How Do You Age?
While some people may not show signs of facial aging in their early 30s, some succeed at staving off the ravages of Mother Nature until their 50s or beyond. But what are the signs of facial aging? Are wrinkles and crow’s feet the only symptoms, or are there more? What causes these signs to appear?
Signs of Facial Aging
The normal appearance of the face frequently changes with old age. The muscle tone and skin elasticity may be diminished, which can cause a flaccid or sagging visual aspect. The skin around the jawbones may start to droop, resulting in a “double chin” in many people. The nose can also take on a longer and more conspicuous shape due to a number of factors. Dark circles around the eyes and spots on the forehead and cheeks can also appear.
Skin wrinkles are often the most obvious signs of aging in the face. In youth, the skin of the face can stay smooth and elastic. Through a combination of factors, the skin loses its elasticity and forms wrinkles. While the presence of wrinkles does not constitute a symptom of unhealthy skin on its own, both internal and external changes can accelerate the biological processes that cause the skin to lose its smooth appearance.
Along with the wrinkles that can come from skin losing its elasticity, some portions of skin can appear “droopy” or “saggy”. The skin folds hang off the facial structure in areas such as the jowls and eyelids, making the patient appear tired or lethargic. While most instances are simply a manifestation of age, when the changes are severe, sagging skin can cause problems with speech and vision.
One of the primary culprits in changes to the shape of the nose as we age is one from which there is no escape on this planet: gravity. Gravity can pull at the cartilage at the end of the nose and pull it down past the base (called the “columella”). This effect can result in a “hook nose” or “witch’s nose”. Also, the ligaments that support the nose can weaken, causing the nose to appear more prominently.
Contrary to popular belief, dark circles under and around the eyes are not typical signs of tiredness or disease, although they can make the patient appear exhausted or sick. These dark circles can occur as the skin under the eyes loses its firmness. As the skin becomes thinner, the dark blood vessels around the eyes become more pronounced. The circles can also appear as shadows under swollen or puffy eyes, which can happen if the patient has allergies or other eye irritations.
One of the most identifiable signs of aging is the presence of “liver spots”. Despite the popular name, these spots have nothing to do with liver function, but appear on the face and hands as spots the color of raw liver. In most instances, age spots are benign; although they often show up in areas exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, they frequently have not relation to melanoma or other dangerous forms of skin cancer.
Internal Contributors of Facial Aging
Some of the factors that contribute the aging in the face are natural processes that occur as the patient grows older. While most of these processes are unavoidable and irreversible, the patient should still be aware as to how these changes can affect his or her appearance. These changes may transpire in some patients at a rapid rate, but others may experience them at a pace so gradual that the changes are barely noticeable.
In order to maintain its elasticity, skin cells produce a fiber called (appropriately enough) elastin. Elastin production starts from birth and accelerates through the teenage years. The skin slows down its elastin production in the late 20s and stops entirely by age 45. When the skin stops synthesizing elastin, the skin becomes more prone to elasticity breakdowns from fat buildups and calcium deposits.
According to a 2004 study conducted in Vienna, Austria, decreased hormone production is one of the leading causes of skin aging in women. Many of the processes that lead to healthy skin, including the production of skin cells and other secretions that contribute to the healing process, become diminished when a woman grows older. Lower levels of estrogen and progesterone in post-menopausal women can cause skin to wrinkle and thin out.
Another factor that doctors attribute to the appearance of aging is the loss of fat around certain areas of the face. Fat loss around the eyes, cheeks and lips can lead to a “hollowed out” look. With the fat gone, the skin loses its firmness and smooth appearance. The fat loss can cause the skin to appear wrinkled and droopy, especially in the cheeks (“bulldog jowls”) and around the lips.
Collagen is one of the most important proteins found in the body. Up to one-third of all the protein in the body is made of collagen, including ligaments, tendons, and skin cells. Unlike elastin, collagen does not contribute to skin elasticity. Instead, collagen provides structure and stability to the middle layers of skin. Some studies have shown that women lose up to 30 percent of their collagen over the first five years after menopause, which can contribute to the loss of fullness in the facial skin.
One of the biggest contributors to the appearance of aging in skin is family history. So-called “bad genes” can cause the skin to age prematurely. These causes can range from subtle changes in how skin retains its fullness and elasticity, to serious congenital diseases such as Progeria and Werner’s syndrome.
External Contributors to Facial Aging
Although several internal factors can contribute to signs of facial aging, several environmental variables can accelerate these processes. Most of these external contributors fall under the purview of unhealthy habits, which can be as damaging to the patient’s appearance as they can be to other bodily functions. Unlike the natural processes of aging, most of these external factors can be countered by replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones.
Processed tobacco, as found in cigarettes from major manufacturers, contains hundreds of dangerous chemicals such as butane, arsenic and ammonia. While the connection between cigarette smoke and lung cancer has been well established over the last few decades, scientists are also examining the link between tobacco smoke and skin aging. Those exposed to cigarette smoke (both first-hand and second-hand) risk depletion of Vitamin C, a vital ingredient for keeping skin full and moist.
Chronic abuse of alcohol can lead to broken and distended blood vessels in the face, commonly known as “gin blossoms”. Alcohol also contributes to dehydration, which can also lead to the acceleration of wrinkles. Since the liver processes alcohol, chronic drinking can also be a factor in how the body filters out other internal agents that can damage skin.
The skin of a patient that does not have adequate protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays can take on features of someone decades older. Exposure to UVA and UVB rays can leach much of the moisture out of skin and cause it to take on a wrinkled and leathery texture. Patients who use tanning booths are also susceptible to such damage, as well as the appearance of brown age spots.
As all major organs require nutrients to function at their best, the skin (the body’s largest organ) also needs the proper nutrition to keep its healthy glow. A study conducted in the UK in 2007 showed that women who increased their intake of Vitamin C “were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance.” The study also showed that higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids “were associated with a lower likelihood of senile dryness…and skin atrophy.”
A stressful lifestyle is a major factor in all types of health problems. While we often associate stress with internal disorders, it can also contribute to other causes of facial aging, such as poor nutrition and lack of sleep. “Frown lines” and creased brows can lead to wrinkles around the nose and mouth.
Wind, cold and dry winter air can draw out much of the necessary moisture that the skin needs to stay healthy. Even indoors, rooms with high heat and low humidity can dry out the skin. Short of moving to a warm, moist climate, many people use humidifiers indoors and apply moisturizing agents before going outdoors to maintain the skin’s optimum moisture levels.
Aging is a part of life. Dr. Slupchynksyj believes the best way to maintain a youthful appearance, before or following a facial rejuvenation procedure such as the SLUPlift™ is to engage in a healthy lifestyle, with plenty of rest, nutritious foods and exercise. These habits will help you make sure that your health is more than just skin-deep.