face on your pillow the same position each night, wrinkles or sleep lines will be formed. Eventually, they will be imprinted on the skin’s surface and will not go away, even when you no longer rest your head on your pillow the exact way. If you are a woman and you sleep on your side, you will see lines on your cheeks and chin. Men, on the other hand, have lines on their foreheads because their faces are pressed down on their pillows when sleeping. Those who doze off on their backs will not get these wrinkles because their skin will not be crumpled against their pillows.
Smoking can speed up aging. This is because biochemical changes happen when smoking cigarettes. These changes quicken aging. According to research, those who smoke at least ten cigarettes daily for ten years are more prone to acquire deep wrinkles and a leathery skin as compared to those who do not smoke. Those who smoke for years may also acquire a yellowish shade in their skin complexion. Another study done in 2002 revealed that smokers who are at their 20s develop facial wrinkles and these can be seen under a microscope. There are studies that reveal those who smoked at a young age or those who had the habit for many years had a better skin tone and lesser wrinkles once they stopped smoking. It is therefore important for one to stop smoking so as to eliminate or avoid these signs. It is best to prevent skin from aging.
Even if internal aging can never be slowed down or avoided, the signs of aging prematurely can be prevented by protecting the skin from sun exposure, eliminating facial movements and quitting smoking. Doctors advise to protect skin from the sun for it not to prematurely age. This means not doing deliberate tanning which include using indoor tanning devices. It also includes not going out into the sun from 10:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon as the rays of the sun are very strong during these times. They also recommend wearing clothing to protect the skin such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed head gears when going out into the sun. Another suggestion is putting on sunscreen daily. Such product should have an SPF of at least 30 and must provide UVA/UVB protection. Apply sunscreen on exposed skin 20 minutes prior to going out of your house. Once you sweat, you should reapply this again. Another way to protect the skin from aging is eating the right foods and applying skin care products that are made of natural and safe ingredients.