Aging Skin: What Changes Occur

Aging is a gradual process in which change occurs in a person. The skin has high visibility, and is consequently one of the focal points of aging. It's important to note, however, that significant changes also occur beneath the skin, such as the tissue and bones which affect how the outer skin appears.

Aging affects us all in different ways, at differing speeds. The only thing that we share in common is that over time, we all undergo significant changes. Naturally, the skin often becomes the focus of attention when people are concerned about the cosmetic aspects of aging as the skin, and especially the facial skin is the most visible part of the body. Cosmetically, some of the most common changes that people are concerned about include:

  • Deeper wrinkles and lines in the forehead and the brow area
  • Skin folds around the jaw-line
  • Fat loss in the central face, resulting in a hollow look around the cheeks
  • Excess skin laxity from bone, tissue, and fat loss in the central face
  • Cancerous and non-cancerous skin growths that become more common with age
  • Visible blood vessels from thinning of the skin
  • Increased pigmentation problems from sun exposure and aging

Many of these changes which we associate with aging are actually an accumulation of two types of aging: Genetic aging and environmental aging, sometimes called intrinsic and extrinsic aging. Genetic aging refers to the natural and unavoidable effects of the biological changes that occur. They are exacerbated by environmental factors which accelerate or add on to the effects of genetic aging. In terms of the skin, sun damage plays the biggest role in environmental aging, accelerating the formation of wrinkles in the face, causing pigmentation problems and increasing the chances of skin cancer growth.

Although some aspects of aging cannot be prevented, many of them can be minimized or prevented altogether by good sun protection. Finally, as you can see from the other articles in this month's DermLetter, many of the effects of aging can be reversed.