Another Candle on the Cake: 4 Facts About Aging and Your Skin

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The tides of time take toll on all your body parts and your skin is no exception.

Aging represents a plethora of changes. These include: wrinkling, sagging of skin, photo-damage, crow feet and skin darkening. Skin changes result from altered body hormones, toxin exposure and degradation of skin tissues. Skin changes with age also result from a poor diet, inadequate sleep and continuous stress.

So how exactly aging takes away the beauty of your youth? Are you helpless against the ticking clock of time? You might be in your 40’s and thinking of all these questions. This article will dive deep into the different aspects of aging. It will discuss the mechanisms and manifestations of skin aging. It will also provide different tips on how to regain your youth. So let’s get to it – none of us is getting any younger.

1. Wrinkled or Sagged Skin: Blame It on Your Decreased Collagen Levels

WrinkledYour skin is one of the most complicated body structures. It is a complex maze of cells, tissues, fluids and other structures. One thing that holds all this together is a protein called “collagen.”

Think of collagen as concrete for your skin. Like concrete, it holds the architecture of your skin intact. That is not it. Collagen plays a lot of other important functions too. It is an elastic protein and gives your skin its characteristic elasticity and “youthfulness.” Higher collagen means more youthful and firm skin.

Fibroblasts are one of the several cells present in your skin. These cells are critical since they are responsible for the synthesis of collagen. Wrinkling and sagging of skin are perhaps one of the earliest signs of aging. If that is happening to you too then it means that your skin is losing a lot of its collagen. Under normal conditions, there exists a balance between collagen production and breakdown. But as you age, your skin loses more collagen than it could produce.

Here is how it happens:

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied the effects of aging on skin. They found that aged skin loses collagen at a higher pace. One of the reasons for that is higher rate of fibroblast death.

Like any other cells in your body, fibroblasts, too, have a life cycle. They divide, grow, divide again and ultimately die. But, there is always a reserve pool of fibroblasts in younger skin to replace the dying cells. This pool starts to deplete as you age. So, a time comes when there are no more fibroblasts to replace the dying cells. When that happens, the synthesis of collagen declines too, since fibroblasts produce collagen.

smooth and radiantYou might have had those days when you were young and your skin was smooth and radiant. Estrogen was at work back then. Estrogen is a female hormone with a lot of beauty benefits. One of its several benefits for skin is its effect on collagen. Researchers at the University of California elaborated this role of collagen. Estrogen prevents the breakdown of skin collagen.

But once you hit your 40’s or 50’s, your body’s level of collagen starts to decline. This level hits rock bottom when you reach menopause and do not menstruate anymore. The decline in estrogen jeopardizes the survival of your skin collagen, too. That is when your skin starts to sag and looks worn out. What else the decline in estrogen does to your skin? This detail is in the later sections, so be sure to read to the end of this article to find out more.

Mechanical stimulation is another important factor in collagen synthesis. An inactive lifestyle not only gives you poor joints but speeds up skin aging, too. This is a fascinating concept, which was first present in the early 1900’s.

Researchers believe that mechanical signals stimulate fibroblast function. These mechanical signals come from activity of body parts, as in exercise. Once fibroblasts are active, they synthesize a lot more collagen than usual.

So what does all this information mean for you? What can you do to increase collagen synthesis and stop the wrinkling and sagging of your skin?

Here is what you can do to defeat your wrinkles: Eat collagen boosting foods.

Start off by consuming foods that boost the production of skin collagen. Here are some dietary choices you can make to get more collagen-boosting foods in your diet:

  • Eat fish. Fish is full of anti-aging benefits. It is a popular dietary choice among dermatologists and anti-aging enthusiasts. That is for a good reason too. It is perhaps the richest source of omega fatty acids. Research shows that omega fatty acids have potent anti-aging effects. Anti-aging benefits of omega fatty acids are due to their collagen boosting properties. Here are some options for you if you are looking to use fish to have a younger looking skin:

Fish oilFish oil is an important source of potent omega fatty acids. You can buy these supplements from any pharmacy or an online vendor. While buying, make sure the fish oil supplement you choose contains at least 2000 mg of EPA and DHA. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two forms of omega fatty acids found only in fish oil.

Nutritionists recommend that you should eat fish at least twice a week. Take this advice if you want to get rid of wrinkles and skin sagging. Fish varieties rich in omega fatty acids include salmon and tuna.

