Ageing skin occurs when skin changes in appearance and texture over time, from natural or environmental aggressors. It might seem obvious, but it’s important to understand the truth behind ageing skin, so you can treat it effectively, and – most importantly – minimise it where you can.
There are a few myths and misconceptions regarding age-related skin concerns. The main one is that ‘ageing’ relates to ‘middle or old age’, which isn’t necessarily so. Skin ageing is a natural process, and begins as early as your 20s, as this is when your body slows its collagen and elastin production.
Collagen, your skin’s natural filler
Collagen is the naturally occurring protein responsible for your skin’s plumpness and shape, firmness and strength. It originates from the Greek words for ‘glue’ and ‘producing’, which makes sense as collagen binds connective tissues such as skin, cartilage and tendons.
As production of collagen begins to decline with age, skin starts to sag and wounds take longer to heal. Collagen also doesn’t just degenerate organically – it can also be damaged prematurely. Top causes include dehydration, smoking, ultraviolet (UV) light, diet and stress (more on these later).
Want supple skin? Look to elastin
Like collagen, elastin is another naturally occurring protein in your body, and again, the clue is in the name. Elastin is responsible for your skin’s elasticity – pinch yourself and watch your skin snap straight back to normal. That’s thanks to elastin.
Unfortunately, repetitive facial expressions like smiling and frowning result in the gradual erosion of elastin fibres. It’s why you often see fine lines around the eyes and mouth, and across the forehead. Compromised elastin also causes sagging around the jawline and neck.
Your hormones on ageing
As hormones levels change, so does the skin. Hormonal ageing in women is defined in part by declining oestrogen levels, which affects the production of collagen and elastin. During menopause, this is increasingly more pronounced. Oestrogen also impacts melanin production and distribution, and when paired with UV damage, can result in skin pigmentation or age spots on the hands, face and chest.
UV light and photoageing
Photoageing refers to the long-term effects of the sun on your skin, as a result of UV light exposure. The sun is the single greatest cause of premature and accelerated skin ageing. Australians are particularly susceptible to UV damage – not only because of the ozone layer and high levels of UV radiation, but also due to our cultural tendency for leisure outdoors. Sun damage can cause coarse, uneven and dull skin, as well as pigmentation and age spots, redness and burning, and premature lines and wrinkles.
Genetics also play a role in photoageing. People with fair skin are far more likely to suffer visible signs of sun damage than those with darker skin. That said, we all need to take precautions when in the sun, as it’s easier to avoid than undo any potential harm. A broad spectrum sunscreen like our Sun Specialist SPF40 High Protection Cream provides high-level protection against UVA and UVB rays, and also helps skin stay hydrated.
Apart from natural ageing and photoageing, what are the other causes of ageing skin?
Air-conditioning, extreme weather conditions and pollutants can all accelerate skin ageing over time. Wearing gloves when you do housework, gardening or home repairs helps preserve the skin on your hands, which is one of the very first places to show signs of ageing.
Your body restores itself during this time, so it’s important to get your beauty sleep. A well-rested face is sure to appear more rosy, fresh and plump. Conversely, fatigued skin looks dull and uneven in tone.
Poor nutrition will eventually show up on your skin. To optimise your diet for younger-looking skin, eat less salt, sugar and processed foods, and increase your intake of whole foods and fresh fruit and vegetables high in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.
Your skin will thank you for increasing your daily water intake (as well as foods high in water). But it’s also important to cut back on dehydrating substances like caffeine, alcohol, salty foods and sugary drinks.
Apart from its other significant health dangers, smoking can speed up premature ageing, as well as impair the skin’s ability to heal itself. People who smoke long-term are also more likely to develop thick, leathery skin and a sallow complexion.
Regular exercise stimulates circulation and helps your skin appear more vibrant, even as it ages naturally. Of course, the flow-on effects of exercise – such as better sleep and a healthier approach to life – are also likely to improve your wellbeing, which can only benefit your skin.
Extreme or extended periods of stress, emotional turbulence, illness and other adverse circumstances can influence your health, and therefore your skin. During these periods you’re also more likely to neglect skin care rituals, experience sleep issues and make poor food choices.
As we’ve noted, those with fairer skin are more susceptible to sun damage, but other genetic factors can also influence your skin’s appearance. Some people inherit beneficial genes, but even in those cases, taking care of your skin pays big dividends (and balances out the luck factor).
Forgetting to apply sunscreen, using poor skin care products or not adhering to an anti-ageing skin care ritual hinders your skin in both the short and longer term.
The tell-tale signs of ageing skin
First signs of ageing
As we’ve seen, ageing skin affects a range of age groups. There are early signs and symptoms of skin ageing that can begin as early as your mid-20s, especially when external influences come into play. These include:
- Early sun damage, such as freckles
- Dry skin
- Dull or fatigued skin
- Loss of colour or glow
Visible signs of ageing
The first visible signs of ageing are often seen in women in their 30s. This is commonly the first time many women express their age-related skin concerns, and begin to search for simple and effective, natural solutions for:
- Fine lines
- Loss of firmness
- Irregular or rough texture
- Uneven skin tone or complexion
Advanced signs of ageing
In later years, as cells turn over less frequently, essential collagen and elastin production slows. As menopause approaches, we see more pronounced signs and symptoms of ageing. These include:
- Deep-set wrinkles and lines
- Slack, loose or sagging skin and loss of lift
- Loss of fat beneath the skin, occasionally leading to a gaunt appearance
- Age spots (also known as sun spots), discolouration and pigmentation
- Transparent, fragile skin due to thinning of the topmost skin layer, the epidermis
- ‘Leathery’ appearance
- Spider veins
Your anti-ageing skin action plan–prevent and restore
As we’ve seen throughout this anti-ageing skin guide, caring for your skin should start as early as possible. Your best chance of keeping your skin looking youthful and healthy for longer is to promote your overall wellbeing, through good lifestyle choices and a great skin care ritual. These combined are your key to preventing premature ageing, so you can experience your best skin at any age. Natural ageing is, of course, inevitable and unavoidable, but you can minimise its effects. Choose pure and powerful anti-ageing skin care that restores balance, smoothness and hydration. And whatever stage of life you’re living, don’t forget to celebrate it in full by looking and feeling your best every single day.