Skin Aging: How the Aging Process Changes the Skin

Skin aging is something that we want to stop or at least slow down. But the truth is the aging process is inevitable. When you start gaining years, the skin starts changing. Skin changes are indeed the most obvious signs of aging. Wrinkles and sagging skin are just two of the most common changes that happen on the skin as one starts to age further. Another obvious sign of aging is the hair turning grey or white.

Getting to Know More About the Skin

The skin is an incredible organ. It is the biggest organ of the human body and it does a lot of things. It offers protection against the elements, controls the body temperature, as well as the fluid and electrolyte balance. The skin contains nerve receptors which is why we can feel sensations such as touch, pain, and pressure.

The skin has three major layers. The epidermis (the outer layer or what we see), the dermis (the middle layer), and the subcutaneous layer (the innermost layer). The epidermis contains skin cells, pigment, and proteins while the dermis contains blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, and oil glands. The innermost layer or the subcutaneous fat contains sweat glands, some hair follicles, blood vessels, and of course fat. Each skin layer has connective tissue with collagen fibers to give support and structure to the skin, and elastin fibers that give the skin strength and flexibility.

Skin Aging and Sun Exposure

Environmental factors, genes, nutrition are just some of the factors that play a role in skin aging. However, it is sun exposure that plays the most part. If you compare the skin areas of your body that receive regular sun exposure with areas that are protected against sunlight, you’ll notice a huge difference. Those areas that are exposed to the sun have more damage and show visible signs of skin aging. Melanin, or the natural pigments found in the skin seem to offer some protection against the damaging effects of the sun on the skin. Those with fair skin and blue eyes show more signs of skin aging compared to those with darker or more heavily pigmented skin.

The Aging Process and How It Affects the Skin

  • As you get older, the epidermis thins out but the number of cell layers remains the same.
  • Melanocytes or the cells that contain melanin decreases however those that remain become larger. This is the reason why aging skin appears thinner, pale, and a bit translucent.
  • Skin areas that have been exposed to the sun are more prone to having hyperpigmentation or what is popularly referred to as age spots.
  • The aging process also affects the connective tissue of the skin, reducing the skin’s strength and elasticity. This is referred to as elastosis and elastosis is more pronounced on skin areas exposed to the sun. Elastosis is what gives the skin a leathery, weather-worn appearance and is most commonly seen on people who spend a lot of time outdoors.

These are just some of the effects of the  aging process on the skin.

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