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Caring for Aging Skin: Everything You Need to Know [2nd Edition]

What’s the largest organ in the human body?

If you guessed the skin, then you’re right, but let’s face it… you cheated. This article is about aging skin. What else would the answer be?

Most people don’t even know that the our skin is and organ. We think about the organs performing their various complex functions (filtering, pumping, processing, breathing) and the skin can seem kind of… well, simple.

“You don’t need to become a vampire to protect yourself, but be smart about your sun exposure. Avoid the peak sunlight hours of 10 AM to 2 PM when reasonable, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen liberally.”

But our skin is crucial. It is responsible for effective defense from outside threats like viruses and bacteria. Skin regulates body temperature, produces hair, allows for tactile sensation, and so much more.

And lets face it, we care about our skin because that’s what the people around us see. No matter how healthy we may be on the inside, our skin is the message that the outside world receives.

The quality of our skin can become a big deal once we notice those first unwanted lines. This article will tell you everything you need to know to keep aging skin looking great for a long, long time, including the one ingredient that is actually proven to improve your skin.

Understanding Your Skin

To the naked eye, there isn’t much to our skin. It appears to be little more than just a covering for all the juicy inside bits. But a closer look tells the story of an impressive and complicated structure.

The outermost layer of your skin is called the Epidermis. The epidermis is made up of dead skin cells, that are constantly being replaced from below. Old cells slough off, and new waves take their place in a constant process that goes on our entire lives. That means that the skin that you see and touch is actually comprised of dead cells. The epidermis also produces melanin which protects against the UV rays of the sun, and gives your skin color.

One layer down is the Dermis, where all of of your skin’s nerve endings and oil glands are found.

The deepest layer of skin is called the Hypodermis, or Subcutaneous Layer. This is a layer of mostly fat, but it’s also where our hair originates.

The three layers work together to protect you. You will want to keep all three of them as supple and strong as possible to stay looking your best. Let’s talk about the key factors.

Sunlight Exposure

Getting a little sun isn’t a bad thing. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, as well as the (scientifically unrecognized) vitamin fun.

But the ultraviolet light emitted by the sun is troublesome for your skin. You have some natural protection in the form of melanin, but there are limits to the defense that this provides.

Over time, UV light can break down the DNA of your skin cells, causing them to die off or become cancerous. Excessive sunlight also causes the outer layers of skin to thin, and the lower layers to become less elastic, as collagen formation breaks down. The net effect is increased wrinkling of the skin.

And nothing says aging skin more than early wrinkling.

Too much sunlight also means sunspots, as well as a whole host of discoloration issues that are brought about by damage to melanin production centers.

You don’t need to become a vampire to protect yourself, but be smart about your sun exposure. Avoid the peak sunlight hours of 10 AM to 2 PM when reasonable, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen liberally. Consider applying daily before leaving the house, especially to areas like your face and hands that are constantly exposed.

* Tanning beds produce the same damaging UV rays as the real thing. Sorry, no workarounds.

Washing Your Face

How much are you washing your face?

Most of us are washing multiple times a day: During showers, and then special deep scrubs when we remove makeup at the end of the day. 

The feeling we get afterward is rewarding, that tight, fresh sensation, like our skin is breathing. Unfortunately, that “Breathing” feeling is actually the breakdown of oil in our skin. While that may sound appealing, our skin’s oils are our natural moisturizers, and a lack of moisture is a problem.

Dry skin is far more susceptible to wrinkling, and by over-washing, we are unintentionally decreasing our natural moisture. In fact, some doctors say that people with healthy skin should only wash their face once a day, at night.

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Maybe it’s unrealistic for you to only wash your face once a day, but if you decide you need more than that, make sure that you are using mild cleansers that avoid harsh ingredients.

You may miss that “squeaky clean feeling”, but your future face will thank you (with a wrinkle-free smile).

Moisturizers

Just as excessive cleansing is a problem, regular moisturizing is a smart move for aging skin.

Cleansers remove the oil from your skin, but moisturizers… well, moisturize. The boost to your skin’s flexibility and suppleness reduces the damage done by repeated facial motions, and wards of the development of wrinkles in aging skin.

While daily application is recommended, it’s important to understand your skin type, and what moisturizing products might be right for you. People with naturally oily skin, or who are prone to acne development or other skin issues should find what is right for them.

This article from The Huffington Post serves as a great guide.

Anti-Aging Ingredients

You might have seen an advertisement or two (million) for products that claim to keep aging skin looking young.

The key always seems to be a particular ingredient. And while these claims are not all voodoo, much of the benefits associated with promoted ingredients have not been completely verified.

While you’ll frequently hear about the benefits of ingredients such as peptides, alpha-hydroxy acids, and resveratrol, the only ingredient that has been solidly proven to have a notable effect on the youthful appearance of skin is retinol.

Look for retinol in your daily moisturizer to kill two birds with one stone.

For more information on skincare ingredients, check out this article by Livescience.

Smoking and Skincare

Okay, you’ve seen enough commercials. You already know that smoking is bad for you. And by bad we mean terrible.

If you’re still smoking, odds are that it isn’t due to a lack of information about the health detriments that go along with it. More likely, you’re just addicted to that sweet, sweet nicotine.

But maybe a little information about what that smoke is doing to your skin will be enough to give you a mental edge that you haven’t had before (We hope).

Whenever you take a drag of that cigarette, your skin is paying the price in multiple ways. First, the nicotine causes the blood vessels in your skin (especially your face) to constrict, limiting the supply of blood to the skin. This cuts off the flow of nutrients that the skin needs to remain healthy.

Second, the heat from the cigarette causes direct damage to the skin, creating visible wrinkling around a smoker’s mouth.

Lastly, the more than 4,000 chemicals found in a cigarette cause the advanced breakdown of collagen and elastin. Such breakdown is the primary cause of wrinkling.

The answer, of course, is to stop smoking. Maybe it will help if you imagine the damage your face is suffering with every new puff.

Detecting Warning Signs

Moles, birthmarks, and other breaks in the normal look of the skin are very common. But when these spots become cancerous, early detection is the key. If you question whether a spot on your skin is a problem or not, follow these simple guidelines:

– A – Asymmetry. Does one half of the mark looks different than the other half.

– B – Borders. Is the outline of the spot irregular?

– C – Color. Is the mark more than one uniform color?

– D – Diameter. Is the mark larger than a pencil eraser?

– E – Evolving. Is the mark changing at a noticeable rate?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you should have the spot checked by your doctor. In fact, if you have doubts at all, get yourself checked.

Keep your outside looking as beautiful as your inside with smart, life-long skincare!

Looking for more articles like this? Click here to read our article "Caring for Aging Hair".

 

Resources

Cherney, Kristeen. “Beyond Skin Deep: Understanding the Layers of the Skin.” www.consumerhealthdigest.com.Consumer Health Digest. 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 9 May 2016.

Dale, Lowell MD. “Quit Smoking.”  www.mayoclinic.org Mayo Clinic. Web. 9 May 2016

Holmes, Elizabeth. “The Real Dirt on Face Washing.”www.wsj.com. The Wall Street Journal. 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 9 May 2016

MacNeal, Robert J. MD. “Overview of Sunlight and Skin Damage.” www.merckmanuals.com. Merck Manual. Web. 9 May 2016.

“Skincare and Aging.”www.nia.nih.gov. National Institute on Aging. Web. 9 May 2016.

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