What is skin ageing?

Anjali explains what skin ageing is and how to protect the skin from premature ageing.
What is skin ageing?

Ageing occurs in every layer of the skin.  Cells in the upper layer or epidermis turnover less quickly with age resulting in increased sensitivity to UV light and delayed wound healing.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and one of the first to start showing signs of the ageing process.  Skin ageing occurs for a variety of different reasons; some of these are more under our control than others.  In general terms, ageing occurs due to intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic skin ageing is inevitable and cannot be changed.  It is a normal physiological process that occurs over the passage of time and is largely genetically determined.  Extrinsic ageing, however, is controllable to a variable degree and is largely determined by lifestyle factors such as smoking, sun exposure.  These external factors promote the production of molecules known as free radicals that have the ability to damage skin cells.

Whilst skin ageing is partly under genetic control, lifestyle influences have a large part to play in speeding up the visible signs.  Measures can be taken to protect the skin as much as possible to reduce premature ageing:

Measures can be taken to protect the skin as much as possible to reduce premature ageing:

  • Wear regular sunprotection – this is one of the most important things that can be done to keep skin looking youthful.  Ideally, sunprotection should be at least SPF 30 and broad-spectrum, providing cover against UVA and UVB radiation.  The sun is the biggest cause of early development of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
  • Do not use tanning beds – not only will these increase your risk of skin cancer but they can also lead to early ageing as a result of UV exposure.
  • Do not smoke – smoking is an independent risk factor for developing wrinkles and women seem to be more susceptible than men to this.  It will also cause thinning of the skin, facial redness, and prominence of the underlying bony contours of the face leading to an older physical appearance.
  • Moisturise  - this will improve the barrier function of the skin and plump out with moisture any fine lines that start to develop
  • Wear sunglasses – ensure the delicate skin around the eyes is adequately protected as this site is often the first to start showing signs of ageing

Anjali MahtoConsultant Dermatologist