Sagging skin, loss of elasticity, age spots – there are many signs of aging. The aging process is divided into two parts: internal and external. The natural aging process is called internal or intrinsic aging and it is determined by your genes. Extrinsic aging is caused by external factors such as sun damage, smoking and other factors that are much easier to control than the natural process of aging.
The Natural Aging Process
The natural, internal process of intrinsic aging starts in the mid-20s and causes several major changes in the skin. The speed at which the skin sheds its dead cells and replaces them with new ones starts to slow down. The skin loses some of its elastin, a substance that is important for keeping it youthful. The production of collagen begins to slow down. This process continue for the rest of your life.
Although these processes start in the 20s, actual visible signs do not necessarily show until years or even decades later. When they appear, they include a thinner and more transparent skin, fine wrinkles, dry and/or sagging skin, and loss of firmness that is especially visible in the neck and in the hands. The natural aging process depends on individual genes, which is why some people seem to age much faster than others. There is little that can be done to stop the natural process, but there are many ways to hide the visible symptoms of getting older.
The External or Extrinsic Process
The external aging process is easier to control as it depends on environmental factors. Sun exposure is a major cause of premature aging. Continued exposure to the sun can lead to visible changes in the skin, and if you are used to spending a lot of time under hot sun you may start to notice that your skin ages fast. Too much sunbathing or tanning can lead to age spots, wrinkles, loosening of the skin and, of course, skin cancer.
How much the sun affects your skin depends on your skin’s color and also on how much time you have spent under the sun. Dermatologists call this type of aging “photo-aging” and those who have fair skin usually suffer from it more than those with darker skin types. When you spend a lot of time under intense sun, the skin becomes less able to repair itself. The sun’s ultraviolet rays break down the skin’s collagen and elastin storages, and over the years the skin weakens.
Other External Causes of Aging
Smoking is one of the worst things anyone can do to their skin. Smoking can make the face look prematurely aged, can cause wrinkles and can give the face and hands a yellowish tone. Smokers may start to look old much earlier than those who do not smoke, but stopping smoking can often slow down the development of wrinkles.
Gravity naturally pulls on the body. The effect of gravity will start to become more and more visible over the years. Many women notice the biggest changes on their skin in their 50s and part of it is due to gravity.
How to Slow Down the Aging Process
Sun protection is extremely important if you want to look young. Always protect your face and body with a high SPF sun lotion. Stay away from the sun during the most intense midday hours. Avoid sunburns and protect yourself with sun umbrellas or hats. Stay away from sunbeds which are just as damaging as natural sun rays.
There are many anti-aging treatments that promise to reduce wrinkles. Botulinum injections (botox) have been popular in recent years and are an easier way to reduce the signs of aging than surgery. Traditional facelifts are still common, but alternatives include laser treatments, chemical peeling and microdermabrasion.
Experts disagree on whether commercial anti-aging creams and lotions really work on existing wrinkles. The best way to find an effective anti-wrinkle product is to talk to a dermatologist who can analyze your skin and recommend the most suitable products and treatments. There are also many over-the-counter options, although some are more effective than others.
The most important treatment anyone can utilize to prevent wrinkles is to moisturize daily. Everyone desires to have healthy beautiful looking skin that they want to show off. Use a high quality moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type, and apply it on the face and the neck. Many women and some men swear by eye creams, but some experts do not believe that they are any more effective than normal moisturizers. Ultimately, both creams will be effective in keeping healthy looking skin. Regular facials are recommended to improve skin tone and to increase blood flow to the capillaries. Receiving regular facials will help keep the skin look young and healthy by removing unwanted blemishes.
Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Free radicals are harmful substances that cause premature aging in the body’s cells. One way to minimize the effect of free radicals is to eat a diet that is high in antioxidants. Foods that contain high levels of antioxidants include fresh fruit and vegetables, which should ideally be organic. An ideal anti-aging diet should be high in organic and seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy cold-pressed vegetable oils such as olive, hemp seed or flax seed oil. Oily fish contains essential fatty acids and avocados are high in vitamin E.
Certain supplements can help the skin to stay healthier and more youthful. Vitamin D supplements are beneficial especially if you live in an area where there is little sunlight in winter. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are helpful not just for looking young, but for overall health too. It is also important to drink a lot of water to keep the body hydrated. Good alternatives to water include non-caffeinated herb teas, fresh fruit juices (especially pomegranate juice) and green tea.
Stress is another main cause of premature aging. Keep stress levels down with a healthy diet, regular exercise in fresh air and relaxation techniques or daily meditation. Prevention is always better than cure, and it is important to start to prevent wrinkles before they have formed. The two overall best ways for slowing down the aging process are stopping smoking and protecting the skin from the sun.