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A summary of 7 causes of skin aging from the Department of Plastic Surgery at University Hospitals Case Western Reserve University:
1. UV Exposure: It’s tops on every dermatologist’s list. UV rays (and lack of sunscreen) accelerate skin aging, cause hyperpigmentation, uneven tone, premature lines and wrinkles, and skin laxity. The good news: its fixable (Intense pulse light, “IPL” is the gold standard and lighter spots usually improve with long-term daily use of specific skin care products) and preventable (apply sunscreen every day, often, and in every season)
2. Weight: You’ve probably waited a long time to find out when having a few extra pounds actually works to your advantage. If you’re over 40, a slightly higher Body Mass Index (about 4 points higher, but less than 30) makes you look up to 3 years younger. If you’re over 55, you’ll look even younger than that! If you’re less than 40, the reverse is true … slim and trim keeps your skin appearing young.
3. Stress: Financial stress, personal problems, marital difficulties and job-related stress all take a toll. Stress is definitely inter-related to your physiology as well as your mind, and increases the free radicals in your body—which are constant scavengers of anti-oxidants. Stress causes or exacerbates acne and psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, wrinkles and laxity. Take time to manage your stress with yoga, massage, exercise or deep breathing.
4: Smoking: Many of the 4,000 toxins contained in cigarette smoke go directly to the bloodstream, and reach the skin. Smokers have less collagen and elastin so their skin will age prematurely. “Smoker’s face” is now actually a term in medical dictionaries, because people who have smoked for 10+ years have added lines and wrinkles (typically perpendicular to the lips), as well as deeper vertical lines on the cheeks. Smoking also affects the tint of the skin and reduces the efficiency of the skin’s ability to regenerate itself and has recently been tied to adult acne. Many of these skin care issues can be improved (e.g., Juvederm for the fine lines around the mouth, IPL for adult acne), but most importantly try to kick the habit!
5. Medications: Prescription meds that relax the muscles (such as anti-depressants) also relax the muscles around the face. Over a prolonged period of time these over-relaxed muscles may lead to skin laxity and wrinkles and make the skin look older. The author of the Case Western Reserve study theorizes that depression may compromise the production of hormones, like human growth hormone, that contribute to healthy, plump skin. With your physician’s guidance, manage your medications.
6. Moisturizer addiction: Skin can develop a dependency on moisturizer, and when skin cells in the dermis sense that the surface skin cells have been plumped by moisturizer, they slow down the collection of water and delay cellular function. It’s better to use moisturizer sparingly, and always be sure to use products that activate and stimulate the skin (e.g., high concentrations of retinol).
7. Hormones: Menopause can wreak havoc on your skin, but hormone replacement therapy can help preserve a more youthful look. According to the Case Western study that was published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a 70-year old who has had HRT for at least 16 years will look four years younger.