Some people view lines and wrinkles as a symbol of a life well-lived: memories of love and laughter documented in the skin like a personal journal. But for the vast majority of Americans, these pesky imperfections are more of an eyesore than an endearment. Every year, billions of dollars are spent on beauty products, cosmetic treatments, medspa services, and plastic surgery procedures that promise to turn back the clock and restore lost youth. Luckily, those who want to delay the aging process have science on their side as researchers have come to better understand the factors that affect aging. These can be categorized as either extrinsic or intrinsic.
Extrinsic aging is also sometimes called “photoaging” because it refers to outside influences (such as sun exposure) which affect our skin health. Extrinsic aging is unavoidable but experts say the effects can be minimized by living a healthy lifestyle.
5 Culprits of Extrinsic Aging
There are five key areas of extrinsic aging over which we have some degree of control. Those categories include:
- Pollution: Where you live could matter as much as how you live when it comes to aging. Those who live in highly-populated, urban areas are more likely to be bombarded by free radicals – molecules that accelerate aging. At his Los Angeles medical day spa, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Grant Stevens recommends using medical grade skin care products with high levels of anti-oxidants to decrease free radical damage. Sun
- Exposure: It’s estimated that the sun accounts for approximately 90% of premature skin aging. Overexposure to UV radiation depletes the skin of essential moisture, breaks down collagen and elastin, and results in wrinkled, discolored skin. Everyone should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection every day.
- Nutrition: The old adage, “You are what you eat,” still holds true. Research has found that a high sugar diet can lead to early wrinkles and sagging skin. Sugar damages collagen and elastin fibers that keep the skin supple and elastic. Keeping your added sugar intake to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake may prevent collagen loss.
- Exercise: There’s a reason why you enjoy a post-workout glow after aerobic activity. Working up a sweat helps shape your body, but it also helps support youthful skin. Exercise decreases stress, which means a reduction in the stress hormones associated with accelerated skin aging. It also increases blood flow and brings nutrients to the skin cells for healthy cellular functioning.
- Skin Care: Neglecting your skin care routine (or not having a routine at all) can make you look much older than you really are. A regular skin care regimen that includes cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and sunscreen using medical-grade products can keep the skin in top condition. Since topical skin care products only penetrate the epidermis (the outermost layers of the skin), more sophisticated medical treatments such as laser skin resurfacing can be used to stimulate skin tissues in the dermis (where wrinkles develop). This will help to promote dramatic, longer-lasting changes.
In part 2 of our “Coming of Age” series, we’ll examine how intrinsic factors, determined by genetics, influence aging.