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What Causes Aging Skin?

Updated on December 28, 2018
Alison Graham profile image

Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skin care, and pets, especially cats and dogs.

What You Can Do About Aging Skin

We all want to look and feel great - but even when we are feeling good, a look in the mirror can burst our bubble! The tired reflection looking back at us with the signs of aging written in lines on our skin can make us look much older than we feel.

But Help Is at Hand!

Today, I am looking at the seven factors, (the seven deadly skin sins, as I call them) that are the main causes of skin aging. You might be surprised to learn that these are all things that YOU can do something about and take action right away without spending a lot of money on expensive skin care products or procedures.

Finding out what causes aging skin is a topic that interests all of us. Whether this is professionally, in the skin care product business for example - or on a personal level for individuals who are trying to hold back those wrinkles and lines for just a few years more!

I pretty much fall into the latter group, being on the wrong side of 60 myself and having grown up in a generation when the summers always seemed to be sunny and I was always playing outside, my skin is now showing the results of maybe too much sun exposure during my youth!

The Seven Deadly Sins That Cause Aging Skin

I have been doing some research and wanted to share with you what I have discovered about seven different factors that cause skin to age prematurely – and mercifully these are all things that we can do something about and get beneficial results without spending lots of money on the ‘next big thing’ in skin care!

Here are the "seven deadly sins" causing aging skin - if you are guilty of any of these, there is no need to "repent at leisure"! Take action today!

This mother and daughter are separated by 25 years, both have great skin - find out what you can do to keep your skin looking younger for longer!
This mother and daughter are separated by 25 years, both have great skin - find out what you can do to keep your skin looking younger for longer! | Source

Skin Aging Caused by Sun and Weather Exposure

As I mentioned above, being a child in the '60s, I spent a lot of my childhood enjoying the freedom of playing outside without a care and certainly never worrying about the possible long-term damage to my skin that might be being caused.

However, I have since learned that I could have kept my skin looking much younger for longer if I had protected it from the sun’s rays as sun exposure has been proven to be the fastest way to age your skin!

Ultra violet light seems to be the main culprit – it causes the production of free radicals which destroy healthy skin cells and seem to have a particularly devastating effect on the collagen and elastin which gives our skin the suppleness, plumpness and firmness that keeps it looking young and line-free.

Unfortunately, this process has a snowball effect – once it starts rolling, it speeds up so making sure you protect your skin with good quality sunscreen of a high enough SPF for your skin type is vital. Most experts agree that staying out of the sun at the times when it is strongest, this is the period around noon each day and using a sunscreen of spf15 or above will protect your skin.

Other Weather elements like Winter cold and strong winds also have aging effects on the skin. Take care to protect your face (and don’t forget your hands), from the aging effects of the elements by using effective barrier moisturizer creams and lotions suitable for your skin type.

After sun damage, smoking is the single most aging thing you can do to your skin
After sun damage, smoking is the single most aging thing you can do to your skin | Source

Smoking – the Second Most Skin-Aging Thing You Can Do!

I have read in lots of places (and even mention it in my own hub about wrinkles around the mouth), that lines around the mouth appear earlier in smokers than in non-smokers because of pursing the lips around cigarettes. The same seems to be true for wrinkles around the eyes as apparently, smokers involuntarily blink or screw their eyes every time they exhale in an attempt to avoid the irritation from smoke.

I did not realise though that these physical causes of skin aging are just the tip of the iceberg where smoking is concerned - just look at what else smoking does to your skin!

  • Nicotine constricts blood vessels in the skin. On the face, this can cause the complexion to look greyish or sallow which is very aging.
  • Acetaldehyde, a chemical found in cigarettes gets into the bloodstream and damages the collagen fibres that give skin its structure.
  • In addition, a chemical reaction caused within the bodies of smokers, leads to the destruction of collagen and elastin fibres, causing skin to lose its plumpness and elasticity.

The good news is that if you manage to quit smoking by the time you are thirty, your body will be in as good shape as that of a non-smoker by the time you get to forty. The bad news is, that smokers who continue to smoke look ten years older (on average) than non-smokers.

Alcohol dehydrates your skin, causing premature wrinkles and other signs of aging
Alcohol dehydrates your skin, causing premature wrinkles and other signs of aging | Source

Alcohol Destroys Antioxidants and Causes Skn Aging

In UK, “What’s your poison” is a phrase sometimes used when asking what someone would like to drink in a bar or club. This is very apt because Alcohol is a poison! It causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to broken veins on the nose and cheeks. Although Alcohol is not the only possible cause of these spider veins, so we should not be judgemental, but it is certain that they are very aging.

Like cigarette smoke, Alcohol also contains the chemical Acetaldehyde mentioned above which reduces the firmness and elasticity of skin by attacking the fibres that give it structure. If you only drink two units of alcohol a day, (that’s one small glass of wine), it could be enough to make wrinkles and lines more noticeable.

One of the lesser known problems associated with drinking Alcohol is that it destroys the powerful antioxidant and protective Vitamin C which is one of the vital ingredients in your diet if you want your skin to stay healthy (remember what happened to sailors whose diets were deficient in Vitamin C, they got Scurvy!).

