Everybody who is not a literal child wants to turn back time with regard to their skin! It is a question that comes up again and again and here I am to answer it with what I think you should be doing to both prevent and treat the signs of ageing. It’s a tricky one – your skin starts to age at the tender age of 25 and some skincare brands say 20… dramatic pause… 20!! Well, when looking at ageing skin, you need to think about extrinsic ageing (skin ageing that is in your control) AND intrinsic ageing (skin ageing that is not within your control).
Extrinsic Factors and Skin Ageing
So many excuse themselves from believing they’re to blame for their skin by saying that it is genetic ageing (known as intrinsic ageing in the industry). Only 20% of the skin’s ageing is based on genetics – the other 80% is extrinsic factors. What does this mean?!
The extrinsic factors of skin ageing include but are not limited to sun exposure, smoking and pollution.
In a study, levels of elastosis were found to be much higher in smokers as compared to non-smokers. As you may be able to guess from how it sounds, elastosis has to do with the elasticity of one’s face, specifically related to your elastin. Elastin always exists in the skin – well, to be fair, it has to, as it is a huge part of the connective tissue in the skin. Why does smoking kill your elastin levels? When you smoke, the blood flow going to the skin is greatly cut and your cutaneous tissues are thus deprived of oxygen. Without enough oxygen, your skin struggles to create enough elastin and collagen.
Elastosis means the type of sagging, dragging face that you probably associate in your mind with smokers – deep lines around the mouth, sunken cheeks, you name it. So if you ever needed evidence that smoking would make you look a hell of a lot older in the future, here you go. Stick that in your pipe and…. Never mind.
It’s true that if you’re looking for anti-ageing advice, it may be a bit late to dodge the effects of smoking but ditch them now to see a change in the skin within a few weeks. When you stop smoking, your skin starts to get the right amount of oxygen again and you’ll see a glow, possible brightening of dark circles and generally better skin.
If you’re a long time reader, you’ll have heard me talk about sun exposure and ageing before. Well, buckle up, here we go again. Longterm exposure to sunlight (whether on a sunny day or within your office on a cloudy day) can lead to pigmentation (AKA age spots), lax skin due to a loss of collagen and elastin, saggy skin and leathery skin. UVA radiation specifically causes oxidative stress which accelerates the signs of ageing too. Of course, this is the best case scenario of repetitive, unprotected sun exposure. So, dear reader, start wearing SPF everyday if you don’t already – at least factor 30, please.
Antioxidants and Ageing Skin
How can you protect your skin from extrinsic ageing outside of SPF and quitting smoking? Your new favourite aunty – antioxidants. Antioxidants have been proven to protect the skin from free radical damage which means they can prevent the sagging, wrinkling and pigmentation associated with this. I think that people hear antioxidants and think it is just another buzzword – simply not true. Antioxidants have been in skincare for a while even though they are specifically trendy now and there is scientific evidence to the fact that they prevent free radical damage.
There are hundreds if not thousands of antioxidant ingredients out there but some of the more common ones are…
- Vitamin C
- Green tea extract
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
Some of my favourite antioxidant products would be:
- IMAGE Ormedic Antioxidant Balancing Serum (€67.00), as it contains the green tea extract (AKA EgCg or camellia sinensis) which is highly potent and the serum is also hydrating so it serves a dual purpose – gotta love some doubling up
- Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist (€47.55) which also contains green tea extract. This is a Spritz O’Clock which makes it ideal for a top up but beware, it’s a smidge sticky so let it dry on properly before applying makeup or anything else over it
- Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Complete (€59.00), which is a two-pack bundle of Skin Vit A enriched with vitamin D and Skin Antioxidants… Skin Antioxidant capsules are a fab way to protect from free radical damage from the inside out, as they contain so many different antioxidants, like green tea extract, lycopene, grapeseed extract and lutein (which is thought to protect against damage from the blue light that is emitted by your technological screens)
Intrinsic Factors of Skin Ageing
Not all things that contribute to the skin’s age are extrinsic. Ageing and the rate at which your skin does it can also be down to genetics, hormonal changes, naturally changing rates of production of collagen and elastin and repetitive movement (you’ve heard of frown lines and smile lines, haven’t you?). What can be done about preventing this type of ageing? Nada, zilch, rud ar bith – absolutely nothing. All hope is not lost, however, as we can do things to minimise the appearance of the signs of intrinsic ageing.
Keeping your skin hydrated will help to reduce the depth and appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Think about it – a raisin is a dehydrated grape. Do not be a dehydrated grape and you will not appear like a raisin. The effect of water is greatly exaggerated by many – it definitively is part of skin hydration, that is a given and is certainly true, but you also need to make sure it is staying in the skin. The outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum also known as the barrier or the horny layer (not being dirty, this is real, professional terminology), is what stops moisture from leaking out of the skin. It is like the lid on a Tupperware tub – if there is a crack in the lid, your soup will not still be in the Tupperware.
