It is estimated that girls born today will live on average to age 83; boys have a good 78 years ahead of them. The trend is going up. But that doesn’t change the fact that our skin starts to show the first signs of ageing around the age of 25. BASF Care Creations explain what happens when the skin ages and – and how premature ageing can be combated.
Ageing starts before we are even born. And everything we do to our skin during our youth will become noticeable later. There are many reasons for ageing and how it plays out for each person is very individual. But nobody goes untouched. And it gets worse. As we age, our skin loses firmness and elasticity, especially on our face. The result: skin sags and loses its contours. For women, this natural process picks up speed around age 50 during menopause. As hormones change, elasticity and firmness decrease significantly. This is not quite as pronounced in men because they have a different skin texture. In addition, mature skin doesn’t produce as much natural moisturising factor. It dries out quickly and loses the typical radiance found in youthful skin. And wrinkles get deeper. Gravity also plays a role as the skin begins to sag.
The sun’s UV radiation still has an enormous influence on the extent and speed of how our skin ages.
The interplay of the various factors is quite complex. Both internal, e.g. genetic processes (also termed intrinsic skin ageing), and external influences (extrinsic skin ageing) play a role. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the signs of ageing are due to internal factors, while 70% to external factors.
Let’s take a quick look at the natural changes that occur in the three different skin layers: epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous tissue. Each of these layers has an ageing process and causes different signs of ageing.
Epidermis: Hyaluronic acid production in hypodermis slows down, and the skin cells in epidermis therefore bind less water. The skin becomes rougher and drier.
Dermis: The ageing process leads to structural and functional changes in the dermis. The undulating junction between the epidermis and dermis, which gives stability, flattens out and the dermis begins to atrophy.
Subcutis: Fat is redistributed in our body with less in our face and hands, and more around our waistline and abdomen.
Cell metabolism slows down in the epidermal layers and lipid production decreases. This causes many effects: the epidermis becomes thinner, ceramide production slows down, and the skin cells hold less water. The skin becomes rougher and drier, and fine lines and wrinkles start to develop. Since the skin’s pigmentation becomes more uneven, there is less protection against UV rays. As people’s age increases, their susceptibility to get infections increases and wound healing is poorer.
The ageing process leads to structural and functional changes in the dermis and markedly impacts the dermal scaffolding structures of elastic fibres and collagen. Hyaluronic Acid production decreases and plumping of skin reduces. Collagen turnover decreases and the elastin fibres degrade. The undulating junction between the epidermis and dermis, which gives stability, flattens out and the dermis begins to atrophy. The amount of hyaluronic acid decreases and low-grade inflammatory processes are more recurrent. These are just some of the effects that can occur.
As the internal support structures weaken and the skin loses elasticity, the skin becomes slack. With the effects taking place in the epidermis, the skin loses its youthful glow, becoming thinner and duller often accompanied by formation of age spots and blotches. Fat is redistributed in our body with less in our face and hands, and more around our waistline and abdomen.
Skin ageing in numbers
Genetic factors play an important role in all the processes happening in the different skin layers. And that’s not all: external influences including life-style and environmental factors also intensify the ageing process. Research has now identified three main factors:
Top of the list is UV radiation from the sun. Experts call it photoageing. Your skin type and your behaviour determine how quickly and to what extent your skin ages. The ageing process is faster for people with fair, sensitive skin compared to Asians and darker-skinned people. People who spend a lot of time in the sun or like to sunbathe also show more signs of ageing. Even if most people protect their skin with sunscreen and don’t get skin cancer, the sun’s UV radiation still has an enormous influence on the extent and speed of how our skin ages.
Number 2: People who smoke look older. The various substances in tobacco smoke not only damage the lungs and the respiratory system, but they also interfere with various cell processes and reduce the amount of protective antioxidants. The effects on the skin are also substantial.
Last but not least, air pollution plays a role and has the greatest impact on people who live in large cities and metropolitan areas. One of the main causes for ageing processes are free radicals. These highly reactive molecules damage the cell structures of the skin and thereby accelerate ageing. They result from, for example, exposure to UV radiation, tobacco smoke and air pollution.
Young skin can defend itself to a certain extent: it produces or is supplied by antioxidants that render free radicals harmless. Older skin gradually loses the ability to do this. The more free radicals are able to cause trouble, the more damage is done.
Whilst ageing is unavoidable, you can avoid or reduce the unwanted signs of skin ageing. Healthy nutrition helps, as does effective sun protection and continuous care.
*BASF is a leading creator and supplier of advanced skin actives which address various skin care concerns including ageing. For more information on BASF actives and how to formulate anti-ageing products contact Botanichem.
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