  • Eat vitamin C-rich foods.  You cannot over-emphasize the importance of vitamin C rich foods for skin. Vitamin C rich foods are especially important for your skin when it comes to anti-aging. Vitamin C acts as a center piece in the synthesis of skin collagen. Other benefits of vitamin C for your skin are in the later text. Here are some vitamin C rich foods for your skin:
    • Red Bell Pepper
    • Tomatoes
    • Oranges
    • Pineapple
    • Broccoli
    • Papayas
    • Pea
    • Kiwifruit
  • CarrotsEat vitamin A-rich foods. Vitamin A is another beneficial vitamin for aging skin. Research has explored several anti-aging benefits of this vitamin. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that vitamin A increases skin collagen. It blocks the activity of an enzyme called “matrix metalloproteinase”. It is the chief enzyme responsible for collagen breakdown. Also, vitamin A stimulates the activity of skin fibroblasts. Here is a list of vitamin A-rich foods:
    • Carrots
    • Lettuce
    • Sweet Potatoes
    • Winter Squashes
    • Red Bell Peppers
    • Dried Apricots
    • Fish Like Salmon
    • Cantaloupe
  • Exercise daily. Exercise not only keeps you fit and active, but also blesses you with a lot of skin benefits. It may sound weird to you, but exercise actually decreases wrinkles and skin sagging. Mechanical stimulation of skin, as in exercise, stimulates collagen production. Exercise can save you from visible signs of aging like wrinkles, crow feet and turkey neck. Exercise at least 20 to minutes daily.

2. Skin Pigmentation Gears Up as You Age

Your skin color is due to a skin pigment known as melanin. Melanin is a black colored pigment and your skin color depends on the quantity of melanin. Melanocytes are the skin cells responsible for the synthesis of melanin. The main chemical reaction taking place in these cells is melanogenesis. Melanogenesis is a chemical reaction that produces melanin.

The quantity of melanin in your skin increases as you age. That is the reason for the darkening of your skin and appearance of black or brown spots as you age. This happens due to two main reasons.

  • Melanocytes: Under normal conditions, only one to two percent of your skin cells are melanocytes. But, the density of melanocytes becomes two times higher as you age. This density can increase to as much as eight percent if your skin is not protected against sun damage.
  • Melanogenesis: Melanogenesis speeds up several folds as you age. One of the biggest reasons for that is exposure to UV rays. Researchers believe it is due to increased oxidative stress and building up of toxins in body. More detail about oxidative stress is in the coming sections.

Drink lots of waterWhat can you do to have an even skin tone as you age? Here are some lifestyle changes that can help you have a stunning and even skin tone as you age:

  • Drink lots of water. Dermatologists and beauticians always emphasize drinking lots of water for the beauty benefits. Water flushes toxins out of your skin. It also gives your skin its texture and elasticity. Also, it acts a natural protection against harmful UV rays. You should drink at least two to 2.5 liters of water every day. In warm weather, you should drink more than three liters of water daily.
  • Avoid unhealthy foods.What you eat can either make your health or destroy it. It is true for your skin health, too. Eating wholesome foods, and a lot of fruits and vegetables will give you a healthy texture and even skin tone. Junk food can cause you to have premature skin pigmentation. Here are the kinds of foods you need to avoid:
    • Avoid added sugar in your diet. Anything with table sugar in it can cause skin darkening and graying. Healthy alternatives like honey and fruit sugar can prevent that from happening.
    • Skip the chips. Fried, salty and junk foods are an absolute no if you are looking to have an even skin tone.
    • Processed foods increase oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. This lead to skin darkening. That is why you need to avoid them.
  • Make frequent use of moisturizers.One of the best moisturizers is aloe vera gel. Here is what you need to do:
    • You can get this gel from any pharmacy, health store, herbalist or an online vendor.
    • An aloe vera houseplant is an easy way to get the gel. Just pull off a leaf, snap it in half, and you’ll see the gel inside. Just rub that on your skin as is.
    • Before applying this gel, wash your face with plain water and pat it dry afterwards.
    • Apply the aloe gel onto your face. It is better if you keep it on for overnight. If you cannot, you can put it on in the evening and wash it off before going to bed.

This method should take at least one month or so before you can see visible whitening.

  • Use vitamin C enriched lemon juice.Vitamin C in lemon juice acts as an exfoliator too. It peels away the top, darkened layer of your skin and brings up the lower, fair skin layers. Here is what you need to do:organic lemon
    • Get a medium sized organic lemon from your grocery store.
    • Cut it into half and squeeze one half to take out its juice.
    • Wash your face with plain water and tap it dry.
    • Dip a cotton ball into the lemon juice and apply this juice all over your face. If your skin is sensitive, you can add one to two teaspoons of rose-water into lemon juice before applying.
    • Keep it there for 30 minutes before washing off.

Do this at least once daily for as long as you want.

3. Your Body is Changing and So Are Your Hormones

The levels of body hormones experience great changes as you age. These changes lead to a lot of physical, emotional and cosmetic results. The most important hormones in this regard are cortisol and estrogen.

Cortisol is also known as stress hormone. The levels of this hormone increase as you age. Increased cortisol levels are responsible for greater deposition of fat in different body parts. This leads to loosening of skin and appearance of wrinkles, crow feet and dark circles. Moreover, it is also responsible for stretch marks appearing on your belly and hips.

