All About Aging
Style Icon, Iris Apfel image courtesy of Pinterest
Hello to my favorite faces! If you followed along with my newsletter this month, you might recall that we are using the month of March (and my impending birthday that goes with) to talk about aging. I know. No one's favorite topic, but something we are all dealing with and that most of us want to know how to thwart.
The bad news is that aging is inevitable. The good news, is that there are factors we can control, when it comes to our skin and its aging process. Let's start by talking about the very basics of how and why we age.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Aging
There are two ways in which we age. The first is intrinsic. Intrinsic aging is the kind you can basically do nothing about. This kind of aging is pre-programmed in your DNA. We all age at different rates and in different ways, just according to our genetic makeup. As we get older, normal wear and tear on the body accumulates. Over time we begin to produce less collagen. Elastin fibers weaken and cellular turnover begins to slow down. This kind of aging begins as early as our twenties but doesn't necessarily show up until later. Some common signs of intrinsic aging are fine wrinkles and/or thinning skin that may become looser and less supple.
Luckily intrinsic aging only accounts for a small percentage of the aging process. The majority of aging we experience is extrinsic. Extrinsic aging refers to any external factors that age us. The bad news is that there are a lot of external factors we have to contend with - environment, pollution, sun exposure, lifestyle, etc. The good news is that extrinsic aging is something we DO have control over. With proper skin care and by making healthy choices, you have the ability to prevent or at least stave off some of the signs of extrinsic aging. So, rather than get into a bunch of science jargon about aging on a molecular level, let's just talk about the day-to-day things that contribute to our aging.
If you're even slightly skin obsessed, I don't have to tell you that sun is pretty much the enemy. The sun's rays are the number one cause of premature aging. Why is that exactly? Beneath the surface UV rays can damage or alter healthy skin cells. Above the surface, photo aging can occur, producing more immediate damage such as sun burn, age spots, and pigmentation. At the most serious level, sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.
As an esthetician I'm always hammering on the importance of SPF, but it really can't be stressed enough. We can't avoid the sun altogether, but your sunblock is your best line of defense, therefore you should be wearing it all day every day. Reapplying often. Even if it's in your makeup or moisturizer already. And even if it's cold or cloudy outside. The sun doesn't go away in the winter and neither should your sunblock. This blog talks more in-depth about the nuances of SPF, but the easy rule is: wear it all the time. I promise you will be happy you did later.
Lifestyle is a rather all-encompassing term but as with your overall health, your skin health is directly influenced by what you put in your body and how you treat it. A diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, leafy greens and vitamins will help support your skin as it ages, as well as regular exercise. Drinking lots of water and keeping hydrated will also help. Smoking is a huge no-no for the skin, as it deprives the skin of oxygen and destroys collagen. It also creates extra wrinkles around the mouth.
Another lifestyle factor that influences aging is environment. For example, being exposed to more pollution in the air can cause free radical damage. More outdoor exposure and drier climates dehydrate the skin, which can lead to slower cellular turnover, damaged or impaired barrier function and the deepening of fine lines and wrinkles.
Stress is also a huge factor when it comes to aging. Higher stress levels create inflammation and hormone spikes, which can then trigger a host of other issues in the skin. Getting enough rest and finding ways to healthily manage stress, will help prevent premature aging.
Other Wear and Tear
Some of the most basic things can contribute to aging. Things like the facial expressions we make every day, can over time, cause wrinkles and fine lines to become deeper set. While you can't avoid things like smile and laugh lines (who would want to?) avoiding stress expressions like frowning or squinting will keep the process from accelerating.
Although there's only so much you can do about gravity, being mindful of things like how you sleep can even make a difference. Regularly sleeping on one side, can actually make wrinkles worse by putting more weight and pressure on one side of your face. Sleeping on your back is ideal for protecting your face but also your neck and chest area. And please, please, please get out of the habit of sleeping in your makeup, if you currently do. Makeup left to sit on your face, will then start to sink into the creases, making them worse while you sleep.
So now that you're aware of the factors that speed up aging, let's talk about how to slow it down.
When should you start age management routine?
Honestly, there's really no set age to start, but there's also no such thing as too young. If nothing else, start with good SPF. If you are younger and still concerned with issues such as acne, you can stick to your normal routine but perhaps start to add in corrective serums or a good eye cream. Although most anti-aging ingredients are a good thing, you'll still want to be careful not to overdo it. Start out slow and work your way up to more active products. Sometimes, the wrong skin care or overdoing it on exfoliaton, (however well-intended) can irritate and inflame the skin, aging it faster.
When putting something on your face, quality is always going to matter, but it matters especially when it comes to aging. The skin responds best to high quality ingredients. Over the counter brands tend to contain only a small percentage of the active ingredients that do the work and are otherwise mostly filler. So as you start to ramp up your anti-aging game, you will want to pay more attention to what you are putting on your skin. It's time to invest in something just a little more potent than that Oil of Olay that you bought at Walgreen's.
Good ingredients to look for in an age management product are hyaluronic acid for boosting moisture and plumping out fine lines, antioxidants and vitamins to fight free radical damage, and retinols for helping keep cellular turnover on track. Peptides are also an amazing ingredient to look for. Peptides communicate with the skin and trigger it to produce a number of responses that combat the signs of aging. Certain peptides can tell your skin to heal or produce more collagen, plump out fine lines, even reduce muscular movement (similar to Botox) in certain facial muscles. This blog takes a more in-depth look at some of my favorite ingredients.
Of course, you knew I was going to put this on the list, but no snake oil here. Getting professional treatments can do a lot when it comes to combatting aging. From chemical peels to manual exfoliation. Even the most basic deep cleansing and massaging, provides stimulation that your face might otherwise never receive. Stimulating your skin helps with cellular turnover and helps keep your skin producing new healthy cells at a more youthful rate.
Additionally estheticians have corrective products and treatments for existing signs of aging such as brown spots, fine lines and dull skin that can aid your skin in turning back time. As technology and the industry advances, you have more an more options to treat your skin and keep it looking young and healthy. From ancient wisdom to lasers and injectables, the market is awash with ways to treat aging skin. I recommend doing your research and consulting at least one professional when considering various treatments. And don't be afraid to ask lots of questions.
With all of the above in mind, try to remember that aging is a natural process and a fact of life. It's okay to load up on night cream and Juviderm, if it makes you feel beautiful. But don't forget to embrace the wisdom of your years, while your at it. Age is but a number. What matters is how you wear it.