As the body ages, the appearance and characteristics of the skin change. You might notice wrinkles, age spots and dryness. Your skin also becomes thinner and loses elasticity and fat, making it less plump and smooth. It might also take longer to heal.
Sun damage is the most profound factor in the development of aging skin. Aging of the skin dramatically speeds up in areas frequently exposed to sunlight, a process known as photoaging. Photoaging is due to damage caused by short wavelength ultraviolet radiation (UVB) injury to the outside layers of the skin (epidermis), longer wavelength ultraviolet radiation (UVA) to the middle layers (dermis) and infra-red radiation to the deeper dermis and subcutaneous tissue. Cell damage occurs because of the formation of reactive oxygen species.
Aging changes can be most noticeable on the face, and occur at an early age for those who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially those who are fair skinned (Fitzpatrick I and II skin types). You can protect yourself by staying out of the sun when it is strongest, using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding sunlamps and tanning beds. A Pennsylvania dermatologist can make more recommendations as well about how to protect your skin from harsh damage.
Aging of the skin can also be accelerated by smoking. Long -term smokers have more facial lines than non-smokers of the same age, and tend to have a yellowish sallow complexion. Smoking may also increase the chance of skin cancers.
Another possible contributing factor in women is loss of estrogen. Finally, genetics, nutrition and other environmental factors probably play important roles which are yet to be elucidated.
The treatment of aging skin is diverse. Topical treatments consist of vitamin A derivatives, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, vitamin C preparations, plant and botanical derivatives, antioxidants, growth factors and peptides. There are numerous types of chemical peels and microdermabrasions that are helpful. Laser and light treatments, as well as radiofrequency devices, can be used to eradicate sun spots, freckles, and dilated blood vessels, improve discoloration, and remove wrinkles. BOTOX Cosmetic®, Dysport®, hyaluronic acid fillers such as Restylane® and Juvederm®, as well as fat injections can help with certain lines of expression and loss of facial fullness. If done at regular intervals, chemical peels and microdermabrasions can be effective in improving the surface of aged skin and fine lines, irregular pigment and even acne scars. Having these procedures repetitively can jump-start the effects of topical antiaging preparations.
Newer, non-invasive skin tightening devices such as the Titan® and Skintyte® have advanced to replace face-lifts in some patients. State-of-the-art laser resurfacing treatments such as ProFractional®, MicroLaser Peels® and eMatrix® are also being used to freshen and beautify the skin. Surgical procedures such as facelifts, brow lifts, and blepharoplasty are used for restoring a more youthful appearance.
All said, by far, the most fundamental component of wrinkle prevention is sun protection, since sun exposure, compounded by other environmental insults, accounts for the vast majority of wrinkles that cause skin to look aged.
While prevention of sun damage ideally begins in childhood, it is never too late to start safeguarding skin and to retard further harm. There is no doubt that when skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, there is break down of collagen and elastic tissue, which normally keep skin supple and pliant. While the body can replenish some of what is lost, its repair mechanisms do falter over time.
Sun care is quite simple. Use sunscreen or a sun-protective moisturizer year round—even in the winter. A minimum of SPF 30 is ideal, as is a product that contains zinc oxide, which protects against UVA radiation. (SPF reflects only UVB protection.). Over the next twelve months, look for new labeling on sunscreens brought about by recent FDA guidelines: sunscreens will state they are “broad-spectrum” only if they pass the FDA’s test for protection against UVA and UVB rays, and only those labeled broad spectrum with an SPF of 15 or higher can state they reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
Our Pennsylvania dermatologist also recommends topical antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, thought to neutralize damage to DNA triggered by the UVA rays, as well as regular use of anti-wrinkle products such as retinols or retinoic acids and moisturizers.
When it comes to treating your skin, it is important to choose a Pennsylvania dermatologist who knows the skin inside and out. To find out more about your treatment options, please schedule an appointment to meet with our board-certified dermatologist or other experienced practitioners by calling our Wexford office at 724.909.0517 or Pittsburgh at 412.835.5550.