The Skin's Ageing Process

The Skin's Ageing Process
The fact is that we start ageing during our early 20’s. The ageing process is gradual and therefore we don’t notice the changes that are occurring. Once we enter our 50’s and 60’s, the changes that occur due to ageing become more prominent. If we happen to have a restless sleep or encounter a stressful time in our lives, then the appearance of ageing can be even more prominent.

As we get deeper into the ageing process, we all become very aware of changes that occur with our skin and our body. Our face is the first place where we notice the visible signs of ageing. In fact, it is the lower part of the face that starts to age first.

Our skin is constructed of millions and millions of cells. The main skin cell is a stem cell and it is known as the keratinocyte cell. Throughout our childhood and early adulthood years, this cell is very active. It provides the resilience for the epidermis, works with the pigment cell called the melanocyte cell and communicates with immune cells within the epidermis. On top of all this, it influences the dermal fibroblast cell. The fibroblast cell is the cell that plays a huge part in wound repair by producing collagen, elastin and glycosominoglycans (GAGs). Evidently, the keratinocyte cell which only lives for approximately 28 days is very busy. The keratinocyte cell is also very clever as it changes it’s identity in the last stages of life where it becomes the harden keratin that protects our skin. This layer is known as the barrier of skin and is called the corneum layer.

Our skin is divided into three sections:
  1. The first being the epidermis, and this is where the keratinocyte cell and melanocyte cells reside. The skin forms pigmentation in this layer to give it natural protection.

  2. The second layer is the dermis, this is the layer where you have blood vessels, lymphatic fluid, nerve endings fibroblast cells, sebaceous glands and other macrophage or immune cells. Sebaceous glands provide some of the oil that the skin needs, the keratinocyte provides the rest of the oil that is needed. The oil is an important part of the barrier protection of the skin. The dermis is the eco system of the skin. There is an abundance of collagen and elastin in this layer.

  3. The third layer is the subcutaneous layer, this is your fat layer which is important for protection of the bones. This layer also helps with insulation.

As we age, the keratinocyte cell changes and becomes larger. It also takes a little longer to go through the regenerative cycle causing it to slow down and underperform. It becomes lethargic, slow and most probably starved of the nutrients that it needs.

When this happens, it impacts on other cells that the keratinocyte cell associates with such as melanocyte, langerhans and fibroblast cells. The ramifications are changes that impact the cell – some being pigmentation, oxygen deficiency and the inability for the cell to remove carbon dioxide and other waste material.

Free radicals will increase if the cell is starved of oxygen which again will increase the ageing cycle of the cell. The epidermal/dermal junction which supports the upper layer of the skin called the epidermis will begin to flatten and the dermis layer which is the second section of the skin will start to thin. At this stage you will see colour changes to the skin such as pigmentation and erythema (redness).

Other lesions that begin to appear are solar lentigos which are often referred to as age spots or liver spots. These appear on the hands, and the facial area. Lipofuscins which are yellow/brown pigment start to appear. These are actually lipid cellular waste.

Collagen that is produced when we are young is thick and keeps the skin nice and tight. As we age this changes as collagen becomes more fiberous which causes the skin to become lax (saggy) and wrinkled.

Several factors contribute to the formation of wrinkles – there is gravitational force, loss of subcutaneous fat and repeated traction that is exerted by facial muscles over the expression areas of the face. These can result in deep wrinkle formation on the forehead and nasolabial folds. The skin can become dryer than normal which can exasperate an already wrinkled skin. Bone density will begin to thin down and shrink, (approximately around the age of sixty) and as it does the area around the lips and mouth will be more visible with wrinkling occurring.

All of which has been discussed is a natural occurrence of ageing. Bring in pollution, UV damage, hormone changes and everything else that we put our bodies through and you will have further ageing of the body and the skin.

Alcohol or binge drinking is another cause of ageing skin as it dehydrates the skin and impacts the barrier function causing damage that takes time to repair. It can take your body three to four days to recover from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and the older you get the longer it takes.

So while ageing is a normal process and our natural beauty is something that we should embrace, it is important to know how you can look after your skin throughout all stages of your life so that you can have a healthy skin.

Yours in skin,
Gay Wardle

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