Your skin is the first part of the body to start showing the signs of aging. As we age, our skin remains at the mercy of many factors, including exposure to the sun, harsh weather, pollution, and of course, our own bad habits. However, there are certain steps we can take to help keep our skin remain supple and healthy even as we age. How your skin ages, depends on a wide variety of factors. Read on to find out about the effects of aging on the skin and potential interventions you can undertake to reduce the visible signs of aging.
Understanding How Your Skin Ages
How your skin ages depend on a wide variety of factors, including your diet, genes, personal habits like smoking and drinking, whether you exercise or not, and your overall lifestyle. There are many other reasons as well that cause harm to the skin. Some of the major factors that contribute to the appearance of wrinkles and spotted skin as you age include excessive exposure to the sun, pollution, and loss of the fatty tissue present between your skin and muscle. Even obesity and the position you sleep in can have an impact on the skin as you age.(1, 2, 3)
As we get older, there are many changes that appear on the skin naturally. Some of these natural effects of aging on the skin may include:
- The skin may develop lesions like benign (harmless) tumors.
- Skin becomes slack due to the loss of elastic tissue known as elastin in the skin. This causes the skin to hang.
- Skin becomes rougher and dry.
- Skin can start to look more transparent due to the thinning of the epidermis, which is the topmost surface layer of the skin.
- Skin becomes more fragile and this can cause injuries very easily. This happens because of the flattening of the part of the skin where the epidermis and the dermis layer meet. The dermis is the second layer of skin, just under the epidermis.
- Skin can get bruised easily due to the thinner walls of the blood vessels.
At the same time, many changes also take place in the skin that becomes more obvious as we age. These include:(4, 5)
- Loss of fat takes place below the skin in the chin, cheeks, nose, eye, and temple area. This lends a leaner look to the face, loosening the skin, and causing your eyes to appear sunken. This is what often makes older people take on a skeletal or haggard appearance on their faces.
- Bone loss starts becoming more visible around the chin and mouth, especially after the age of 60. This causes puckering of the skin around the mouth.
- Loss of cartilage in the nose leads to drooping of the nasal tip. This accentuates the bony structures in the nose.
Exposure to sunlight also has an effect on aging skin. In fact, excessive exposure to sunlight is one of the biggest damaging factors in aging skin. This is because, over time, the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun cause damage to a type of fiber in the skin known as elastin. This breakdown of elastin fibers in the skin causes the skin to sag and lose its ability to snap back after stretching. Due to this, the skin now also tears and bruises more easily and it takes longer to heal. So even though sun damage might not show up when you are young, but it does make a difference later in life. And the fact is that nothing can help completely undo the damage caused to the skin due to sun exposure.(6, 7)
This is why it is never too late to start caring for your skin and protecting it from sun exposure and skin cancer. You can also delay many of the changes linked with aging simply by staying out of the sun and always ensuring to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above and zinc oxide to act as a physical blocker. Here are some ways in which you can help reduce the visible signs of aging on your skin.
Ways to Reduce the Visible Signs of Aging
Protect Yourself From Sun Exposure
Exposure to the sun is one of the most common reasons for damage to the skin, causing premature aging and wrinkles to appear on the skin. According to a study carried out in 2013, using regular sunscreen can help slow down the signs of damage to the skin and also delay the aging of the skin. Many other studies have also shown the same results.(8, 9)
To protect your skin from the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, it is absolutely necessary to wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to 50 every day. This means that you must wear sunscreen even if the weather is cloudy or it is raining outside. This is because UV rays can still manage to get through the clouds, so do not skip on the sunscreen just because the weather outside is not sunny. So remember to make applying sunscreen an automatic part of your daily routine.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should be wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and it should ideally mention ‘broad-spectrum’ on the label, which means that it protects against both types of sun rays, UVA and UVB.(10) It is the UVA rays that cause the maximum of the sun’s aging effects on the skin. This is why to get the best sunscreen protection against UVA rays, check the sunscreen for ingredients like mexoryl, avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. At the same time, the sunscreen you wear should also offer some sort of water resistance.(11, 12)
Be liberal while applying the sunscreen and you should also reapply it every three to four hours, depending on whether you are sweating, swimming, or there is too much of direct exposure to the sun. Also do not forget to put sunscreen on your hands, arms, and neck.
Avoid Tanning, Both Outdoors And Indoors
Tanning is one of the biggest culprits of damaged skin. When you are young, avoid making this mistake that may cost your skin dearly when you are older. Tanning, both using tanning beds indoors or outdoors directly under the sun, will make your skin look worse as you are damaging your skin with direct exposure to UV radiation. Too much of sun can cause damage to elastin and collagen, as well as skin discoloration. Tanning beds also increase your risk of skin cancer significantly.(13, 14)
If you are very sure you want a tanned look, you can make use of sunless tanners that are available in the form of sprays, creams, gels, wipes, and lotions. It is important to remember, though, that these sunless tanners do not protect you against sunburn. This is why even if you use such types of tanners, you will still need to wear sunscreen.(15)
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
The importance of moisturizing your skin cannot be stressed enough. Using a moisturizer on your skin, especially your face, is like giving it a drink of water. Moisturizers play a critical role in nourishing and hydrating the skin, which is even more important as you get older. As you get older, the skin tends to start becoming drier, making it more susceptible to wrinkles.
Studies have shown that using a moisturizer containing vitamin C and hyaluronic acid is highly effective at preventing wrinkles from forming or getting deeper if you already have wrinkles.(16, 17)
Eat Foods Rich In Vitamins
There is a lot of truth in the saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ This becomes even more important and true as you age.
