Have you ever wondered what makes skin appear youthful, plump and full? The perception of such skin is actually a sum of more than one characteristic of the epidermis which, taken as a whole, contribute to a certain kind of appearance of the skin which is considered desirable across all cultures. Density and quality of the skin’s extracellular matrix, distribution of the cells within connective tissue and the appearance of keratinocytes in the epidermis are the preconditions for youthful looking skin. Unfortunately, the skin’s physiological changes connected with aging result in excessive dryness (xerosis) and abnormal pigmentation manifested as thickened, scally, dry, unevenly pigmented skin lacking healthy shine, luminosity and freshness. Proper choice of skincare products will greatly refresh skin that has lost its plumpness and glow, but proper care must start at a time when it’s still not too late.
Anti-aging is a term that needs not be taken too literally since in reality no one can entirely prevent or postpone aging. However, when the term “anti-aging” is used by cosmetic companies it generally denotes that the companies’ product contains (or should contain) some of the components which have an effect on the signs of aging. For example they turn back time, erase wrinkles and the like. Unfortunately not only is this term incorrect, but it is also very often misused and abused. The real purpose of high-quality anti-aging skincare is in fact prevention. Starting to use anti-aging products once we have already noticed changes such as wrinkles, pigmentation marks and loose tonus of the skin is not the right way to go.
Upon entering into the third life decade, and sometimes even earlier, our skin starts to exhibit the signs of time. Intrinsic signs of aging include thinning of the dermis, which gives the skin fullness, with simultaneous thickening of the surface layer of the skin (stratum corneum), loss of elasticity, appearance of grey and tired skin tone, pigmentation spots, wrinkles; skin starts to “crease”, becomes saggy, dry, scally due to prolonged cell turnover. While in younger individuals cell turnover takes around 28 days, in older population it takes between 40 and 60 days. For this reason skin very often looks like it needs intensive peeling in order to regain a healthy colour and smoothness. Collagen production and fibroblast replication which give the skin a plump appearance are also reduced.
Apart from intrinsic signs of aging a very common cause of prematurely aged skin is extrinsic aging which is primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation and inflammatory processes. In the world of cosmeceuticals the term “inflammaging” is popular and describes the collision of inflammatory processes and rapid skin aging. Unfortunately triggers of inflammatory processes are sometimes invisible when the epidermis, the surface layer of the skin, exhibits no visible signs of inflammation. Inflammation can be triggered by numerous factors apart from UV radiation, such as environmental pollution, allergic reactions, chronic disorders or skin diseases etc. Yet the most prominent factors causing prematurely aged skin are definitely free radicals created due to oxidative stress, exposure to UV radiation and environmental pollution.
The key attribute of healthy skin which looks plump and fresh is luminosity. The amount of luminosity is determined by the skin’s capacity to reflect light. Yet light reflection mustn’t be confused with greasiness. The more porous the texture of the skin is, the weaker the reflection of light, making such skin appear as if it does not have a healthy glow and satisfactory texture. With years and the slowing down of cell turnover, dead keratinocytes pile up on the surface of the skin and along the edges of the follicular canal (pore), further intensifying the appearance of harsh, dry skin and enlarged pores with very poor light reflection properties.
Regardless of good protection of skin from extrinsic aging by use of adequate skincare, skin inevitably ages and with time, changes in contour lines, the amount of wrinkles and tightness of skin begin to appear. Skin loses its thickness. More precisely, it loses 6.4% of its thickness with each life decade. This happens due to decrease of naturally present quantities of glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin. Logically, skin with noticeable signs of aging needs to have these lost components compensated for, cell regeneration needs to be accelerated by introducing acid and retinoid-based products and optimum UV protection needs to be provided.
Active components such as anti-oxidants (vitamins A, C and E), low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid as well as polyphenols and isoflavones from various plant extracts take protective action against free radicals, but for such components it is extremely important that they are found in a very mild medium which absorbs rapidly and completely. The addition of AHAs, BHAs and PHAs as well as retinoids efficiently exfoliates the surface and enables complete absorption of other active substances since it removes layers of dead keratinocytes. The newest anti-aging technology are peptides which act by emitting false signals on the breakdown of collagen, due to which more collagen is created and gives the skin a plumper, fuller look. A broad spectrum sunblock (UVA and UVB protection) is also extremely important, especially in summer months when we are exposed to sun more than usual.
Above everything else the key to good skin care is regular use. A well-planned-out routine which you will follow every day and which includes a good combination of active agents, plant components and protective factors will be responsible for the appearance and health of your skin in the long term. Of course, a high quality diet, adequate amounts of sleep and general well-being in life are just as important as a good beauty routine. And remember: not having any lines or wrinkles on your face in your later years is not the point, nor is it sustainable. The point is to not look like you are seventy when you are in fact fifty. The same as it will be important for you to be able to move around like you are fifty and not seventy. In this vain century we are appalled by the word “aging” but it is a biological fact and it can be lovely if we are healthy. The same train of thought should apply to one’s skin. Think less of “anti-aging” and more of aging with dignity.