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.
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 and testosterone 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.
As with skin that is overexposed to sunlight, smoking causes thickening and fragmentation of elastin, the elastic fibers that are long and smooth in healthy skin. Smoking also depletes the skin's oxygen supply by reducing circulation. It decreases the formation of collagen, the skin's main structural component, and may reduce the water content of the skin, all of which increase wrinkling. Sometimes it is easy to spot someone with 'smoker's face'.
Of all factors that contribute to wrinkle formation, none surpasses the destructive force of excessive sun exposure. Shunning the two distinct yet equally harmful UV rays – A and B – is the first step to maintaining youthful skin. UVB rays are responsible for visible sunburn, yet UVA rays are just as damaging, even though they cause little skin redness. This type of radiation penetrates the skin, causing cellular damage that accumulates slowly over a period of time. UVA rays induce the formation of free radicals, which attack the skin's lipids. The resulting damage gives rise to visible signs of aging such as wrinkles and leathery skin.
Eat plenty of antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables.
Ascorbic acid reserves are often depleted in older people, who tend to need more vitamin C in their diet. Ascorbic acid increases the synthesis of collagen more than five-fold in cultures of human skin. By replenishing ascorbic acid in the skin, collagen synthesis may be stimulated, and the loss of dermal substance associated with aging might be delayed or even reversed.
The skin's natural defenses against the free radicals produced by UV light are vitamin C and vitamin E. These two antioxidants intercept free radicals before they can damage your skin. Vitamin C protects significantly better against UVA phototoxicity than vitamin E; vitamin E, on the other hand, is more efficient against UVB.
You can do much to avoid looking older before your time by protecting your face and neck with a sunscreen that has at least an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 on a daily basis.
A new ingredient in some skin care products, beta-glucan, increases the skin's resistance to oxidative stress induced by UVA rays. Beta-glucan which, like ceramides, is isolated from yeast cell walls, appears to stimulate the skin's immune defense mechanisms, promoting healing of sunburned skin and reducing cellular inflammation. Used in facial creams or foundation makeup, beta-glucan protects your skin from day-to-day exposure to the sun.
Put simply, tobacco ages you. Female and male smokers age 40 and older are two to three times more likely to have moderate to severe wrinkling compared to nonsmokers.
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