Aging skin

Beauty is only skin deep, but the appearance of your skin is the standard by which people judge health and biological age. No one sees your liver, lungs, kidneys, or heart, but your face is always on display. Even if you're full of vigor, and vitality and never felt better in your life, the rest of the world considers you old if your face is lined, wrinkled, the skin is loose around the neck, baggy under the eyes, and with full crows feet and brown spots.

The skin is the largest organ of the body - and it's an important one. Even though we tend to think of it as only a cover for the more important stuff inside, its structure is complex, and it does much more than prevent what's inside the body from spilling out. Skin senses and regulates body temperature; it retains heat when it's cold outside and eliminates it when the weather is hot; it alerts us to pain or pressure and is the mirror of many internal diseases, allergies, and other adverse reactions.

Changes in the appearance and character of your skin are inevitable as you grow older, but their severity depends on your genes, your lifestyle and your habits.

What happens to the skin, as you grow old?

The dermis, or internal layer of the skin just below the epidermis, contains glands, follicles, nerves, blood vessels, and elastin (the fibers in the dermis that make the skin resilient). As skin ages, it loses some of its elastin. You know how you pinch a baby's skin and it promptly snap back into place. However, when you pinch the skin of someone over 60, it stretches and falls back much more slowly.

Collagen, the protein that supports and gives skin its body, also decreases with age. As a result, your skin is eventually about 20 percent less thick than when you were younger.

The blood supply to the skin decreases with age too; there are fewer blood vessels and their walls are thinner and more fragile. This leaves the skin less well nourished and more vulnerable to injury, infection, and bruising.

In young people, injured skin is promptly replaced by new tissue. Sunburn is the best example of this renewal process. After the dead skin peels off, new and healthy skin forms. However, in older people, the ability of the skin cells to reproduce is compromised, and they have a shorter life span. So as you get older, it takes longer for your skin to heal than when you were young.

Sweat glands in the skin decreases in number with age, and its sebaceous glands make less oil, so that the skin is not as moist or as well lubricated. It then becomes dry and itchy, especially in cold weather.

What Does Aging Skin Looks Like?

Aging skin is thin, dry, wrinkled, discolored, fragile, inelastic.

Tags may form in area where the skin is very loose and/or subjected to friction (the groin, the armpits, and under the breasts in females).

Seborrheic keratosis - are brown raised spots that looks like warts. Though not a threat to your health, they could be cosmetically embarrassing.

Actinic Keratosis - premalignant and should be removed. These are skin lesions in areas that have been chronically exposed to the sun.

"Age" or Live spots - large, flat, irregular, discolored areas most commonly seen on portions of the skin that are exposed to the sun most often: The face, the back of the hands and feet.

Cherry Angiomas - little bright red areas that begin to appear on your skin when you become middle-aged.

Have you noticed areas of bruising, or black or blue marks, especially on your arms and legs? These are called purpura, they develop in older people whose skin are thin, inelastic, and have lost its fat and connective tissue.

The most important factor of all is sun exposure, which not only dries up the skin but also leads to generation of free radicals that can damage skin cells. The sun is your skin's worst enemy. It is estimated that 90% of what we think of as signs of age are actually signs of overexposure. Furthermore, overexposure does not necessarily mean sunbathing or sunburn, approximately 70% of sun damage is incurred during such everyday activities as driving and walking to and from your car. The ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays that do this damage are present all day long and in all seasons. Worse, the effects of the sun are cumulative, although they may not be obvious for many years.

Recommendations:

Eat a well-balanced diet that includes many and varied fruits and vegetables, preferably raw, to provide your skin with the nutrients it needs.

Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day, even if you do not feel thirsty.

Do not smoke, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. All of these substances dry the skin, making it more vulnerable to wrinkling.

No matter what you age or skin type, protect yourself from the sun. Always apply a sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin, especially your face.

Get regular exercise. Exercise increases circulation of blood to the skin.

Exercise your face. Sit in a chair and extend your jaw in an exaggerated chewing motion. Stretch the muscles under your chin and the front of your neck.

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