What happens when skin ages?
You don’t look your age!
- Skin aging is a natural consequence of the passage of time (chronological aging), but two people of the same age might not look the same age (biological aging)
- Skin changes like dryness, sagginess, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation are a result of reduced elastin production, a decline in collagen deposition, and water loss – but can vary according to skin type and ethnicity
- The changes that happen to the skin cells are caused by intrinsic aging (happening on the inside of the body) and extrinsic aging (environmental or lifestyle factors), both affecting energy metabolism in skin cells
- Energy production in the cell is at the core of skin health because energy is needed to fuel the most basic functions of the skin.
- Mitochondria, the powerhouse inside the cell, play a vital role in skin health
- Dysfunctional mitochondria can lead to skin aging
- Eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and reducing stress can help to rejuvenate your skin
- Scientists are working on new ways to improve mitochondrial health which may help to keep skin looking and feeling youthful
Why does skin age?
Jeanne & Susan: Effect of smoking, sun & stress on the skin of twins. Aged 61, the twin on the right is a smoker and regular sunbather.
What happens in the skin layers as we age?
- A physical and chemical barrier to protect us
- An important part of our immune system
- Our moisture and temperature regulator
1. The epidermis is mainly composed of keratinocytes that impart strength and drive skin cell renewal, and melanocytes which produce melanin. As we age, the aging keratinocytes are less able to maintain a strong skin barrier and the melanocytes’ melanin production becomes less even, leading to dark spots.
2. The dermis is made up of fibroblasts which produce collagen and elastin giving the skin its thickness and elasticity. As our cells age, fibroblasts produce less collagen and elastin leading to thinner more fragile skin.
3. The hypodermis is made up of adipocytes or fat cells and is the bottom layer of the skin. It protects the body from injury, is a very powerful insulator, and is rich in connective tissue, connecting the skin to the muscle. As we age, the hypodermis becomes thinner and less connective tissue is available to link the skin to the muscle, contributing to skin sagging.
Skin aging is a cellular affair
The mighty mitochondria: The mitochondria are the powerhouse inside our cell. Scientists believe they may hold the key to longevity. They control the life and death of the cell (cellular renewal). Mitochondria need renewal and replacement themselves over time. This process is called mitophagy. Mitophagy is very important for cellular renewal.
Stages of skin aging: What to expect?
1. Skin thickness reduces every decade by about 6%
2. Keratinocytes change shape
3. Melanocytes decrease
4. Sebum production decreases by as much as 60%
5. Water and fat content of the skin declines
6. Collagen and elastin decrease
The evolution of skin through the years
Age 25 - 35: The early signs of aging can start to appear, with fine lines linked to facial expression, and the early signs of crow’s feet. Collagen and elastin production can start to slow down, and the skin begins to lose the radiance it once had.
Age 35-50: Changes in skin thickness and elasticity become more noticeable. Fine lines and wrinkles appear at rest. Larger pores may appear, some may notice the development of bags underneath the eyes. The cheeks sag as they lose volume. Some may notice lines, wrinkles and sagging under the chin and in the neck area. The signs of earlier sun-damage may start to appear.
Age 50-60: More pronounced changes become visible due to further slow down in collagen and elastin production. Bone mass may also have started to reduce, which can change the contours of the face. Gravity is taking more of an effect, causing the skin to hang, and maybe even pulling the nose downwards. The skin starts to be thinner and more fragile. Wrinkles may be present on the entire face at rest. The next stage.
Age 70+: Wrinkles are marked and deep. The cheeks and skin on the edges of the chin, along with around the eyes and eyelids may sag. Age spots due to sun damage will be visible. Around the eyes, cheeks and foreheads the wrinkles may develop a “crisscross” pattern.
Can science help us to reverse the signs of aging?
Getting old is a fact of life, but science is teaching us more and more about how to delay skin aging. The answer may lie inside the cell, and more specifically, the mitochondria. The skin needs a lot of energy to renew itself, and dysfunctional mitochondria contribute to skin aging, so scientists are looking into bioactive ingredients that can boost the energy inside the cell by keeping the mitochondria healthy.
Want to know more? Look out for future posts where we’ll learn more about mitochondria and skin health
Knowledge is power
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