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How Our Skin Changes With Age

Many aspects of our personalities and our physical appearances change as we age. From our heart health to our memories, time is a powerful sculptor, and before we know it, our bodies no longer look like they did when we were twenty years old. Where does time go?

One of the most visible areas in which our bodies display change is in our skin. The Mayo Clinic notes that with age, just about everybody notices thinner, less elastic and more fragile skin with a decrease of fatty tissue just below the skin. Many aging adults notice that they bruise more easily, and wrinkles, age spots, and skin tags become far more common. Suzan Obagi, assistant professor in dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center, explains that many of these skin issues result from extrinsic environmental factors, but also from intrinsic aging processes: “After the age of 20, a person produces about 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year. As a result, the skin becomes thinner and more fragile with age. There is also diminished functioning of the sweat and oil glands, less elastin production, and less GAG formation. Wrinkle formation as a result of intrinsic aging is inevitable,” Obagi notes.

While it’s impossible to completely halt your skin’s aging (at least for now- who knows what the future will hold!), there are ways to both mitigate the process and stave it off altogether. While cosmetic surgery can be a very effective way to do this, surgery is also a complicated and expensive process that often requires significant recovery times, and it isn’t right for everyone. From preventative measures to corrective procedures, here are a few of the nonsurgical ways to keep your skin youthful.

Preventative Measures

There’s actually more you can do to keep your skin healthy and wrinkle-free than you might imagine. Of course, one of the most important ways to prevent wrinkles, thin skin, and visible aging (in addition to preventing skin cancer) is by staying out of the sun and using a waterproof, high-SPF sunscreen when you’re in it. However, here are a few other ways to keep your skin soft and moist:

  • Exercise regularly. The fact of the matter is that exercise is good for more than just heart health or toned muscles, but in fact, tames tension and reduces anxiety that often causes wrinkles. Carrying excess weight causes your body’s levels of insulin and cortisol to rise, which breaks down collagen. The more often you need to lose weight you’ve put on, the steeper the toll it will take on your skin’s elasticity, leaving you with stretch marks and jowls or other undesired skin features.
  • Balance your diet. Balanced diets help to keep your weight under control, but they also can affect your skin. Foods rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and protein help your skin rebuild collagen and hydrate from the inside. Think yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids next time you need to make some choices at the grocery store.
  • Stop squinting. Wrinkles occur in places where your skin is regularly pulled, so if you frequently squint in the sun, wrinkles will form more quickly around your eyes. Wearing sunglasses will help to prevent this, and if your mother told you to make sure you were reading in adequate light, she was right! The less you squint, the smaller chance you’ll have of getting eye wrinkles.

Nonsurgical Procedures

Taking precautions by wearing protective clothing and eating well is half the battle. However, if you still find yourself unhappy with your appearance, there are alternative cosmetic procedures that can help you regain a youthful appearance without going under the knife.

For instance, Houston plastic surgeon Charles G. Polsen notes that liquid facelift procedures like Botox, Radiesse, Juvederm, Perlane, Restylane, and Voluma can help smooth out the look of the face without the time and intensity of traditional facelifts. In each of these procedures, recovery only takes a day or two, because specific areas of wrinkles are targeted and injected with liquid filler. The liquid facelift will usually last between 1-2 years, depending on the area targeted, but each patient works individually with their doctor to find which will be the best fit for them. Especially for those patients who just want to target common signs of aging, like smile lines or eye wrinkles, liquid facelifts can be a really wonderful option.

Finally, if your problems have less to do with wrinkles and more to do with age spots, ask your doctor about microdermabrasion or chemical peels. There’s no downtime, but it may take a weekend or two for skin to look presentable. The peels lighten superficial spots and fine lines, and also improve skin tone and texture by using tiny crystals to buff and smooth the skin. Remember, it’s important to discuss which treatment is best for you with your doctor: “People of darker skin tones must be careful since the wrong kind of peel can leave discoloration and scars,” says San Antonio, Texas, dermatologist Vivian Bucay. The cost for these peels can also be significantly less than costs for other treatments.

Whether you decide to simply aim for preventing aging signs on skin or you hope to reverse signs of aging altogether, it’s important to choose which method is right for you and your appearance. Questions? Comments? Want to learn more about how your skin ages and what you can do to fix it? Leave them in the section below, anytime!

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