Understanding the functions of skin
The most visible signs of aging are skin changes. Human visual perception is sensitive and accurate in perceiving age by instant recognition of facial features. Often, human faces with no measurable difference in facial geometry and appearance are perceived as having different ages.
Skin has many functions :
- it protects you from the environment
- it controls your body temperature
- helps control fluids and electrolytes
- allows you to feel, touch, experience pain and pressure etc
The three main skin layers are :
- the outer layer : epidermis with skin cells, pigment and proteins
- the middle layer : dermis containing blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and oil glands
- the inner layer : subcutaneous layer containing sweat glands, some hair follicles, blood vessels and fat.
Each layer also contains connective tissue with collagen fibres to provide support and elastin fibres, allowing flexibility and strength.
Skin changes and aging are related to environmental factors, genetic, make-up and nutrition. The single greatest factor, however, is sun exposure.
Natural pigments provide some protection against sun induced skin damage, so, blue eyed, fair skinned people show more age-related changes than people with darker skin.
What happens to skin as it ages?
As skin ages:
- the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) thins
- the number of pigment containing cells (melanocytes) decreases. The remaining melanocytes increase in size. Aging skin looks thinner, paler and is more translucent. Pigmented spots appear in sun exposed areas
- Connective tissues degrades, reducing the skin’s strength and elasticity, especially in sun exposed areas
- Blood vessels in the dermis become more fragile. This leads to more vascular lesions and easier bruising
- Sebaceous glands produce less oil, resulting in dry, itchy skin
- the facial skeleton changes with age, specially around the mid-face and eye sockets. bone and tissue loos in these areas leads to a change in angles, lengths and volumes and decreases distance between the eyes
- growths, such as skin tags, senile warts and keratoses disrupt the smoothness of the skin.
Many of the facial manifestations of aging reflect the combined effects of gravity, progressive bone resorption, decreased tissue elasticity and redistribution of subcutaneous fat.
Treatments for skin aging
The signs of aging can be addressed in many ways and treatment depends on which particular skin conditions are being treated.
Photodamage and colour changes can be improved with vascular, pigment or Fraxel lasers or Intense Pulsed Light treatments.
Textural changes have several types and treatments :
- Crepiness or wrinkles can be treated with Fraxel Erbium or CO2 lasers.
- Lines around the lips can be improved with fillers.
- Barnacles and seborrhoeic keratoses can be treated with ablative lasers such as the CO2 or Erbium.
- Frown lines and crows feat can be improved with anti-wrinkle injection type A or prescription retinoid cream.
- Volume loss, sagging and bone resorption can be addressed with filler in the cheeks, lips, temples, chin, jaw line and tear troughs.
Learn more about specific treatments for skin aging on these pages.
And then there’s skin cancer…
While skin cancer can occur at any age, as we get older, the chance of skin cancers appearing increases. This is because sun damage increases over time, and cancerous changes may take many years to fully develop.
Good sun protection habits at any age can reduce the risk of skin cancer, so always wear sunscreen with a 50+ SPF when outdoors, wear a hat, sunglasses and clothing that covers the skin.
Regular skin checks are your best defense against catching skin cancer too late. If you notice any changes on your skin, you should see your GP and request a referral to a skin specialist immediately.
Read more about skin cancer and its treatments using the link below.
If you’re interested in booking a skin check at our clinic, or having your sun damage reviewed to understand what treatments are available to help lessen the signs of aging on your skin, we recommend obtaining a referral from your GP first. Then call our clinic on (02) 9953 9522 to book your appointment.
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