Getting under your skin – what causes wrinkles as we age?

If you are like me then you may have been under the misapprehension that stopping wrinkles was just a case of good moisturiser and sun protection.  I know what we eat has a huge impact on our skin’s radiance and moisture and a diet high in junk food is a sure fire way to get pimples and dull skin. Water is key to skin hydration and is needed to flush away toxins.  However, with all the good nourishment in the world skin does change as we age, so I thought I would look at how this works and if there is anything we can do about it.

Skin: its more than one layer

Skin Layers

The skin is made up of several layers – the one we see being the epidermis; but below this is the dermis.  It is the job of the dermis to provide support for the top structure – a bit like the springs in your mattress.  However, instead of springs your dermis contains collagen, a protein created by the body and is also found in hair, nails, bones and joints.  Collagen provides a framework that firmly holds up the top layer of skin.  We also have the protein elastin that help provide elasticity and hyaluronic acid that draws moisture into the area.  Hyaluronic acid creates a sort of gel that plumps everything up and helps hydrate the upper layers keeping us looking young and fresh. It is also an antioxidant so it helps to protect the skin from free radical damage and UV rays from the sun.

What happens when we age?

You may be aware that skin has one of the fastest cell turnovers and renewal in the body. We are constantly breaking down old cells and rebuilding new ones.  However, as we age our collagen production slows down and when there is not enough to build a firm structure we get a collapse in the top layer; hence the lines and wrinkles.  Not only is our collagen production slowed, but the rate of damage to our old cells increases; increased oxidation is a natural part of aging leaving our cells more susceptible to degeneration.   This is reflected as skin as dryness and in skin damage.

How can we keep our skin at its best?

In order to slow down oxidative damage increase your intake of antioxidants.  This means adding more fresh fruit and vegetable as well as green tea, fish or krill oil, spices such as turmeric and a variety of herbs.  Vitamins and minerals that are particularly good antioxidants for skin include vitamin A and carotenes such as Astaxanthin, vitamin C (which is used also used to make collagen), zinc and vitamin E.  Of course plenty of water it critical.

We then need to reduce things that are pro oxidative. Smoking is very damaging to the skin and also depletes the body of vitamin C, which we need for collagen production.  Other things include alcohol (which dehydrating as well as), processed foods, and environmental pollution –  all the stuff that we come into contact with every day.

If our own production of collagen and hyaluronic acid slows down we can supplement the levels.  Marine collagen is the same type 1 collagen that our skin produces, so is an effective way to increase levels.

Finally, living in New Zealand  means we have to be mindful of sun exposure as it damages and dries out our skin.  Wearing sun cream is a must to stop skin aging, as well as avoiding excess sun exposure.

By Jane Cronin

Clinicians Naturopath

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