Sins of My Youth
As previously published online Silver Sage Magazine, August 21, 2019
Something that I have noticed recently is that the sins of my youth have finally caught up with me: the sunburns, the lack of moisturizer creams, and the erratic cleansing routines. I am referring to my aging skin, of course. My skin, like the rest of my unforgiving body, has begun to demonstrate signs of aging. It’s become drier-than-dry, I have age spots, and there may even be a crevice or two that I suspect may one day become a wrinkle.
Since I’d rather know than not know what I’m facing, and because I am becoming resigned to this whole aging body thing, I’ve done some reading on aging skin. There were some things that surprised me, many things that weirded me out, and a couple of pieces of advice that I thought might be potentially useful to others besides myself. Please note that I have no medical training but am simply sharing those things that I found thought-provoking and interesting in my own exploration.
We age in ways that are unique to our bodies and their experiences in the world. With regard to skin, aging is influenced by a confluence of factors including genetics, degrees of sun damage, exposure to harsh weather conditions, hormonal changes, bad habits (such as smoking), lifestyle, and diet. We know that our skin contributes to our bodies’ sensory system and that nerve receptors in the skin facilitate the sensations of touch that includes pain, temperature, and pressure. Skin also helps our bodies to control fluids and electrolytes as well as assisting in the regulation of our body temperature. As our skin ages, there is a reduction in natural collagen production with a corresponding decrease in the elasticity of our skin. At the same time as these changes occur, there is also a decrease in sebum production, resulting in less moisture content. The epidermis also thins and subcutaneous fatty tissue lessens. All of these factors result in skin that is less elastic, bruises more easily, takes longer to heal, and becomes dry and more transparent.
In addition, aging skin may also provide an “environment” for any number of conditions: skin tags, warts, moles, rough patches, age spots (liver spots), dry and itchy areas, non-cancerous growths, sores, and bruises. Additionally, puckering of skin around the mouth as we lose bone, and accentuation of nose structures as we lose cartilage are also part of the package.
There are several things that we can do even now to help our skin to stay supple and healthy:
- First and foremost avoid sunburn, tanning beds, and sun lamps. Use sunscreen when outdoors, in all seasons. Wear protective clothing and hats when in full sun.
- Stay hydrated with fluids and hydrate your skin with effective lotions and moisturizers. Avoid heavily perfumed soaps. Use a humidifier if your rooms are dry.
- Be aware that health conditions such as diabetes, as well as some medications, can accelerate skin issues. Consult with your health practitioner if you have concerns about this.
- Check your body monthly for changes in your skin that may be signs of cancer. Look for new growths, freckles that change, sores that don’t heal, moles that bleed, or grow or become irregular or that change in colour. See your doctor with any concerns right away.
There are many cosmetics now available that promise to decrease wrinkles, revitalize your skin and restore a youthful glow. You can spend unlimited amounts of money on creams with collagen or chemical plumping fillers. (Yes, that’s apparently a real thing!) There are cosmetic procedures utilizing ultra-sound to boost natural collagen production. Laser treatments promise to remove acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles, as well as pigmentation issues. There is also a device (and this really weirded me out) called a “dermaroller” used for “microneedling.” Picture a tiny lint brush with hundreds of fine needles in it. Then picture rolling it over your face—on purpose. The resultant needle pricks are said to rejuvenate the skin by increasing its natural collagen and elastin production. (Honestly, I didn’t make this up.)
There is a panoply of options available to those of us who wish to take care of our aging skin. What matters most is that we pay attention to the changes in our skin and do what we can to prevent unnecessary damage. It’s never too late to start if you haven’t already.