The skin reflects our health status and aging. Skin aging is an inevitable process that is partially written in our DNA, our ethnicity and skin type makes difference in what way and how quickly aging appears in the surface of our skin.
For example, generally Caucasians have an earlier onset and greater skin wrinkling and sagging signs than other skin types, and Asian are more prone to have an uneven skin tone while the wrinkles appear later.
In recent years, several studies regarding the genetic contribution to the variation in skin aging have been performed identifying different genetic risk factors for the signs of skin aging (pigmentation, wrinkles or laxity). However, not everything is programmed, we can make decisions that change how our skin ages. Eighty-five percent of the visible signs regarding aging can be directly attributed to extrinsic causes, so skin aging also depends on ourselves, our lifestyle, and our habits. Studies performed on identical twins illustrate how different factors like smoking, sun exposure, high stress and weight gain can influence aging.
Solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the most important extrinsic factor that affects skin aging; in fact, some authors estimate that 80% of our skin aging is due to accumulating sun exposure throughout our life. Also, it is important to understand that there are other external factors that contribute to skin aging besides solar radiation. Accordingly, exposure to tobacco smoke is well known to cause wrinkle formation, elastosis, etc., and based on an assessment, 10 years of smoking added about 2.5 additional years of aging to a twin’s face, compared to a twin who didn’t smoke.
Also, exposure to traffic-related, airborne particle matter and other pollutants has been correlated with significant increases in the number of pigment spots and wrinkles. The pollution worsens the harmful effects of the sun, enhancing oxidative stress levels and accelerating skin aging.
Chronic stress and as well as chronic lack of sleep have biological repercussions which impact on the skin, notably accelerating skin aging. It has been proven how high levels of cortisol thins the skin and exacerbate skin conditions like acne, atopic dermatitis or psoriasis. In fact, sleep and relaxation could be one of nature’s best and easiest beauty elixirs.
Finally, but not less important, care about what we eat and what we drink is something that is under our control. Intervention studies indicate that it is possible to delay skin aging and improve skin conditions through diet. Daily intake of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables or supplements is considered to have beneficial effects on the scavenging of reactive oxygen species, thereby preventing skin photo-damage and aging. On the other hand, excess sugar intake in our daily diet accelerates aging processes through the production of advanced glycation end products that inhibit proper repair of collagen fibers.
Picture of twins aged 61. Courtesy of Case Western Reserve University. Twin in the right smoked for 16 years and likes to sunbathe. On the other hand, younger-looking twin (left) has made it a point to get as little UV exposure as possible. Age: 61
In conclusion, skin aging is a natural, continuous process, but how quickly it proceeds is in your hands; through a healthy diet, regular exercise and proper skin care, it is possible to delay its progression.
Nuria Caturla, Ph.D
New Product Development Manager