What can you do to keep your cortisol low? Here are some tips:

  • Get adequate sleep. Research has proved that cortisol levels are highest in sleep deprived individuals. So if you are sleep deprived, it is likely that you may end up having higher cortisol and aging skin. You should get at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep daily. Here is what you can do to have uninterrupted sleep:
    • You should make a get up and go to bed routine.
    • Sleep in a room that is away from all the noise and distractions.
    • Use your bed for sleep and sleep only. You should not turn it into your workplace.
    • Use blindfolds and black curtains to keep the light in your room to the least.
    • Do not eat or drink anything at least one hour before going to bed.
    • Brush your teeth early at night. This has a positive psychological effect on your brain. It signals your brain that you are now ready to sleep.
  • ExerciseDo regular exercise. Exercise releases a lot of good chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins counteract the action of cortisol. Also, exercise has cortisol lowering action. Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes every day.
  • Do yoga or practice deep breathing exercises. This is another method that gives you peace of mind and keeps your cortisol levels low too. Here is what you need to do in breathing exercises:
    • Choose a quiet corner in your room.
    • Sit on a plain surface and close your eyes.
    • Take deep breaths in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
    • Keep doing this for 10 to 15 minutes.

The second most important hormone is estrogen. Estrogen gives your skin its glow, moisture and texture. As you age, the quantity of estrogen starts to fall. That is when your skin becomes dry and loses its glow.

Here are some tips for you to keep your estrogen levels high even in your 50s:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking speeds up the decline in estrogen levels. You should give up smoking altogether.
  • Consume soy products. Soy products are rich in a chemical called “genistin”. Genistin is a plant derived estrogen that will keep your estrogen levels high. Soy products that you can consume include:
    • Tempeh
    • Miso
    • Edamame
    • Soy nuts
  • Eat healthy. You should eat healthy and avoid sugary and junk foods.

4. Beware of UV Exposure: All About the Effects of Photo-Aging 

TanningTanning feels and looks great, but it poses a significant threat to your skin health. Continuous exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) rays, through sun or tan beds, is not good for your skin. It leads to premature skin aging, something dermatologists call photo-aging.

Photo-aging is an agglomeration of skin changes that you may experience after years of UV rays. But, why are UV rays so damaging?

Here is the explanation.

  • Oxidative Stress: First, UV rays increase oxidative stress in your body, especially your skin. UV rays act as a source of energy for your skin and its related tissues. This energy turns water molecules into unstable and toxic molecules called “free radicals“. Free radicals act as toxins for all the skin cells. These toxins cause breakdown of collagen, premature cell death and increased skin pigmentation. The detail about increased skin pigmentation with aging is in later text.
  • Cell Damage: Second, UV rays cause a significant increase in the risk of tumor development. Your body cells grow in a planned fashion. There is a sophisticated system in your body that tells your cells when to divide and when to stop. When this system is damaged, your body cells start to replicate in an abnormal fashion.

Researcher founds that exposure to UV rays causes suppression of the p53 system. P53 is the part of your body system that keeps the division of your body cells under check. The end result is formation of a tumor. That is why, skin tumors, like basal cell cancers, appear on your sun exposed body parts.

So, what can you do to avoid the damage inflicted to your skin by UV exposure?Here are some tips for you:

  • Seek shade whenever you can. This sounds obvious, but is important when it comes to protection against UV rays. The sun UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. in the morning till 5 p.m. in the afternoon. Try not to go out or at least limit your trips as much as you can during this time of the day. This is particularly important during summer days. What precautions to take when you need to go out during these times of the day? This detail is in the next few points.
  • Wear a hatCover your sun exposed body parts. While going on a pool or a beach party, make sure you cover your sun exposed body parts. Do not keep your body exposed to sun for too long. Wear shirts with long sleeves and full length jeans.
  • Wear a hat. Your face is the most sensitive part of your body and most susceptible to photo-damage too. Wearing a hat with a rim is a smart idea to keep this part protected.
  • Avoid tanning, as much as you can. This is especially important if you have white skin. The skin pigments protect against UV damage. If you lack these pigments, tanning will do you more harm than good. Also, you might think that tanning beds or lamps are not as harmful as the sun rays. But, according to the American Cancer Society, the UV rays from tanning beds are just as harmful as sun rays. Here are some tips if  you want to tan:
    • Keep each tanning session shorter than 30 minutes.
    • Apply sunscreen while tanning outside or under tanning beds. What should be the qualities of a good sunscreen? The detail is in the next point.
  • Apply sunscreen. Sunscreen not only protects you from sunburns, but also offers a great deal of other benefits too. One such benefit is protecting your skin from premature aging. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF value of 50 or higher. Also apply the sunscreen on all sun exposed areas. Do not leave any area uncovered.

Aging not only gives you stiff joints, but also snatches away the beauty of your skin, but you do not have to worry when you have the know-how to keep it as youthful and healthy as possible. Just adopt a healthy lifestyle and follow all the tips mentioned in this article. Following these tips, you can stay young and look young for a long time.

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