What happens at a cellular level when we age? 25th July 2018 | By Kesiree Naidoo – Gradual loss of elasticity: Collagen and elastin in the dermis keep the skin supple and firm in youth. Loss of elasticity occurs with degeneration of collagen and elastic fibres of the skin with age. Old fibres accumulate and are fragmented and disorganized. The accumulation of these old fibres inhibits the production of new collagen and elastin. Fibroblasts respond by producing more metalloproteases that further break down the existing collagen. The result is that the skin thins and starts to sag and wrinkle. -Dehydration and moisture levels: The ageing skin loses its ability to maintain hydration, due to a decrease in molecules that help the skin retain moisture, such as Hyaluronic Acid and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). There is also a decline in the lipid production of the skin. These changes can start in the early 40’s. In addition to this loss of moisture there is also a reduction in sebum production. The result is a dry and dehydrated skin which accentuates the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The suppleness and plumpness of the skin also decreases with loss of moisture in the dermis. The use of moisturisers and exfoliating ingredients can assist with restoring moisture and lipid content for a healthier appearance. -Thinning of the skin: The perception of most people is that the skin becomes thinner and almost papery with age with associated easy bruising. The decrease in thickness of the dermis is one cause. However there is also a thinning of the epidermis which is due to a decrease in proliferation of the epidermal cells. The epidermal thinning is accelerated in women compared to men and is due to a decrease in oestrogen levels as women age. – Slowing of epidermal turnover rate Declining cell turnover means that dead skin cells accumulate on the surface. The skin therefore appears dull and the texture is rough. Another consequence is that healing of wounds on the skin is slower. -Pigmentary alterations Darker skin types are prone to hyperpigmentation as a result of reactive melanocytes. Cumulative sun exposure over time leads to the appearance of solar lentigenes (sun spots). These factors contribute to the mottled pigmentation which occurs as a consequence of photo ageing. -Yellowing / sebaceous hyperplasia Sebaceous hyperplasia occurs when the sebaceous glands become enlarged and prominent. This creates shiny yellow bumps on the facial skin which are entirely benign. Degeneration of elastic tissue in ageing skin is also know as solar elastosis. If extensive, it can give a waxy yellow appearance to the affected skin. -Poikiloderma of civatte: Poikiloderma of Civatte is a common, benign skin condition that occurs as a result of long term sun exposure It typically affects the skin on the sides of the neck and upper chest and affects more women than men. The area under the chin is typically spared. The affected skin is red-brown with prominent hair follicles. How can we defy time and the elements? By protecting our skin from an early age and making healthy lifestyle choices we can indeed ensure that we age well. It’s not too late for those who have not taken the best care in the past. Anti ageing research has come a long way to provide us with strategies to reverse previous damage and promote optimal skin health.