Skin is our body's envelope that contains us & protects us from the outside world, it is the largest & one of the most important & interesting organs in our body .
The skin has many different functions such as thermoregulation , protection , sensation & metabolic functions , it acts as a channel for communication to the outside world & mirrors the beauty & health of the body .
Normally, the skin has an unlimited ability to repair, renew & regenerate itself, but like any living organ the skin gets older & older as we age, losing the ability to regenerate itself & regain its shape.
Age-related changes in your body plus increased exposure to environmental factors can cause your skin to age beginning as early as your twenties.
The aging is a natural process, no body can prevent it. For some, it can begin at an early age, while for others at a later age.
The signs of aging are lack of skin elasticity and loss of firmness, roughness and dryness of skin. In advanced stage of aging, fine lines and wrinkles appear, not only on face, but also on neck, throat, and hands.
While escaping this natural phenomenon is impossible and fighting it might be frustrating, slowing it down is very possible and it can be accomplished. It is after all the best we can hope for.

What happens to the skin?

To understand aging changes in skin we should take a look on the structure of our skin :
Although skin has many layers, it can be generally divided into three main parts.
The outer part (epidermis) contains dead skin cells, pigment, and proteins.
The middle part (dermis) contains blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, and oil glands. The dermis provides nutrients to the epidermis.
The inner layer under the dermis (the subcutaneous layer) contains sweat glands, some hair follicles, blood vessels, and fat.
Each layer also contains connective tissue with collagen fibers to give support and elastin fibers to provide flexibility and strength.
The epidermis keeps shedding off its dead cells, which are replaced by the upcoming cells produced in the deeper layers of skin.
This process of regeneration and replacement of cells keeps on repeating and the skin looks toned, firm and saturated with moisture.
However, as you grow older, this natural process of regeneration and replacement of cells start slowing down.

The aging process of skin involves a number of dermatological changes:

- Slow replacement of cells in the epidermis & deceleration in the turnover of the surface layer of the skin.
- Blood vessels in the skin decrease & become more fragile. This causes the skin to lose its youthful glow and shine & slows down the wound healing ability of the skin to a noticeable extent.
- Several hormonal changes related to aging occur in the body that thins the skin making it more fragile and prone to damage caused by scratches.
- There is a loss of skin's strength and elasticity due to the formation of cuts and cross links in the collagen and elastin coils.
- The skin becomes dry and loose as it loses a large amount of substances responsible for holding moisture such as proteoglycans and GAGs ( mainly hyaluronic acid ).
- Sebaceous glands produce less oil as you age.This can make it harder to keep the skin moist, resulting in dryness and itchiness.
- The subcutaneous fat layer, which provides insulation and padding, thins. This increases your risk of skin injury and reduces your ability to maintain body temperature.
Because you have less natural insulation and in cold weather, hypothermia can result.
By the time you age, gravity keeps playing its role. The over-all result of various changes that take place in the skin aging process is the formation of wrinkles, deep spots, depressions and fine or deep lines in the skin.

What causes skin aging?

Aging process is natural and sure to happen after a particular biological age. However, in this age of chemical pollution and stressful life, aging of the skin may occur prematurely. The factors that contribute to the early onset of the aging process of skin are as follows.

Factors that Cause Early Skin Aging

- Sun exposure:

Sun exposure is very aging to skin.
Unprotected skin that is exposed to the sun becomes more mottled in appearance.
Freckles can turn into brown sun spots, the skin takes on a dry, leathery appearance, and wrinkles and sagging increase.
The risk of skin cancer is significantly increased by sun exposure.
The good news is that sun damage is avoidable, and if you start now, you can improve the condition of sun damaged skin.
See your health care provider to assess the amount of sun damage you may have, and to rule out possible skin cancers.
He or she may be able to prescribe medication that can help to reduce existing sun damage.
If you want to avoid aging skin but don’t want to avoid the sun, make sure you use sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
Choose sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher, and use it all year-round, even on cloudy days.
Clouds do not protect you from ultraviolet ray exposure.

