Aging is a natural and unavoidable part of life. As we grow older, collagen production within the skin begins to slow, and elastin, the substance that enables skin to snap back into place, comes to provide a bit less spring, leading to the formation of facial wrinkles. Dead skin cells no longer shed as quickly and the turnover of new skin cells decreases, making the skin look dull and dry. How quickly this process unfolds is determined, in large part, by our genetic background. Tiny telomeres at the ends of every chromosome grow shorter and weaker over time, allowing the chromosome to “unravel” and contributing to the deterioration and death of the cells. Simply put, the information encoded in the genes plays a major role in determining whether one experiences the first signs of facial aging in their twenties, or whether one remains youthful looking well into their forties.
While these intrinsic, genetic causes of aging are usually best treated by surgical cosmetic procedures, there are also a number of extrinsic, or external, factors that often act in concert with the normal aging process to prematurely age the skin. Many of these factors can be intercepted with simple changes to ones everyday lifestyle or treatable with comparatively minor, non-invasive techniques.
Sun exposure is actually the one external factor that plays a larger role than our chronological age in determining the appearance of the skin. In fact, according to some estimates, as much as 70% of the skin’s aging process depends on the amount of sunlight the skin is exposed to throughout its life. Aging caused by exposure to the sun’s rays, or photo-aging, develops over a period of years. Repeated exposure to the sun, even for just a few minutes a day, can slowly destroy the skin’s ability to repair itself, allowing the damage to accumulate. Long term ultraviolet (UV) exposure not only breaks down collagen, but also impairs the ability of the skin to synthesize new collagen. The sun also breaks down elastin, making the skin loose, wrinkled, and leathery. Fortunately, many of these symptoms can be minimized or even eliminated with laser skin resurfacing procedures.
Stress and Sleep
The body responds to physical or emotional stress by dramatically increasing its production of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones accelerate the various aging processes and inhibit the normal growth of connective tissue. Prolonged periods of stress also interfere with the ability of the telomeres to regenerate, contributing to premature cellular aging. Conversely, adequate sleep is essential to the body’s repair and regeneration processes. A continuous night’s sleep is actually one of the few times during the day that the adult pituitary gland secretes growth hormone, and it is this hormone that encourages the body to produce young, vital cells that can replace those lost to the natural aging process. In many cases, this natural connective tissue can be restored with injectable facial fillers, like Juvéderm®, or autologous fat transfer techniques.
Smoking and Alcohol
It is generally typical for fine lines and wrinkles to appear on places where the skin is very thin, such as the sides of the eyes and above the upper lip. However, these lines usually appear 10-15 years earlier in smokers than in non-smokers, largely because of the reduction of vitamin C levels in their blood. Vitamin C is a key component in the production of collagen fibers, which are responsible for the elasticity and appearance of youthful and healthy skin, and its lack severely impedes the proper production of this vital substance. Additionally, the accumulation of toxic breakdown products in the deeper skin layers, which can result from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, can cause damage to both skin texture and color, exacerbating the appearance of capillaries and redness of the cheeks and on the nasal bridge. Fortunately there are several, non-invasive techniques designed specifically to alleviate this kind of damage. The Ultheraphy® skin tightening system, for example, uses high frequency sound, similar to that used by an ultrasound machine, to strengthen underlying layers of skin by gently stimulating collagen production.
If you are interested in learning more about facial aging or a plastic surgery procedure I perform, please contact me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, today. Additionally, some reconstructive procedures may be covered by insurance, and Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C. provides a variety of options for financing, including Care CreditSM, in order to assist you. Be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.