Our skin is the largest, and one of most important, of our organs. With time, our skin can change in ways we often wish it wouldn’t. This article will take you through the changes that occur as we age, and how you can prevent or change them.
How Our Skin Ages
There are two main ways in which our skin ages. The first is through intrinsic aging. This is primarily determined by our genetics and is responsible for normal loss of collagen, decreased function of our sweat glands, and fracture of elastic fibers. Wrinkles due to intrinsic aging are slight in nature.
The second, and more powerful way, most of experience is through extrinsic aging. This is also referred to as “premature aging” because it is aging that doesn’t have to occur and is mainly caused by our environment. This includes damage are a result of pollution exposure, smoking, diet, stress, topical products, hormonal changes, and Ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun.
Out of all the factors (both extrinsic and intrinsic), sun exposure is the largest factor affecting our skin as we age. Ninety percent of age spots, wrinkles, and skin cancers are due to UV exposure from the sun, which causes freckles, sun spots, and effects the DNA of our skin (which is known as Thiamine Dimers).
These Thiamine Dimers are one of the factors that contribute to skin cancer formation. UV rays also cause a fracture of collagen and elastic fibers in our skin resulting in wrinkles and skin looseness.
I often write about what I call the 3 D’s of aging (Skin Deterioration, Facial Deflation, and subsequent Facial Descent). The primary way that skin becomes deteriorated is through the damaging effects of UV exposure.
So if we know these are the reasons our skin ages, what can we do to protect ourselves, and what can we do to reverse sun damage when it has occurred?
Preventing Sun Damage
In terms of protection, the single best thing you can do is to wear broad spectrum sunscreen, which block both UVA and UVB rays. New guidelines from the FDA are allowing us to identify these products. The sunscreen must block both UVA and UVB to be considered “broad spectrum.”
There are two types of sunscreens: active (chemical) and mechanical (physical). Active sunscreens need to be absorbed into the skin before they are effective and often need 20 minutes to become effective. Mechanical sunscreens work as soon as they are applied. These often contain micronized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Because UV rays are constantly around us in our environment, daily use of sunscreen on all areas exposed to the sun is one of the best ways to protect our skin over time.
Reversing Sun Damage
Many of us have suffered sun damage over the years, including back in the days when a “healthy tan” was in style. Thankfully, there are ways to reverse some of the effects of that past sun exposure.
The first involves using prescription medical products such as Retin-A and Hydroquinones. Retin-A has the ability to fix the UV cause Thyamine Dimers and make our skin healthier. Hydroquinones help to reverse pigment staining and age spots on our skin.
The next level of treatments to reverse sun damage includes using light and laser sources to improve, and in some cases even remove, past sun damage.
New research, which I described in my blog post Research Proves You Can Reverse Aging with BBLTM Treatment, has demonstrated that office-based light treatments with no down time improve not just the appearance of brown and red spots on our skin, but also cause the skin to revert on a genetic basis back to a younger earlier state. This treatment should be considered in the same way dental visits are considered; regular treatment with BBL can be a restorative step in reversing past sun damage and keeping our skin healthy and young.
The most extensive way to reverse sun damage and RESET our skin back to a younger, healthier state is with deep chemical peels, full deep dermabrasion, and laser skin resurfacing. Of these three methods, I believe laser skin resurfacing provides some of the best results. When a person’s skin is treated with laser skin resurfacing, the part of the skin which is damaged by the sun is removed and the skin then grows back as brand new skin. This treatment is effective for wrinkles, scars, pre-cancers known as actinic keratosis (10% of which change to squamous cell carcinomas), superficial squamous cell carcinomas, and some superficial basal cell carcinomas.
A few years ago, one surgical case in particular demonstrated to me the power of laser skin resurfacing in reversing sun damage in the face. I described this case in my blog post Why Are Lasers Ideal in Helping with Eyelid and Facial Rejuvenation. A patient I had treated with laser skin resurfacing in her lower eyelid region two years earlier…
..returned with pre- and some active cancers all over her face—except for the areas around the eyes we had treated. She was taking Efudex for facial sun damage, and lesions appeared everywhere on her face except the area we had treated two years prior during the time of her upper and lower eyelid rejuvenation procedure. This procedure included laser skin resurfacing of the areas under her eyes to improve the skin quality and tightness of the skin there. It seems that it also removed the pre-cancers that existed in this area.
After seeing this condition and the effect the laser skin resurfacing had on her lower lid region, she elected to have the rest of her face treated as well.
Now, her whole face is both younger looking and healthier. This was a dramatic example of the way that laser skin resurfacing can RESET a person’s skin back to a healthier, younger and more attractive state.
Now that you better understand the ways our skin ages, and the resources that exist to help prevent and reverse those aging changes, it’s my hope for you that you are able to pursue your own younger, healthier YOU. I am always here to help you in your journey.