- Stress:

Maybe you’ve heard this expression: “Don’t frown, your face could stay that way.” Stress and worry cause frowning, and over time the muscles in the face actually conform to that movement.
-To help reduce aging skin due to stress, be aware of your stress level and try to vary your facial expressions during the day.
A good anti-aging skin care program should include meditation, yoga, gentle exercise or other relaxation techniques.
Keeping stress in check -- and frown lines and aging skin wrinkles to a minimum -- will help you look and feel younger.

- Cigarette smoke:

Whether you smoke, or you spend time with a smoker, cigarette smoke is damaging -- and aging -- to your skin. Research has shown that exposure to cigarette smoke significantly increases skin wrinkles and dryness. This is partly due to the behavior of smoking, and also because cigarette smoke depletes your body of Vitamin C, which is a key ingredient for keeping skin plump and moist.
Some researchers believe that exposure to cigarette smoke (whether you smoke or not) is as damaging to aging skin as exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays.

- Lack of exercise:

Living a sedentary life contributes to aging skin, because exercise helps to tone your muscles and get your blood flowing.
Exercises should be an important part of every anti-aging skin care program.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, the benefits of a regular exercise program will show on your face. Having a bright smile and lots of energy will help you look and feel younger, at any age.

- Lack of sleep:

Too little sleep makes you look and feel tired. One of the first places lack up sleep shows up is on the face, with dark circles and bags under the eyes, and sagging skin. Lack of sleep is also a major factor in memory loss and symptoms of depression that include low interest in daily activities and negative thinking.
Research has shown that most adults function best with 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Reduce caffeine during the day (with none in the evening), avoid eating at least 2 hours before bedtime, and maintain a sleep routine that includes going to bed at the same time each night.
- Diet deficient in vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals.
- Unhealthy eating habbits.
- Over-use of cosmetics.
- Insufficient water intake.
All of the above factors are only accelerators of the aging process. They will leave a visible mark on your skin, but they are not the cause at the root of the problem.
To understand the aging problem that affects the entire body and is so visible on the skin through wrinkles, sagging, brown spots and the rest, we need to go deeper.
The aging process is a slow degradation caused mostly by inflammation. It begins at the cellular level and it affects every tissue of every organ.
The inflammation is to blame on the free radicals, the one and only responsible for it.

Who are those villains and how do they work?

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules produced during normal cellular metabolic activities; they are responsible for the oxidative damage of DNA, proteins and lipids.
A molecule is an aggregate of 2 or more atoms in a definite arrangement hold together by chemical bonds. An atom is the smallest particle of a chemical element. Every atom is composed of one proton plus one neutron (together they make the nucleus of the atom) together with a pair of electrons.
In certain conditions one electron can escape and the consequence is the formation of a free radical. The free radical is highly unstable and will attempt to stabilize itself by “stealing” an electron from another molecule.
This process of trying to restore the balance of the electrons within the molecules will trigger a chain reaction resulting in the breakdown of the proteins present in the connective tissue (collagen and elastin).
Although the formation of free radicals is a natural process occurring during the transformation of food into vital energy, some factors will accentuate and accelerate their damaging effects: sun exposure, smoking, stress and obesity to name just a few.
The presence of free radicals causes deterioration of the skin by decreasing collagen synthesis and elastin production, affecting the skin’s resilience with a visible effect of dullness and lack of radiance, followed by wrinkles and sagging.
The best way to combat the proliferation of free radicals is the use of anti-oxidants that will provide the necessary electron for the stability of the molecule. Even more important than the topical use of such anti-oxidants is a diet rich in fresh fruit (especially blueberries and pomegranates) as well as dark color vegetables. The Omega 3 fatty acids presence in foods like salmon, sardines, nuts and seeds is also essential.
Avoiding the external factors mentioned above will also successfully help the body combat free radicals.
Creating and maintaining energy at cell level is the only proven anti-aging remedy.
Although stopping the natural process of free radicals formation is not possible, limiting its damaging effects is.
You cannot escape skin aging process but yes, you can surely delay its occurrence & control its appearance on your skin. You can do it by avoiding deliberate tanning of the skin, preventing yourself from sun between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., avoiding smoking, keeping your skin well moisturized and eating healthy. In case you have to go out in the sun, then wear protective clothing like dresses with full-sleeves and hat. Also, apply sunscreen on the exposed area.

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