- Aging & Longevity
A Wrinkle in Time – The Fight against Aging
For the majority of us, the only time we will have, or have had perfect skin is from birth to pre-pubescence, essentially the time in our lives when great looking skin means absolutely nothing to us whatsoever! Then, overnight it seems, we are plagued with rashes, acne outbreaks, skin irritations and the monster for all women – wrinkles.
I am positive that every woman, since the beginning of time has viewed the appearance of that first wrinkle with the same displeasure and refusal of acceptance. “Do not go gentle into that good night...” I, for one, am not! However, I would like to know what I am facing (no pun intended...) and what, if anything, I can do about it!
In order to do that, I need to know more about the largest organ of our bodies – our skin.
This is the outer layer of your skin, and protects the inner layers from almost everything Mother Nature can throw at it. This seemingly tough outer skin is created by the movement of keratinocytes, (the cells of the epidermis,) from its bottom part, up to the top.
This is the skin's second layer, and contains the skin’s structural elements or connective tissue. There are many types of connective tissue and each serve a different function. For example, there is collagen which gives the skin strength. Glycosaminoglycans are proteins that give turgor, or fullness to skin, which is used by health professionals to assess the degree of fluid loss or dehydration. Elastin fibers create the elasticity of your skin.
Between the dermis and epidermis is the dermal-epidermal junction. This interlocks and forms finger-like projections called rete ridges, which increases the area of the epidermis exposed to the blood vessels which in turn increases the amount of nutrients sent to the epidermis.
3. Subcutaneous tissue
This is the skin's bottom layer and contains the fat cells. These cells provide insulation for the body and give the skin its smooth and sometimes ‘plump’ appearance.
How do wrinkles form and develop as people age?
Over time, the epidermal cells become thinner, and less ‘sticky’, meaning that more moisture is released than your skin maintains – approximately 10% every 10 years. As you age, the cells divide at a slower rate and the skin cannot renew or repair itself as quickly. As a result, your skin loses its dewy, plump appearance and becomes thinner and drier looking.
In the dermal layer, less collagen is being produced and the elastin fibers become thinner, causing your skin to lose its elasticity. This translates to the sagging jaw line or crepe-ish looking neckline you see in the mirror as you get older. The rete ridges begin to flatten out and can’t provide as much nourishment to the epidermis, which, in turn, makes your skin more fragile.
The fat cells in the subcutaneous layer also get thinner as you age – something that I’m sure only happens on your face, because I haven’t seen any evidence of thinning on my hips – or any wrinkles there either, however, I have noticed that gravity has been at work, but that is another story...
Aside from my skin changing as I age, what causes wrinkles?
Unfortunately, everyone will be travelling down the same road eventually; however, there are some preventative measures that you can use to beat back Father Time – at least as far as appearance goes.
1. Sun – touted as being your skin’s worst enemy!
When I was younger, (and to some degree even now,) I enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my skin. A certain amount is actually good for you, as your body needs the vitamin D, however, too much of a good thing can give you a dried out, leathery-looking, wrinkled skin as you get older. You don’t have to be a beach bunny for this to happen either. Just being out during the hottest time of the day could act like a dehydrator – turning a youthful, glowing visage into a poster advertisement for the California Raisins.
To counter this, you need to apply sunscreen to your skin, especially on the face and neck area and also your hands. If you doubt how effective blocking the UVA and UVB rays is, just look at your bottom. I’m betting it doesn’t have wrinkles...and the reason is it doesn’t get exposed to the sun as often as your face and other parts of the body. (Not that you want to walk around looking like your bottom...but I digress...)
2. Hormonal change
When you hit menopausal age, something every woman faces, (I know, I apologise for the reminder...) you will produce less estrogen. This kind of hormonal change may lead to changes in your skin as well. With the production of less estrogen, a chain reaction occurs causing a decrease in the development of collagen, which in turn leads to the development of more wrinkles. Looks like we are doomed no matter what we do, but we don’t have to look like old shoe leather before we hit 40 for heaven’s sake!
To help slow the aging process, it wouldn’t hurt to adopt a healthy lifestyle. You can also take vitamins and supplements, and you need to find the right moisturizer and/or night cream.
3. Muscle use
You might be thinking that I am advocating physical exercise. Well, I won’t disappoint you, but that is not the muscle use I’m talking about here. Every time you smile, frown, laugh, talk, kiss etc., you are using muscles, and these facial expressions will cause the skin’s elasticity to diminish over time, causing – you guessed it – wrinkles.
Here is that ‘other story’ I mentioned earlier. Sir Isaac Newton showed us the laws of gravity. What he didn’t mention was that this wonderful law of Nature also causes sagging skin and wrinkles!
You can try sleeping on your back to counter this problem, but if you are anything like me (and other ladies out there who are too polite to come out of the closet,) sleeping on your back can cause snoring – and let’s face it – you need your beauty sleep! So if sleeping on your back is uncomfortable, or noisy, maybe you should skip this step. Just make sure you get a good night’s rest, as this is the best thing for your skin.
Seeing that first wrinkle can be quite a shock to the system for many ladies, but rest assured, there are hundreds of products out there to help you combat Father Time. It will, of course, be a losing battle, but that doesn’t mean we have to give in without a fight!
Seek out your friendly, neighbourhood cosmetic counter and ask the clerks for their help. Research the products, try them out, and find one that is right for you. It is never too late to repair the ravages of time, you will feel good about yourself, and your skin will love you for it!