Spoiler alert: we’re all getting older. None of us manage to avoid aging—so why do we place so much stigma upon how our skin ages?
We learn at an early age that looking “younger” is the goal. Thus, it’s no surprise that aging is highly stigmatized. Yet aging comes with inimitable insight, wisdom, and beauty. Our wrinkles hold the memories of our lives, including our smiles and laughter. Our expression-filled faces are what show our personalities, warmth, and zest for life. Thankfully, learning to better understand and love the skin you’re in is possible, and here’s how.
How does skin age?
When you think of skin aging, does your mind automatically jump to wrinkles? The truth is that there are many different ways that our skin begins to reflect the years we’ve lived. The more we can recognize these changes, the better we can take care of them.
- Our skin thins and becomes weaker. The number of cells that contain pigment also decreases.
- Our skin produces less oil, resulting in dry skin. We also produce less sweat (which means it’s harder for us to regulate our temperature in the heat).
- In areas most exposed to the sun, we may see areas of benign pigmentation (known as age spots or liver spots).
- Since our blood vessels also become more fragile, we may see more bruising and small benign red spots known as cherry angiomas.
- Other benign growths such as skin tags and brown rough patches (seborrheic keratoses) become more common.
- Unfortunately, skin cancer also becomes more common, which means we need to be vigilant with skin checks.
What influences skin aging?
There are factors we can’t control (like genetics) and others we can control (like smoking or time spent in the sun). Our repeated facial movements (like smiling and frowning) tend to lead to fine lines and wrinkles over time. Another factor is our natural pigments which have varying degrees of sun protection.
Embrace the journey
Many skin professionals are embracing a new “pro-aging” approach, championing a balanced approach and targeted skin care rather than harsh treatments. It seems like the wider world may be changing too, as more people begin to embrace their wrinkles at younger ages. Many celebrities have even spoken out about normalizing the aging process, such as Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, and Jeff Goldblum.
When it comes to aging, we can choose to embrace the journey in ways that make us smile ear to ear (crow’s feet be damned!). That can mean leading a healthy lifestyle, selecting supplements with guidance from our health care practitioner, smart sun habits, and strategic skin care. Welcome to the age of happy, healthy aging.
It’s a state of mind, according to a new study. Published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, the research shows that people tend to fluctuate daily in how old they feel. The researchers also found that our feelings of age can be based in stereotypes that manifest into our mental health. Feeling subjectively “old,” as well as having ageist attitudes, are associated with poorer mental health.
10 quick tips for healthy skin aging
- Wear sunscreen daily (plus use physical protection, like clothing and hats).
- Avoid tanning—indoors or outdoors. Skin professionals tell us that there’s no such thing as a safe tan, and so-called “base tans” do not offer any benefits.
- Do not smoke, and consider limiting your alcohol intake too.
- Wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the sun, and to help prevent wrinkles caused by repetitive squinting.
- Aging skin is delicate. Use gentle topicals, such as fragrance-free products.
- Treat your skin kindly—don’t scrub it or irritate it.
- Find a skin care routine that works for you, and stick to it. A dermatologist or qualified aesthetician can help you develop a routine based on your individual skin concerns.
- Prioritize sleep. Being well rested helps us feel better and look better.
- Avoid hot water, and instead bathe or shower in warm water.
- Wear gloves when doing housework and when working in the garden to protect your hands.
Top skincare ingredients for aging skin
- Moisturizing ingredients, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid
- Zinc oxide (or other active sunscreen ingredients)
- Retinol, which can help reduce the look of wrinkles
- Vitamin C, which can help with hyperpigmentation
- Niacinamide for its antioxidant and calming properties
- Grape seed extract, which can aid collagen production
Check with your dermatologist or health practitioner for advice on how to use products and combine ingredients safely, as some can cause irritation if used incorrectly.
Can diet influence skin health? Some recent animal research shows a link. A high-fat diet may cause inflammation and skin aging. A high-sugar diet and barbecued, fried foods are also thought to accelerate skin aging. On the other hand, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can have a beneficial effect on our skin.
Regularly performing a full-body skin check can help you detect skin cancer early.
- Examine your body in a full-length mirror, including your sides with your arms raised.
- Don’t forget hidden spots, like underarms, under fingernails, the soles of your feet, and between your toes.
- Use a hand mirror to see check hard-to-see areas.
- If you need help, ask a friend to check areas like your scalp.
New spots, or moles that have changes, should be checked by a professional. Ask your doctor or dermatologist if you have any questions.
Your skin doesn’t stop at your face! Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and other skincare products to your hands, neck, and chest. These areas are susceptible to sun damage, and thus, skin aging.
A gentle touch
Be gentle with your fragile skin! Wound healing is up to four times slower in aging skin than in younger skin.