There are two principal groups of skin aging causes. Skin aging can be caused by intrinsic factors or extrinsic factors. Intrinsic, biological or internal aging is basically the natural aging of the skin. The way it ages is programmed in the genes and therefore it is inherited. Extrinsic or external aging is caused by external factors such as the sun and the environment. A third group that may contribute to skin aging is mechanical factors.
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Collagen and Elastin Production Slows
As we age, collagen (a structural protein in the skin) and elastin (another structural protein) production within the skin slows down and therefore the skin loses its firmness and elasticity (elastic behaviour). It does not snap back as readily as it used to and it is much thinner and susceptible to damage.
Production of New Skin Cells Decreases
Skin cells do not regenerate as quickly as we age. Therefore, dead skin cells do not shed as quickly leading to rough dull looking skin.
Number of Pigment Containing Cells Decreases
As part of the aging processes, the number of pigment containing cells decreases and the remaining ones increase in size leading to skin blotchiness.
Loss of Fat
One of the skin aging causes is the loss of body fat underneath the skin. This causes the loss of skin firmness and hollowed cheeks and eye sockets. The skin looks less plump and less smooth. The slowing down in activity of oil and sweat producing glands also causes the skin to dry and lead to a host of dry skin care problems such as flaky and itchy skin. For men, the decrease in oil production is less significant and occurs usually after the age of 80. For women, the gradual decrease occurs after menopause.
Loss of fat and connective tissue in the skin weakens the support system around blood vessels making them more susceptible to damage and subsequent bruising.
Another one of the skin aging causes is that bones in the human body undergo a certain amount of shrinkage with age. This results in sagging.
Fragile Blood Vessels
Blood vessels become more fragile with age and this causes purpura and bruising (bleeding under the skin) and cherry angiomas (small bright red raised bumps). Related to this are varicose veins (blue bulging veins in the legs). These are caused by degenerative blood vessels.
Extrinsic Skin Aging Causes
Much of the aging caused by external factors is due to sun exposure. The accumulation of daily sun exposure leads to premature aging of the skin and hastens the other skin aging causes such as intrinsic aging. Usually, signs of sun aging appear in the 20s for people in areas with a lot of sunshine. The sun can cause freckles, ages spots, spider veins or broken capillaries on the face (telangiectasis), rough and leathery skin, fine wrinkles, loose skin, irregular skin pigmentation, actinic keratoses (thick, warty, rough, reddish, growths), and skin cancer.
Aging caused by the sun (photo-aging), depends on the skin colour of the individual with fair-skinned people being more vulnerable than dark-skinned people. Dark-skinned individuals are usually only susceptible to wrinkles and skin mottling as a result of sun exposure.
The history of sun exposure and especially overexposure is also an important cause of skin aging. Damage caused by the sun is cumulative. Ultraviolet light acts to break down elastin and collagen in the skin and interferes with the production of new collagen.
Other Environmental Factors
Pollution, smoke, and harsh weather conditions all contribute to skin aging and are important skin aging causes. Free radicals present in polluted environments damage skin cells.
Mechanical Skin Aging Causes
Repetitive Facial Expressions
Repetitive facial expressions like squinting or facial exercises lead to fine lines and wrinkles. In fact, it is strongly believed that facial exercises cause more lines and wrinkles and are not an effective wrinkle prevention treatment. This is because grooves form beneath the skin surface when the facial muscles are used because of breakdown of the collagen. With aging, the ability of the skin to spring back decreases and the grooves develop into permanent lines and wrinkles. Frown lines (those lines between the eyebrows) and crow’s feet (the lines that stem from the corners of the eyes) are common examples of this problem.
Gravity is one of the skin aging causes that often goes unnoticed. The pull of the earth’s gravity (although we don’t feel it) is responsible for significant changes in our bodies as we age. This is especially the case around age 50 for skin. The skin has lost some of its elasticity and the skin begins to sag in facial areas and other parts of the body.
Sleeping with your face in the same position on the pillow every night can lead to wrinkles or sleep lines as they are commonly named. Over time, these sleep lines become permanently etched into the face. Sleeping with the side of your face resting on the pillow results in chin and cheek wrinkles. Sleeping face down means the forehead gets affected.
Smoking is one of the more important skin aging causes that often gets overlooked. Smoking causes biochemical changes in the body that make skin age quicker than it should. Studies have shown that individuals smoking more than 10 cigarettes per day for more than 10 years are more likely to develop deep wrinkles and leathery skin. Yellowy skin on the overall body and on the fingers is another side effect of long-term smoking. The repetitive action of holding a cigarette between the lips leads to significant facial lines and wrinkles around the lip and chin areas.
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