We usually define skin by what we see: our pigmentation, age spots, moles – and wrinkles. Yet there's much more to skin than meets the eye. The skin is divided into two main layers: the exterior epidermis, including the stratum corneum ("horny" outer layer), and the dermis below, which contains capillaries, hair follicles, sebaceous glands and the fibers (collagen and elastin) that give the skin its strength and elasticity.
As you age, the dermis thins. Ultrasound
and X-rays reveal that dermal thickness increases until age 20, then declines progressively, losing approximately 20% of its peak thickness, says Sheldon Pinnell, MD, who teaches dermatology at Duke University. "Wrinkles are a surface reflection of changes in dermal structure," he says. "With aging, collagen
is lost and the dermis thins, resulting in wrinkling." In fact, wrinkle lines are present not just on the surface, but below in the dermis as well, where they manifest as dermal grooves.
Treatment and Prevention
In the realm of anti-aging skin care, the name of the game is preserving and regenerating the underlying structure of your skin – collagen
, which weakens with age, and elastin
, whose fibers become less flexible. Although the hormones estrogen
slow skin collagen loss, a number of beauty treatments, including vitamin C
and ceramide creams, can do the job without the side-effects.
If you care for your skin throughout your life, your face will reap the rewards of that TLC. Even if you've got a few lines, it's never too late to minimize them and to prevent more. Keep a positive attitude, eat plenty of antioxidant-containing fruits and veggies, don't smoke, and rely on the revitalizing effects of natural beauty products as you grow older gracefully.