With aging, the skin goes through some significant changes: The outermost layer (the epidermis) thins, as does the subcutaneous fat layer below, which makes skin appear thinner and more translucent. Sebaceous glands produce less oil, leaving skin drier. And changes in the connective tissue, particularly in sun-exposed areas, reduce the skin’s strength and elasticity and allow fine lines and wrinkles to form.
This is all part of the natural aging process-it happens to all of us, regardless of our genes or income or lifestyle-and is what’s known as intrinsic aging. But extrinsic aging-what’s governed by our environment and habits-accelerates these changes and causes our skin to look old before its time.
The good news is that we can take some sensible preventive measures to slow the effects of aging on our skin-and try some in-office and at-home treatments to remedy some of its less attractive effects.
Age-related changes are by no means a foregone conclusion. Today’s in-office procedures can make real changes to skin’s texture, volume, and overall appearance, often with quicker (and better) results and less downtime than just a few years ago.
Today’s fillers not only target wrinkles and fine lines but also work as ”volumizers,’ creating a fuller, more youthful (yet still natural) appearance by replacing the plumpness that’s often lost with aging (typically beginning around age 40). As facial volume decreases, places like the cheeks and undereye area start to recede, which makes the face look older.
Since it first arrived on the scene in 2002, Clostridium botulinum toxin type A (a.k.a. Botox, Dysport and Xeomin) has been used on forehead lines, crow’s feet (lines around the eye), and frown lines, all of which are caused by repeated muscle movements (wrinkles caused by sun damage and plain old are immune to its magic). Botox blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles, which prevents the muscle from contracting (and creating the wrinkle). While Botox has been used most often to treat the top of the face-the forehead and eye area-it’s now being used to reshape muscles in the lower face, neck and chest, where it can get rid of other signs of aging, such as a drooping mouth, a jowly ”turkey neck’ or even a wrinkly decolletage.
Lasers aren’t new-they first showed up in dermatologists’ offices in the 1960s-but they’re definitely getting better. Today’s lasers can soften fine lines and wrinkles, improve the appearance of acne scars, and tighten sagging skin on the face and virtually any part of the body. For example, the new fractionated CO2 laser improves on the original, long considered the gold standard for skin resurfacing, delivering exceptional results with much less downtime (and pain) for the patient. It sends energy to the deeper layers of skin, which stimulates the formation of new collagen, without injuring the skin’s surface.
Ultrasound and radiofrequency technology are being used in non-invasive procedures that lift and tighten skin on the face, neck, and virtually any other area of the body without damaging the skin’s surface (they can also be used to treat acne scarring). Results are visible in as little as four months and typically last a year.
The top prescription anti-agers are retinoids-the drugs tretinoin (Atralin, Retin-A, Renova), tazarotene (Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin)-which contain retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A that fights aging in a few ways, most notably by speeding cell turnover and building collagen. Retinoids can cause redness and peeling, but despite popular opinion do not increase your susceptibility for sunburn (that was a myth born in. You’ll see results in about 12 weeks.
Retinol, the non-prescription-strength version of retinoids, is a very popular ingredient in OTC products. Other topical anti-agers include peptides (proteins that stimulate collagen production and thicken skin), and growth factors (compounds that act as chemical messengers between cells and play a role in new cell growth and collagen and elastin production). Antioxidants can reduce the harmful effects of free radicals, which are molecules that injure the skin’s cells and cause inflammation, increasing the effects of sun exposure and contributing to the development of skin cancer.