Skin Care and Aging
Do you notice some wrinkles on your skin? Our skin is the largest organ
in the body. It is a thin layer of live body cells that try to protect
us from the sun, the effects of harsh weather and the countless chemicals
and pollutants and toxic materials found in the environment, in our work
places and our everyday cleaning and beauty solutions. Our daily activities
create sun-induced free radicals and affect collagen production which
is necessary for maintaining an elastic, firm, smooth skin. The skin
suffers from our own bad habits too, habits like smoking, frowning and
the many chemicals we apply to it for cosmetic purposes or even protection!
And then there is another reality: as we age, our skin loses its elasticity,
smoothness, and its protective outer layer so that our blood vessels
show more readily through the skin. Our skin also becomes more delicate
and more easily bruised. But there is help! Changes to our diet and nutritional
intake, changes to our lifestyle and changes to the products we apply
to our skin can help make our skin more elastic and maintain a more youthful
One of the simplest and cheapest way to keep your skin healthy and young
looking is to stay out of the sun. Sunlight is a major cause of the skin
changes we think of as aging — changes such as wrinkles, dryness,
and age spots. Your skin does change with age. For example, you sweat
less, leading to increased dryness. As your skin ages, it becomes thinner
and loses fat, so it looks less plump and smooth. Underlying structures — veins
and bones in particular — become more prominent. Your skin can
take longer to heal when injured.
You can delay these changes by staying out of the sun. Although nothing
can completely undo sun damage, the skin sometimes can repair itself.
So, it’s never too late to protect yourself from the harmful effects
of the sun.
Skin Care and Aging
Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers
in the skin called elastin. The breakdown of these fibers causes the
skin to lose its ability to snap back after stretching. As a result,
wrinkles form. Gravity also is at work, pulling at the skin and causing
it to sag, most noticeably on the face, neck, and upper arms.
Cigarette smoking also contributes to wrinkles. People who smoke tend
to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and
history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is not clear.
It may be because smoking also plays a role in damaging elastin. Facial
wrinkling increases with the amount of cigarettes and number of years
a person has smoked.
Many products currently on the market claim to “revitalize aging
skin.” According to the American Academy of Dermatology, over-the-counter “wrinkle” creams
and lotions may soothe dry skin, but they do little or nothing to reverse
wrinkles. At this time, the only products that have been studied for
safety and effectiveness and approved by the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) to treat signs of sun-damaged or aging skin are tretinoin cream
and carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium (Er:YAG) lasers.
Tretinoin cream (Renova), a vitamin A derivative available by prescription
only, is approved for reducing the appearance of fine wrinkles, mottled
darkened spots, and roughness in people whose skin doesn’t improve
with regular skin care and use of sun protection. However, it doesn’t
eliminate wrinkles, repair sun-damaged skin, or restore skin to its healthier,
younger structure. It hasn’t been studied in people 50 and older
or in people with moderately or darkly pigmented skin.
The CO2 and Er:YAG lasers are approved to treat wrinkles. The doctor
uses the laser to remove skin one layer at a time. Laser therapy is performed
under anesthesia in an outpatient surgical setting.
The FDA currently is studying the safety of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs),
which are widely promoted to reduce wrinkles, spots, and other signs
of aging, sun-damaged skin. Some studies suggest that they may work,
but there is concern about adverse reactions and long-term effects of
their use. Because people who use AHA products have greater sensitivity
to the sun, the FDA advises consumers to protect themselves from sun
exposure by using sunscreen, wearing a hat, or avoiding mid-day sun.
If you are interested in treatment for wrinkles, you should discuss treatment
options with a dermatologist.