To help hydrate and protect the stratum corneum from within, we need omegas. Omegas work like a caretaker to maintain the health of skin cell membranes, meaning that your barrier function works to your best advantage and you will stop losing all the moisture in your skin. My favourite omega supplement is another from Advanced Nutrition Programme in the form of Skin Omegas+ (€36.00). Skin Omegas+ also contains smaller amounts of vitamin A which is fab for general skin health.
Hyaluronic acid is THE way to boost hydration topically, which is why it is in popular anti-ageing products like IMAGE Ageless Hyaluronic Filler (€72.50) and Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 (€70.00). Hyaluronic acid has the ability to hold up to 1,000 times it’s own weight in water as it is an actual moisture magnet. When you apply it to the skin, it sucks moisture upwards from the lower layers of the skin and draws in moisture from the air too. As I’ve said, moist skin is plump and fresh looking so that is what we’re trying to do with anti-ageing ingredients.
Omegas, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid deal with anti-ageing when it comes to the skin at the very surface of it… but many are looking for solutions for sagging, crepêy skin and skin laxity. For all of these, what we are looking to do with your skincare is boost the collagen being created by the skin as this naturally diminishes. Do you know what is the man for collagen production? Little old vitamin C. Vitamin C stimulates the skin’s production of collagen and it is not a vitamin we create ourselves as hoomans. Vitamin C also has the added benefit of strengthening capillary walls which weaken as we age also, meaning that it can protect from broken capillaries. You can take any vitamin C supplement internally…. but unsurprisingly, I am a fan of Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Vit C.
Another way to boost collagen production is to take collagen supplements! One brand that makes collagen supplements is Skinade and it is all they make which feels a bit cool to me. Skinade supplements (€120.00) contain hydrolysed collagen which split in the body and trigger the fibroblasts that create collagen throughout the entire body – very nerdie, but essentially taking collagen causes your body to go “AAAH” and make more collagen because it thinks it needs to heal the skin. Skinade not only contains collagen but also a B vitamin complex, flaxseed oil, lysine (the amino acid that is thought to help with coldsores) and calcium ascorbate (an easily absorbable form of vitamin C). Skinade is a drink, which makes it highly bioavailable meaning that it can get into the bloodstream very easily and in larger amounts. It comes in either a chic bottle that you can chug down once a day or a little sachet that you put into water but it doesn’t taste like cod liver oil, it is pleasantly peach and mangosteen flavoured.
Botox and the Alternatives
We cannot talk about the skin and anti-aging without talking about the treatment that everyone thinks of when they think ageing skin – b to the otox. In late 2017, surgeons at Cork University Hospital found that Ireland comes third in the world for people searching online for botox (courtesy of independent.ie). That is a huge number of people looking into botox as a solution to their anti-ageing woes. Personally, I do not believe botox to actually help the skin itself, as it paralyses the muscle. When the effects wear off, the effects wear off – full stop. If you think botox is for you, go for it, but there are other options out there that are non-invasive, such as Ultherapy, which uses ultrasound to cause the skin to regenerate collagen, or Caci, which uses electrical micro-currents and LED therapy together which also regenerates collagen.
Ultherapy results on the neck area
PRP, otherwise known as platelet-rich plasma therapy or the vampire facial, is ideal too. In PRP, your blood is taken and the red and white blood cells and platelets and plasma are separated in a special rotating machine. The resulting plasma has more platelets than usual and when it is injected back into the skin, it provides the skin with growth factors which triggers growth in the living cells and… you guessed it… regenerates collagen. PRP does use needles but it is needles filled with your own blood. You are not introducing something foreign, specifically something derived from a toxin, into your body, it is an anti-ageing ingredient from your body and for your body which is why I love it as an alternative to botox.
Just a heads up with my hands up: I have had botox. It wasn’t for me. I haven’t had it done in years. If you think I look young now, it is from treatments I am upfront about, SPF and an absolutely mahooooosive shelf of skincare products.
The Nerdie Conclusion
Ditch the cigs, apply SPF, antioxidise yourself, get the omegas in, slap on the hyaluronic and get your body making that collagen and you’ll age like Pharrell. There are tomes I could write about ageing, including vitamin A, AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) and more and they are all on my list so stay tuned, Nerd Herd!
The best way to get on the path to skin health and address specific skincare concerns is to have a consult with our team of expert skin Nerdettes – get more info on our skin consultations here.
Elastosis and smoking: Boyd AS, Stasko T, King LE Jr, Cameron GS, Pearse AD, Gaskell SA. Cigarette smoking-associated elastotic changes in the skin. J AM Acad Dermatol. 1999 Jul;41(1):23-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10411405
Antioxidants and extrinsic ageing: Poljšak B, Dahmane R. Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging. Dermatology Research and Practice. 2012;2012:135206. doi:10.1155/2012/135206. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299230/>
Botox statistic: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/boom-in-demand-for-botox-and-lipfillers-36227934.html