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Ageing of the skin and face

Published on 29th November 2015

Facial ageing is inevitable and unfortunately we can’t hide it away and it is there for everyone to see. This ageing can be accelerated by certain factors and also delated by positive lifestyle changes. But I will discuss these at another time, for now I will just look at how the face in general ages.

Our face & skin are the first things that people see of us and often (rightly or wrongly) we are judged on its appearance, how healthy it is or how attractive it makes us appear to others. So it is no wonder that most people are conscious of how their skin looks and try to keep it looking healthy and glowing.

We actually, biologically, begin to age at about the age of 14-15. But it’s not until around 28-30 that the first signs of ageing start to appear.

Ageing can actually be split into 2 areas:

Normal or Natural Ageing (Intrinsic) – this is caused by our genes that we inherit and is actually natural skin ageing. Intrinsic ageing is characterised by thinning of the skin, loss of elasticity & decreased metabolic activity.

Preventable Ageing (Extrinsic) – this is generally caused by environmental factors like sun exposure, smoking, alcohol, repetitive facial expressions, diet etc. This extrinsic ageing is in essence ‘premature skin ageing’. It is characterised degeneration in collagen & elastin (the skin’s scaffolding), dilatation of small blood vessels, deposition of abnormal collagen & elastin and skin pigmentation.

There are 4 main areas that are involved in the natural ageing of the face

Skin

The main signs are seen in the skin’s texture, tone & pigmentation.

As we age the skin cells cycle process slows and dead skin cells are not shed so easily from the surface of the skin. The skin becomes thinner and we lose the underlying fat

The process of moisture evaporation speeds up and oil production slows which increases the dryness of the skin (especially post menopause).

The usual smooth skin of our youth is replaced with a rougher texture skin.

Dark spots, wrinkles, broken capillaries, dryness and other sign become far more noticeable.

  • 20-30 years – collagen levels start to fall resulting in crow’s feet and frown lines
  • 30-40 years – collagen and elastin levels continue to fall resulting in edge of brow   drooping, extension of nasolabial folds, lips begin to thin, glabellar (between the eyebrows) and forehead wrinkles appear
  • 40-50 years – collagen and elastin levels continue to fall resulting in eyelid bags and lines start to appear in upper and lower lips, forehead wrinkles deepen, gravity and the pull of muscles cause drooping or sagging of the skin and deeper structures from areas of deeper attachment
  • 50-60 years – menopausal effects, fat hangs in saggy skin nasolabial and marionette lines substantially deepen if not corrected, neck wrinkles, more of the eyebrow droops, the nasal tip droops, the lips thin so there is less dry vermillion (pink area where lipstick is applied) showing, perioral wrinkles deepen, platysmal banding appears in the neck.
  • 60-70 years – facial skin thins, skin pigment cells increase in number and size in a blotchy pattern giving rise to brown spots of the back of hand and face (senile lentigo).

volume

Volume

I mentioned earlier that collagen & elastin are essentially the scaffolding to our skin. This is because they underlie the skin and create a fibre meshwork. Collagen gives the skin firmness & strength whilst elastin gives it its flexibility and resilience. When it is stretched this matrix snaps back into place.

As we age this network weakens and allows the skin to sag and it loses this support structure causing wrinkles and lines to form. Other forces have an effect on the skin too such as the thinning of the skin and loss of fat. Gravity tugs on this weakened skin causing drooping and formation of the jowls.

young-elderly-skin

  • 20-30 years – fat begins to disappear from under the eyes, dark shadows cause us to look older and tired
  • 30-40 years – malar fat pad descent begins, nasolabial lines appear, the result is wrinkles and jowls in the face
  • 40-50 years – cheeks begins to flatten, malar fat pad descent becomes more obvious, nasolabial lines deepen, facial fat atrophy or wasting becomes evident with concavity of the surface contour in the temple area and cheeks appearing, in some individuals the eyes become sunken as a result of fat atrophy rather than forming eyelid bags, marionette lines and jowls now appear, double chin appears
  • 50-60 years – menopausal effects, fat hangs in saggy skin, nasolabial and marionette lines substantially deepen, jowls, double chin and ‘turkey neck’ appears, excess fat appears under eyes

Muscle

Our facial muscles lost tone as we age. Skin on our faces and necks are directly attached to muscles and as these muscles lost tone the skin attached to them begins to sag.

On the other hand, the continued use of other muscles leave their tell-tale wrinkles on the skin particularly forehead, crow’s feet and frown area.

 

Bone

As we age our facial bones, eye sockets, nose and upper jaw continue to change. Our eye sockets widen and lengthen, the jaw line changes along with the brow, nose and upper jaw. Some bones recede slightly others lose volume. This causes the soft tissue in the lower face to become less supported and skin sags on the face and neck, our eyes look more sunken, eye corners droop along with eye lids.

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Preventable ageing
There are a number of areas that are involved in the preventable ageing of the skin

Sun Damage
UV light from the sun penetrates the skin, damaging the elastin fibres keeping the skin firm allowing wrinkles to form. Sunlight also causes age spots also known as liver spots/sun spots to sun exposed areas such as face, hands etc.

Smoking
Decreased blood flow to the face and damage from the toxic chemicals are the main culprits. In addition to which wrinkles can form around the mouth (smoker’s lines) from the act of smoking itself.

Alcohol
Excessive drinking leads to a general sallowness to the skin, large pores and dryness. Alcohol is a toxin to the body and robs the body of vitamin A which is an essential antioxidant that is critical in cell renewal and turnover

Diet
As the skin is constantly repairing and renewing and fighting battles with all these environmental influences. The skin needs good nutrition for it to do its job correctly. If your diet is not good then your skin will suffer.

Whilst we cannot turn back the clock and go and put a higher sunscreen on our 10 year old selves but we can stop the damage occurring now that we have control. This can be easily done by

  • Not intentionally sunbathing – any suntan means that there is damage to the skin.
  • Always wear a sunscreen (even in winter) of SPF 30 or more.
  • Wear a hat with a brim
  • Avoid the sun between 10am & 3pm when it is at its strongest.

Even after following all of these you will still develop wrinkles as this is an intrinsic ageing also but they will be far less and slower to develop.

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