Aging of the Skin

Your skin is your largest organ – and the only one exposed for everyone to see. With its complex, multilayered structure, it allows you to interact with your environment and helps you in multiple essential ways. It protects you from dehydration, regulates your temperature, provides sensation, and even produces essential vitamins like Vitamin D.

Skin color and type vary as a result of genetics, evolution and body chemistry. The color is affected by various components, including blood vessels. Carotene can give the skin a yellow color – especially if you often binge on carrots!

Melanin is a colored substance produced by a particular skin cell known as the melanocyte. The amount of melanin varies, producing the extensive array of colors we see in human skin.

Skin color is the result of evolution, based on geographical location. The more ultraviolet radiation skin is exposed to, the more melanocytes it produces. For example, if your remote ancestors dwelt in colder regions, your skin color will be lighter than if they’d originated in India or Africa. The more sun exposure indigenous populations received, the darker their skin colors evolved.

What’s your skin type?

Experts grade skin according to a scale that was developed by a dermatologist. Called the Fitzpatrick scale, it classifies skin types based on responses to ultraviolet light. Physicians use this skin classification clinically to determine programs to rejuvenate and treat aging skin.

Type I   will always burn and never tan                   These patients are fair, freckled and have pale eye color

Type II usually burns, but can sometimes tan      Patients are also fair, often with light-colored eyes

Type III can burn, but will usually tan                       These patients have a light brown skin color

Type IV will tan and rarely burn                                 The skin tone is olive

Type V rarely burns                                                         This skin color is brown

Type VI will not burn                                                      This skin color is black

The Aging Skin

Skin will age in two ways:  intrinsically and extrinsically.  Intrinsic, or “built-in” aging is a component of your genetic makeup.  In other words you will age in a way that is similar to your parents or grandparents.  This is something that’s governed by your genes.  Over time, intrinsic aging will result in loss of the elastic component of the dermis, the dense inner layer below the skin’s surface, and the skin becomes thinner and drier.

Extrinsic aging is the aging your skin undergoes when exposed to environmental factors such as sun, wind and extremes in temperature. The good news? This type of aging is in part preventable and reversible.

When doctors evaluate the skin, they look at multiple factors relating to aging skin, such as laxity or sagging, wrinkles, color, texture, thickness, pigmentation, sun exposure and abnormal growths such as moles or cancers. Patients whose skin type falls within I, II and III on the Fitzpatrick scale will experience more rapid aging of the skin than those in the IV to VI range. If your skin type is within the first three categories, it’s important to be more diligent about preventing sun damage before it can occur.

When it comes to preventing or lessening extrinsic aging of your skin from environmental exposure, the cornerstone of treatment is sunscreen, or sunblock.

Best Practices for Prevention

Sunblock is an opaque substance that will block the absorption of the sun when applied. Two of the main ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These chemicals stay on your skin and are not absorbed, forming a physical block that prevents the sun from penetrating the skin.  If you shy away from gooey sunscreens, take heart: Many newer products whose formulations incorporate these chemicals are more elegant, easier to apply and with a thinner consistency that spread onto the skin smoothly, and are very effective in protecting the skin. They also have the added advantage of not penetrating the skin, minimizing reactions such as rashes or irritation.

Without regular use of sunblock, substantial skin damage from the environment, or “photo-aging” can occur. Sun-damaged skin has damaged collagen, with a resulting loss of elasticity. The skin appears tanned and blotchy, with spots of discoloration and redness from dilated, damaged blood capillaries. Over time, environmental skin damage may progress to a coarse, yellow, waxy appearance, particularly on the lips. Long exposure to sun can result in two common types of skin cancers:  squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Second only to using sunblock, applying Retin-A cream to your skin may be the most valuable method to help prevent, delay or treat photo-aging. It contains retinoic acid, essential for normal skin growth, which is lost or diminished with excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Other products to help combat environmental skin damage include those containing antioxidants, such as topical vitamin C.

Since Retin-A is a prescription-only item, a consultation with a skin specialist is essential to make sure you receive the optimal results from use of clinically effective products. At Maxwell Aesthetics cosmetic plastic surgery center, we provide a comprehensive Skin Care Evaluation and make recommendations based on your degree of photo-aging and individual needs, to create a more healthy and beautiful skin. Also be sure to read about other services that focus on things such as liposuction, tummy tucks, breast augmentation and more.

Your Skin: Staying Ahead of Aging