The Aging Effects of Alcohol and Smoking on Your Skin

Chronic stress over a long period of time can cause skin aging - stress at work is a major factor
Chronic stress over a long period of time can cause skin aging - stress at work is a major factor | Source

Long Term Stress Can Age Your Skin Too

Quite apart from its effects on our emotional well-being, stress causes serious damage to the skin. Research has shown that long term stress in women caused them to have a biological age at least ten years older than their un-stressed counterparts.

Adult Acne has been proven to be on the increase, particularly in women with stressful jobs and this is in part, attributable to the way stress hormones affect the body. Because our stress reaction creates hormones that cause blood flow to be diverted from the skin to the muscles so that we can either run away or fight our enemies (the so-called “fight or flight” hormones), the nutrients to nourish our skin that are carried in the bloodstream do not arrive at their destination during periods of stress. You would think that this could just be rectified with good skin care products but unfortunately when we are stressed, our skin does not absorb these restorative products so well either.

Taking up yoga or practicing other relaxation techniques can help. Physical exercise also helps, not only to reduce the stress levels but also to increase blood flow to the skin.

Lack of Sleep Is a Disaster for Your Skin!

While we are sleeping, our skin is repairing itself. Research has also shown that whilst we sleep, our skin is more absorbent so nighttime treatments for our skin are more effective the results of the research show that as much as 25% more of some night time vitamin skin treatments will be absorbed during sleep than during the day time.

Lack of sleep can cause other signs of skin aging too. The area around our eyes has much thinner and more delicate skin than elsewhere on our faces. When we are tired from lack of sleep, blood flow is diverted away from our skin to our brain and other vital organs. Reduced blood flow in the tissues beneath the eyes can lead to pooling of blood in the tiny capillaries, making dark circles more noticeable. Reduced blood flow also leads to a build up of fluid leading to the puffy appearance of tired eyes. These factors are very aging to our faces.

Stress can be a major contributing factor to having trouble falling asleep, so addressing problems could help. I found this hub really helpful and hope you will too.
How to Fall Asleep Instantly and Beat Insomnia

Try Out This Stress Relief Yoga Video Session

Pollution Can Cause Skin Aging Too

In the 21st Century, unless we are lucky enough to live in a remote area, we are surrounded by pollutants of all sorts. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website states that we each breathe in an amazing 300 gallons of air every day. They say:

“Some toxic chemicals released in the air such as benzene or vinyl chloride are highly toxic and can cause cancer, birth defects, long term injury to the lungs, as well as brain and nerve damage. And in some cases, breathing these chemicals can even cause death.”

If you would like to read the whole article, here is the link .

Whilst we may not be able to do very much about the quality of the air we breathe in, stopping smoking obviously has an immediate benefit. Eating natural and organic foods as far as possible, also reduces the pollutants we take into our bodies. Some studies have estimated that we could be consuming around 5 kilos of food additives and pesticides each year so reducing this should be a target for everyone.

There are other things we can do to reduce, even reverse some of the harmful effects of these pollutants and toxins on our bodies and especially on our skin. Wearing a good moisturizer as a barrier against atmospheric pollutants will be a big help. Increasing our intake of the powerful antioxidants which neutralize and eliminate free-radicals produced by the toxins will also help. This is simple for almost everyone to do and just involves increasing the dietary intake of fresh fruits, particularly citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and especially vegetables and fruits that are red, orange or yellow in colour.

Lack of Exercise Could Be Making Your Skin Look Old!

Physical exercise is something that declines in most people’s lives once they leave school. Unless we take on physically demanding jobs, many of us spend long hours at our desks which has the ‘double whammy’ for our bodies of lack of exercise and a build up of stress.

Exercise is great for boosting skin tone because it increases the amount of oxygen being circulated in the blood and this helps to flush away the toxins which can accumulate beneath the skin’s surface. Exercise also helps the body to deal better with the effects of stress and helps us to get to sleep and stay asleep longer, getting better quality of sleep at the same time – both these things have beneficial effects on the skin.

Before you decide to rush out and start exercising though, make sure that you are not going to be doing yourself any damage. If you have not exercised for a long time or are no longer a teenager, you should get your doctor’s advice before embarking on an exercise program.

However, that being said, you don’t have to enter an Iron Man competition or train for a Marathon to get the benefits of exercise for your skin. All you need is around 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week. Cardiovascular exercise is anything that gets you a little out of breath and makes your heart beat faster so this could be running, swimming, cycling, a session at the gym or a class like Zumba or Spinning Class.

A Younger-Looking You!

These seven factors are all things that cause skin aging. By taking care to protect yourself from the damaging effects of sun exposure, stopping smoking if you are a smoker and reducing your alcohol intake are three major things you could try right away.

In addition, if sleep is a problem for you, you could improve your quality of life greatly – as well as improve your skin, by taking positive steps to reduce your stress levels and increase your exercise levels which will both, in themselves help slow down the aging effects you are seeing in the mirror every morning! Finally, fight aging skin by taking care of your diet and increasing your intake of antioxidants for glowing, healthy, younger looking skin.

© 2012 Alison Graham


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