Here’s a disturbing fact – at this very moment, a destructive process called glycation (actually Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs) is aging our skin from the inside out. What this actually means is that glycation occurs when sugar molecules bind to collagen in living tissues and form these deadly complexes called Advanced Glycation End Products. These AGEs significantly disrupts collage metabolism, leading to wrinkles, creeping and loose skin.
What are the different types of skin aging?
There are 2 distinct types of aging. Aging caused by the genes we inherit is called intrinsic (internal) aging. Aging caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to the sun, pollution, how we cook and cigarette smoke is called extrinsic (actinic) aging.
Intrinsic aging is known as the natural aging process. It is a continuous process that normally begins in our mid-20s. Intrinsic aging accounts for about 10% of our aging.
What Happens in Intrinsic Skin Aging?
Within the skin, collagen production slows and elastin, the substance that enables skin to snap back into place, has a bit less spring. Dead skin cells do not shed as quickly and turnover of new skin cells may decrease slightly. While these changes usually begin in our 20s, the signs of intrinsic aging are typically not visible for decades. Under 20 years of age, our skin cells turn over in about 14 days, from 20 to 40 years in around 28 days and after 40 years of age, the cells turn over in 45-65 days. After 20 years of age, the skin begins to thin at a rate of around 6% each 10 years we live. This causes the skin to be able to retain less moisture.
Signs of Intrinsic Skin Aging
The signs of intrinsic skin aging are:
- Fine wrinkles
- Thin & transparent skin
- Loss of underlying fat, leading to hollowed cheeks & eye sockets as well as noticeable loss of firmness on the hands & neck
- Bones shrink away from the skin due to bone loss, which causes sagging skin
- Dry skin that may itch
- Inability to sweat sufficiently to cool the skin
- Graying hair that eventually turns white
- Hair loss
- Unwanted hair
- Nail plate thins, the half moons disappear, and ridges develop
Extrinsic Skin Aging
A number of extrinsic (actinic), or external, factors often act together with normal aging process to prematurely age our skin. Most premature aging is caused by sun exposure. Other external factors that prematurely age our skin are repetitive facial expressions, gravity, sleeping positions & smoking. Genes control how quickly the normal process unfolds. Some notice those first gray hairs in their 20s. Others do not see graying until their 40s.
Causes of External Skin Aging
- The Sun – Without protection from the sun’s rays, just a few minutes of exposure each day over the years can cause noticeable changes to the skin. Freckles, age spots, spider veins on the face, rough leathery skin, fine wrinkles that disappear when stretched, loose skin, a blotchy complexion, actinic keratoses (thick wart-like, rough, reddish patches of skin), and skin cancer can all be traced to sun exposure. “Photoaging” is the term that dermatologists use to describe this type of aging caused by exposure to the sun. The amount of “photoaging” that develops depends on: (1) a person’s skin color & (2) their history of long-term or intense sun exposure. People with fair skin who have a history of sun exposure develop more signs of photoaging than those with dark skin. In the darkest skin, the signs of photoaging are usually limited to fine wrinkles and a mottled complexion. Photoaging occurs over a period of years. With repeated exposure to the sun, the skin loses its ability to repair itself, & damage accumulates. Scientific studies have shown that repeated ultraviolet (UV) exposure breaks down the collagen and impairs the making of new collagen. The sun also attacks our elastin. Sun-weakened skin ceases to spring back much earlier than skin protected from UV rays. Skin also becomes loose, wrinkled and leathery much earlier with unprotected exposure to sunlight. Premature aging from years of unprotected exposure to the sun causes deep wrinkles, age spots and leathery skin. People who live in sun-intense areas can show signs of photoaging in their 20s. While it may seem that the signs of photoaging appear overnight, they actually lie invisible beneath the surface of the skin for years.
- Facial Expressions – If you perform facial expressions to maintain a youthful appearance, it is time to stop! Repetitive facial movements lead to fine lines and wrinkles. Each time we use a facial muscle, a groove forms beneath the surface of the skin, which is why we see lines form with each facial expression. As skin ages & loses its elasticity, the skin stops springing back to its line-free state. These grooves become permanently etched on the face as fine lines & wrinkles.
- Gravity – Gravity constantly pulls at our bodies. Changes related to gravity become more pronounced as we age. In our 50s, when the skin’s elasticity declines dramatically, the effects of gravity become evident. Gravity causes the tip of the nose to droop, the ears to elongate, the eyelids to fall, jowls to form, and the upper lip to disappear while the lower lip becomes more pronounced.
