What’s Happening to My Skin?
Before turning 30, I was absolutely terrified. I gave birth to my daughter a month before my 30th birthday. I felt so “grown up” – a 30 year old woman, two kids, a 9-5 job and a mortgage. Now, in my mid-thirties, I realise I really had nothing to really be afraid of.
After 30, life becomes much more exciting, fun, fulfilling! But…one thing changes that is not for the best, as we cross into our 30’s we start noticing changes to our skin. And if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not fond of it either.
The internet is full of information regarding those changes, we hear and read all the time about concepts like anti-aging, oxidative stress or anti-oxidants, uv and pollution and so on, but, what does all of that really mean? And how does it affect our skin?
So, let’s put some order to all of this, often overwhelming, information;
Our skin consists of many cell types and structures, but overall it is divided into three main layers: Epidermis (the outermost layer), Dermis and Hypodermis (the subcutaneous tissue).
The changes we see on our skin are affected both by extrinsic – lifestyle and environmental factors – and intrinsic – natural factors.
The hypodermis, the innermost layer of the skin, consists, among other cell types, of fat cells which support the connective tissue framework, known as collagen and elastin, at the dermis layer. All those substances enable the skin to maintain its smooth, plump and youthful appearance.
As we age, we lose some of the fat mass, especially in our face. Alongside with loss of fat, our collagen and elastin production reduces and its lifespan becomes shorter.
These layers have the most effect on our skin’s appearance. So, as we age, our skin becomes thinner (due to fat loss), causing it to sag, become easily bruised (that layer acts as padding due to its fat content) and develop fine lines (fat loss combined with reduction in collagen and elastin). And, to top it all off, we become more and more affected by hormonal changes.
Sebum, a natural emollient and skin softener, composed of fatty acids, fatty alcohols and waxes, secretion controlled by those hormones, causing hormonal breakouts, changes in the skin more oily T-zone, while the rest of the skin becomes drier (our skin consists of large amount of water, kept in special cells. Those cells are surrounded by lipids – for protection). As we age there is a sharp decrease in the skin’s lipid content leading to water loss, and dry and rough skin.
Some changes also appear at the epidermis, the upper layer of the skin. It consists of many thin sublayers – the upper one are the “oldest” (those cells actually dead and consist mostly of a protein called keratin- its role is to protect) while the inner ones are the youngest. Think of it as a tissue box that never ends – once we shed the upper one – a new one is “born” at the bottom. It usually takes takes around 4 weeks for entire skin turnover – but, as we age this process become slower – the upper layer of “dead cells” don’t shed so easily, and less “new” cells are produced (the best treatment for it is daily gentle exfoliation, both chemical and physical, to encourage epidermal rejuvenation).
So, knowledge is power, and understanding what is happening with our skin helps us to treat it more effectively.