Chronological aging is characterised by skin atrophy, loss of elasticity and slowing down of metabolic activity while photo-aging is responsible for the majority of aesthetically undesirable changes the skin undergoes. The result of those changes is skin dryness, loss of elasticity, pigmentation disorders, enlarged surface capillaries and wrinkles. Photo-aging is the result of continuous exposure to UVA and UVB radiation of a 245nm – 290nm wave length. By penetration of UV radiation deep into the skin, damage is inflicted upon elastic and collagen fibres, which results in rapid skin aging. It is considered that 50% of the damage occurs as the consequence of creation of free radicals, making the role of anti-oxidants in preserving youthful skin of crucial importance.
What are wrinkles?
Wrinkles are lines or folds on the skin’s surface that begin to appear more intensively after the age of 25, primarily on the face (along with the neck and hands) since the face is characterised by a lot of expression movements and significant exposure to damaging UV radiation. Environmental and genetic factors but also a lifestyle that includes smoking and alcohol consumption, dehydration, unhealthy habits and long-term exposure to sun significantly affect premature development of wrinkles.
Prematurely aged dermis has fragmented elastic fibres, less collagen and a disproportionate ratio between collagen type I and III. The share of glycosaminoglycans, especially hyaluronic acid, is also reduced. By degradation of these support systems the surface of the skin becomes less elastic, dry and loses its plumpness, becoming saggy over time, which creates the ideal conditions for the appearance of wrinkles.
Apart from intrinsic or chronological aging, exposure to UVA and UVB radiation is definitely the biggest cause of skin aging. Through repeated damage to the skin which can only partially be recognised by specific redness and tingling, skin accumulates micro-damage which years later is recognised as premature aging. The problem becomes additionally complicated in the case of light skinned individuals who are especially sensitive to the sun and by adding in photosensitizing factors that we sometimes unconsciously provoke by incorrect or uninformed choice of skin care.
Photosensitivity may be made even worse by certain plant compounds which, when exposed to sunlight, cause characteristic phytophotodermatitis and also by certain medication such as tetracycline which is often prescribed for acne treatment. It is crucial to avoid certain plant compounds (such as citrus components) during sun exposure since they have a phototoxic effect and may cause long-term pigmentation changes and skin damage.
Prevention is the key to anti-aging skin care
Most cosmetics users do not understand that the notion of anti-aging skin care is for the most part targeted towards prevention and not on significant repair of damage that has already been done. Further, it is important to know that there are certain wrinkles such as the nasolabial folds (going from the corner of the lips to the nose) that are impossible to avoid since they are created due to specific facial bone structure and loss of underlying fatty tissue in the adult age. Wrinkles on the upper lip, forehead and in the area between the brows are classical expression lines and are created due to facial movement such as smiling or frowning.
Improvement of the appearance of aged skin requires changes to occur in the synthesis of collagen, that is, in the dermis (the second of three skin layers), making skin care options relatively limited. The best option is defence against these degenerative processes by avoiding sun exposure and applying potent active agents that strengthen the skin’s structure and refine its texture. Luckily, numerous biologically active ingredients exist, such as peptides, anti-oxidants and plant extracts with proven effects on the skin’s structure and texture as well as vitamin derivatives that have a proven preventive and mildly reparative effect on the skin.
It is especially important to point out the beneficial effects of coenzyme Q10, topical vitamin C in concentrations higher than 5%, vitamin E, peptides, gluconolactone (PHA), green tea polyphenols and fucose-rich polysaccharides. The action of alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids that we use in the form of chemical peels is also important. These peels work by gently damaging parts of the epidermis and dermis in a targeted manner, which is followed by reepitalisation with the effect of skin rejuvenation. AHA products like the ones that contain glycolic and lactic acid have been proven to have a reparative effect on signs of photo damage. Adequate SPF during sun exposure is an absolute must; otherwise the positive effects of the chemical peel would be cancelled out by the negative effect of UV radiation.
All skin inevitably goes through the process of aging but skin that is adequately cared for has the highest chance of being healthy and beautiful even in old age. As opposed to shallow wrinkles which may be considerably corrected by the use cosmeceuticals, it’s not possible to completely repair or “erase” a deep wrinkle only with cosmetic products. Even dermal fillers and botox have a temporary and limited effect on the aged appearance of skin. A synergic and holistic approach to skin will yield the most comprehensive results if we practice it routinely and respect the integrity of our own skin.
By continually using high-quality cosmetics that primarily presume preventive care, reducing the effects of oxidative stressors from the environment (such as smoking and UV radiation exposure) and practicing facial massage that strengthens facial musculature, the results that can be obtained are fantastic and most importantly, they will be satisfying in the long term.