Most people would love to discover a miraculous and non-invasive solution that stops skin from ageing, but the reality is that ageing is a natural process that we all face and unfortunately this means it cannot be avoided. That said, there are many preventative measures that you can put in place that slow the ageing process, but to fully understand how these affect skin ageing, you need to fully digest why skin ages in the first place. So, if you wish to grow old gracefully, the following skincare tips will help to prepare you for the years ahead.
Why Does Skin Age?
Understanding why skin ages requires getting your head around the structure of the skin. Skin is made up of an epidermis – the top layer of skin that’s exposed, the dermis – the layer underneath the epidermis that contains collagen fibres, and the hypodermis which is primarily fat.
The epidermis protects everything underneath from environmental damage since it is waterproof and able to warrant off bacteria, and the dermis contains cells that give your skin its structure and flexibility. As well as collagen and connective tissues, sweat glands, hair follicles and sebaceous glands reside within the dermis; sebaceous glands produce natural oils that hydrate and soften skin while killing unwelcome bacteria.
Two types of ageing can affect the skin: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic ageing happens from within the skin naturally as you age: the cells in the dermis reduce, the connection between the epidermis and dermis flattens and collagen production lessens. Skin that has been affected by intrinsic ageing will be drier than younger skin, less elastic and with some fine lines. Intrinsic ageing is a lot harder to tackle than extrinsic ageing, ageing that’s caused by environmental factors such as smoking, diet, pollution and UV light. Deep wrinkles, rougher texture and a loss of elasticity are all caused by extrinsic ageing.
When the skin ages, cell production decreases; in fact, after the age of twenty, it will have dropped by 50%. As the epidermis ages, cells that are responsible for preventing sun damage and bacterial invasions lessen, and the epidermis begins stealing nutrients from the dermis below. Your skin also starts to look drier because the stratum corneum (dead cells that work as an outer barrier on the epidermis) is not replaced as promptly.
The dermis is also made up of cells, most notably fibroblasts. Fibroblasts synthesise collagen, elastin and other structural molecules. Collagen, a protein, gives strength and support to skin, but age causes these well-ordered fibres to become messy and production also slows. Elastin fibres are what help young skin to regain shape, but these can also become disconnected from the collagen fibres as you age. As a result, skin begins to lose elasticity and wrinkles form.
What Can Slow The Ageing Process?
The good news is, you are in control of how quickly your skin ages (within reason) and there are solutions to ageing that you can proactively implement. You can slow the intrinsic ageing process to some extent by using products containing ingredients that replace some of the diminished proteins found naturally in the skin, and you can tackle extrinsic ageing instantly by making a few simple lifestyle changes.
If you’re a smoker, you’ll want to nip that in the bud straight away as cigarettes will only adversely affect your skin. In fact, experts argue that smokers look 1.4 years older than non-smokers and deep lines around your lips will giveaway your habit as your skin matures.
You can protect your skin from pollution by using a decent moisturiser. Nasties hidden within smog, dirt and dust attack cells and strip the skin of moisture, and this can lead to fine lines and wrinkles as the skin ages. A high-quality cleanser will soon remove any unwanted debris and moisturiser will add a protective barrier to your skin to stop pollution penetrating the dermis below.
The sun has a lot to answer for when it comes to ageing skin, and ultraviolet rays can even cause damage through windscreens which is why sometimes you see people with deep wrinkles on just one side of their face. The reason the sun affects the skin so much is because the skin is actually trying to protect everything underneath it from becoming damaged. Melanin, the skin pigment that causes a ‘suntan’, is produced as a defence mechanism (not to make you look more attractive), but overtime production can cause skin to lose its elasticity and ultimately, this leads to premature ageing! You can easily protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen, covering up with loose clothing, wearing a hat and seeking shade.
Unfortunately, the correlation between diet and skin health is not a myth. Dr Ariel Ostad from the American Academy of Dermatology says, “What you eat affects your skin – for better or worse”. The worse refers to premature skin ageing as well as a poor complexion, but thankfully diet is an extrinsic factor that can easily be controlled. Sugary snacks, greasy meals, processed meat, alcohol, salty and spicy foods, caffeine and trans fats can – if consumed consistently – introduce antioxidants, impact collagen cells and affect moisture retention in the skin. The occasional indulgence is fine but really you want to be choosing foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, including fresh fruit and veg, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. Vitamins C, E and A, B vitamins, iodine and copper are all beneficial* to the skin.
How Do Anti-ageing Products Work?
Anti-ageing products basically work by combining specific ingredients that can be absorbed by the epidermis to minimise the signs of ageing. These might be naturally occurring proteins that the skin loses with age, formulas that work as a protective barrier against extrinsic factors, natural botanicals that contain skin-loving ingredients or scientifically enhanced peptides.
According to a study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, sunscreen is one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients available. Participants in the study who used sunscreen daily showed no detectable increase in skin ageing after 4.5 years and their skin had aged 24% less than those outside of the group. This is an impressive statistic but if you feel regular sunscreen is too heavy, choose skincare products that contain broad spectrum sunscreen as an added ingredient and wear them daily underneath your makeup (not as sunscreen on the beach). Broad spectrum sunscreen will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays and these harmful rays can penetrate your skin even on cloudy days. UVA rays are longer than UVB rays which means they can penetrate deep into the dermis – it is these rays that cause skin ageing. UVB rays are shorter and are the rays responsible for causing the epidermis to burn.
When considering anti-ageing products, you want to choose something that combines active ingredients with a rich moisturiser. Moisturisers add water into the skin, sealing it in with creams and oils. This protective barrier prevents water from evaporating; water retention plumps skin which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
We’ve already spoken a little bit about the role of collagen and how it diminishes with age, but did you know that you can add collagen back into your skin? Collagen supplements and creams containing collagen can help top up what’s been lost, and some anti-ageing products also contain ingredients that support collagen formation such as vitamin C and yeast extract. These products will help to firm skin so that it appears visibly younger.
Similarly, sodium hyaluronate, the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, is a favourable anti-ageing ingredient. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring molecule in the human body, but it’s also another molecule that reduces during the ageing process. This molecule helps improve skin hydration to plump and lift skin, so make sure you choose a moisturising serum that’s high in the stuff.
Finally, you want to choose anti-ageing products that utilise the goodness found within nature itself. Natural botanicals are rich in age-fighting ingredients such as antioxidant vitamins** that protect cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage cells so that they work inefficiently and since a lot of the cells that relate to skin also lessen as you age, oxidative stress is something you definitely want to avoid.
Another natural ingredient to look out for is aloe vera gel. Aloe is an adaptogen, which means it helps skin adapt to itself; a carrier, which means it can carry other anti-ageing ingredients to deeper layers of the skin; and a humectant, which means it aids in moisture retention. Aloe is also high in nutrients that are beneficial for skin health. You can drink pure aloe vera gel to supplement your skincare routine but it is also often used as an ingredient in topical products. Forever’s anti-ageing skincare range Infinite by Forever boasts formulas that elevate the performance of aloe so that the aloe can effectively promote healthy, younger-looking skin.
Click here to explore more of Forever’s anti-ageing skincare products.
*Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of the skin; vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress; vitamin A boosts skin radiance by increasing and normalising skin cell turnover; riboflavin (B12), niacin (B3), biotin (B7) and iodine contribute to the maintenance of normal skin; copper contributes to normal pigmentation in skin.
**Copper, manganese, riboflavin, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.
What do you do or use to slow the ageing process of skin? Let us know by commenting below.