- Sleeping Positions – Resting your face on the pillow in the same way every night for years on end also leads to wrinkles. Called sleep lines, these wrinkles eventually become etched on the surface of the skin & no longer disappear when the head is not resting on the pillow. Women tend to sleep on their sides & these lines appear on their chins & cheeks. Men notice these lines on their foreheads since they usually sleep with the face pressed face down on the pillow. People who sleep on their backs do not develop these wrinkles since their skin does not lie crumpled against the pillow.
- Smoking – Cigarette smoking causes biochemical changes in our bodies that accelerate aging. Research shows that a person who smokes 10 or more cigarettes a day for a minimum of 10 years is statistically more likely to develop deeply wrinkled, leathery skin than a nonsmoker. A study in 2002 showed that facial wrinkling, while not yet visible to the naked eye, can be seen under the microscope in smokers as young as 20. These signs can be greatly diminished, and in some cases avoided, by stopping smoking. People who have smoked for many years, or smoked heavily at a younger age, show less facial wrinkling and improved skin tone when they quit smoking.
What to do for a Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin
While you cannot stop or even slow down the intrinsic aging process, you can prevent signs of premature aging (extrinsic or actinic) by protecting your skin from the sun, quitting smoking and eliminating facial expressions. Dermatologists recommend comprehensive sun protection to prevent premature aging by the sun. This includes:
- Avoiding deliberate tanning, including use of indoor tanning devices.
- Staying out of the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Wear protective clothing & wear sunscreen (SPF of 15 or higher) all year round. Only use sunscreens that contain Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Avoid the ones that contain dioxybenzone or oxybenzone which are potent free-radical producers.
While there are a number of treatments available including injectable fillers and botulinum toxin as well as facelifts, laser resurfacing and chemical peels, the best way to treat this is to avoid the extrinsic causes of skin wrinkling. Less stress, exercise and a good diet are also helpful. To maintain good collagen and elastin in your skin, it is important to help the body restore itself with the proper nutrients. This includes proper vitamin and mineral support as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients to help restore the collagen and elastin. In addition, there is scientific evidence that topical application of certain nutients can increase hydration, slow down the glycation of collagen and reduce wrinkles and sagging skin.
Avoid skin care products and sun blocks that contain:
- Para aminobenzoic acid – Sunblock agent known to cause allergic skin reactions.
- Octyl salicyclate – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Avobenzone – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Oxybenzone – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Cinoxate – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Padimate – Also known as Para aminobenzoic acid.
- Dioxybenzone – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Phenylbenzimidazole – A poor, water-soluble sun blocker that blocks only UVB rays (these are the ones that make vitamin D in the skin)
- Homosalate – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Sulisobenzone – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Menthyl anthranilate – Found that it produces damaging reactive oxygen species (free radicals) when exposed to sunlight.
- Trolamine salicyclate – Free radical former and gender-bender.
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate – A cheap, harsh detergent used in shampoos for its cleansing and foam-building properties. Often derived from petroleum, it is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the phrase “comes from coconuts.” It causes eye irritation, scalp scruf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.
- Octocrylene – When exposed to sunlight, it can generate free radicals.
- Alkylphenol Ethoxylates – This chemical is considered an Unclassifiable Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or another agency.
- Benzene/Benzoic Acid/Benzyl Benzoate – Considered a carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. It is suspected to cause birth defects.
- Parabens (Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben) – Known to increase a person’s risk of breast cancer. These class of chemicals are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to fertility problems.
- Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) – Often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time. This chemical interferes with the body’s ability to absorb choline which is needed for proper fetal brain development.
- Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea – These are widely used preservatives. The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals contains a good antifungal agent, and they must be combined with other preservatives. Both these chemicals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.
- Formaldehyde – This is an extreme irritant to the mucous membranes with often destructive effects. It is also considered to be a neurotoxin and carcinogen. We use this to embalm bodies.
- Isopropanol/Isopropyl Alcohol – Skin irritant that causes flushing, pulse rate fluctuations, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
- Lead Acetate – Known human reproductive and developmental toxin. Prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union, but not in the US. Found in some hair dyes and cleansers.
- Mercury – Possible human carcinogen and human reproductive or developmental toxin. Found in some eye drops and ointments.
- Methylisothiazoline (MIT) – This can cause skin and eye irritation and is known to cause neurological damage.
- Petrolatum – Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body’s own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping. It often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap.
- Petroleum Distillates – Possible human carcinogen. May contain harmful impurities or breakdown products. Prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union. Found in some mascaras, perfumes, foundations, lipsticks and lip balms.
- Phthalates – This has been linked to damage of the kidneys, lungs and liver. Also known to be an endocrine system disruptor.
- Propylene Glycol – It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware—these are related synthetics. Also known as “anti-freeze.”
- Stearalkonium Chloride – A quaternary ammonium compound used in hair conditioners and creams. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or herbals, which are beneficial to the hair. Causes allergic reactions. Toxic.