A large study carried out in the Netherlands in 2019 with over 2700 participants showed that the dietary habits of the participants were closely linked with facial wrinkles, especially in women.(18) As per the study, the women participants who were consuming a diet rich in high amounts of red meat and other junk foods had more wrinkles on their faces than women who were consuming more fruits in their diet.
It has been found that foods rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can also help boost the health of your skin, especially its elasticity, and also protect against premature aging and skin damage. Some of the foods and drinks you should be having for the better health of your skin are:(19)
- Olive oil
- Green tea
- Flax seeds
- Vegetables like pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, and leafy greens like spinach, kale, etc.
Sleep On Your Back
One of the many things that most people do not think about when keeping the health of their skin in mind is their sleeping position. A study from 2016 showed that a person’s sleeping position has an effect on the development of wrinkles, especially as you age.(20) The researchers found that individuals who sleep on their stomach or side are susceptible to mechanical compression forces, which help speed up the development of wrinkles, and also distort the facial skin.
The simplest way to prevent this from happening is to sleep on your back instead of on your stomach or side. Using silk pillowcases may also be better for your skin rather than cotton as they do not have too much of friction and prevents any type of abrasion to the skin.
Changes in your skin as you age are inevitable, but there are certain protective steps you can take to slow down the progress of skin damage and also to prevent damage from happening in the first place. Lifestyle factors like drinking plenty of water, consuming a diet rich in vitamins, saving your skin from sun exposure, and avoiding stress and smoking, all play a major role in keeping your skin healthy, supple, and youthful for as long as possible.
Using a moisturizer containing vitamin C and hyaluronic acid can also be effective at preventing the formation of wrinkles and other damage to the skin. If you have any concerns about your skin as you age, make sure to consult a doctor or dermatologist at the earliest to ensure there is no long-term and lasting damage to your skin.
- Gilchrest, B.A., 1984. Skin and aging processes. CRC press.
- Puizina-Ivic, N., 2008. Skin aging. Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina Panonica Et Adriatica, 17(2), p.47.
- Sjerobabski-Masnec, I. and Šitum, M., 2010. Skin aging. Acta Clinica Croatica, 49(4), pp.515-518.
- Farage, M.A., Miller, K.W., Elsner, P. and Maibach, H.I., 2013. Characteristics of the aging skin. Advances in wound care, 2(1), pp.5-10.
- Makrantonaki, E. and Zouboulis, C.C., 2007. Molecular mechanisms of skin aging: state of the art. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1119(1), pp.40-50.
- Kligman, A.M., 1969. Early destructive effect of sunlight on human skin. Jama, 210(13), pp.2377-2380.
- Gilchrest, B.A., 1989. Skin aging and photoaging: an overview. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 21(3), pp.610-613.
- Hughes, M.C.B., Williams, G.M., Baker, P. and Green, A.C., 2013. Sunscreen and prevention of skin aging: a randomized trial. Annals of internal medicine, 158(11), pp.781-790.
- Green, A., Williams, G., Nèale, R., Hart, V., Leslie, D., Parsons, P., Marks, G.C., Gaffney, P., Battistutta, D., Frost, C. and Lang, C., 1999. Daily sunscreen application and betacarotene supplementation in prevention of basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas of the skin: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 354(9180), pp.723-729.
- Hernandez, L.E., Mohsin, N., Frech, F. and Nouri, K., 2023. Sunscreen compliance with American Academy of Dermatology recommendations: A 2022 update and cross-sectional study.
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 88(1), pp.231-232.
- Tanner, P.R., 2006. Sunscreen product formulation. Dermatologic clinics, 24(1), pp.53-62.
- Bacqueville, D., Jacques‐Jamin, C., Lapalud, P., Douki, T., Roullet, N., Sereno, J., Redoulès, D., Bessou‐Touya, S. and Duplan, H., 2022. Formulation of a new broad‐spectrum UVB+ UVA and blue light SPF50+ sunscreen containing Phenylene Bis‐Diphenyltriazine (TriAsorB), an innovative sun filter with unique optical properties. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 36, pp.29-37.
- Zhang, M., Qureshi, A.A., Geller, A.C., Frazier, L., Hunter, D.J. and Han, J., 2012. Use of tanning beds and incidence of skin cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 30(14), p.1588.
- Falzone, A.E., Brindis, C.D., Chren, M.M., Junn, A., Pagoto, S., Wehner, M. and Linos, E., 2017. Teens, tweets, and tanning beds: rethinking the use of social media for skin cancer prevention. American journal of preventive medicine, 53(3), pp.S86-S94.
- Fu, J.M., Dusza, S.W. and Halpern, A.C., 2004. Sunless tanning. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 50(5), pp.706-713.
- Jegasothy, S.M., Zabolotniaia, V. and Bielfeldt, S., 2014. Efficacy of a new topical nano-hyaluronic acid in humans. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 7(3), p.27.
- Pullar, J.M., Carr, A.C. and Vissers, M.C., 2017. The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients, 9(8), p.866.
- Mekić, S., Jacobs, L.C., Hamer, M.A., Ikram, M.A., Schoufour, J.D., Gunn, D.A., Kiefte-de Jong, J.C. and Nijsten, T., 2019. A healthy diet in women is associated with less facial wrinkles in a large Dutch population-based cohort. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 80(5), pp.1358-1363.
- Dattola, A., Silvestri, M., Bennardo, L., Passante, M., Scali, E., Patruno, C. and Nisticò, S.P., 2020. Role of vitamins in skin health: A systematic review. Current nutrition reports, 9, pp.226-235.
- Anson, G., Kane, M.A. and Lambros, V., 2016. Sleep wrinkles: facial aging and facial distortion during sleep. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, 36(8), pp.931-940.