Age, and everything that comes with it, is an unfortunate fact of life. While we can’t reverse aging, or stop its inevitable march, we can at least minimise the visible effects of ageing with the right mindset and skincare plan. Here, we will describe 5 significant contributors to ageing skin, broken up into two main categories of internal and external factors, and have a look at what we can do to minimise their effects.
Internal Contributors 1 and 2: Impaired skin barrier function and decreased water content
Both of these contributors arise naturally due to internal biological processes. Internal ageing of the skin simply refers to the natural ageing process. It occurs as a consequence of physiological changes over time at variable, yet genetically programmed rates.1 In other words, as the skin ages it undergoes numerous changes which are outside of our control, from reduced water content of skin cells due to their reduced ability to bind and retain water, to reduced levels of structural proteins, collagen and elastin which are responsible for maintaining the skin’s strength.2
Since hydration is key to the proper functioning of the skin,3 all of these changes can lead to a compromised skin barrier ability, and decreased strength and structural integrity, making the skin more dry and fragile, less flexible and quite susceptible to injury, and even microbial or environmental damage.1,2,4
External Contributors 3, 4 and 5: The sun, the environment, and our lifestyle
The remaining 3 contributors are all what we would call external or environmental factors. External ageing of the skin is pretty much the opposite of internal ageing: it refers to ageing of the skin brought about by things within the outside environment. This process can be caused by a range of environmental factors, including sun radiation, cigarette smoking, air pollution and exposure to other environmental factors such as cold, heat, dust, wind, humidity and smog.4,5,6
Lifestyle choices and habits such as poor diet, lack of exercise, inconsistent sleep habits and stress can also have an impact on how our skin (and bodies in general) age and adapt to ageing.4,5,6 All of these factors can act either separately or by interacting with each other or even with biological factors to potentially damage the skin structure and function, eventually leading to more visibly aged skin.5,6
Visibly ageing skin – what can be done about it?
Even though we cannot stop the process of natural ageing, we can aim to avoid as many contributing factors as possible with a commitment to: (i) accept the factors that cannot be changed such as our genetics, and (ii) minimise or slow down the factors that can be changed.
With the second point in mind, the best ways to achieve this is by avoiding harmful activates such as smoking or sunbathing, and committing to wearing protective clothing and using sunscreens to minimise sun exposure. Maintaining as healthy a lifestyle as possible will also help- try that salad instead of a burger, and replace an hour of TV with a walk. Finally, topical products that are designed for sensitive or ageing skin, such as moisturiser, can help to improve skin barrier function and moisturisation, giving your skin the best chance it has of warding off the visible signs of ageing.5
- Skin ageing is a complex process determined by biological contributors and accelerated by environmental contributors.
- The two main biological contributors to ageing skin are (1) impaired barrier function and (2) decreased water content.
- The three main environmental contributors to ageing skin are (1) sun exposure, (2) environmental impact such as pollution and climate and (3) lifestyle and habits.
- Actively avoiding or minimising environmental contributors and employing a skincare regime to offset the biological contributors can help to give your skin the best chance it has of looking younger for longer.