Oh, the Beauty of Youth!
In our youth, long before we treasure our natural assets, our skin is firm and supple. The outermost layer of tissue at the surface, the epidermis, is protective of deeper tissues, inhibiting damage from environmental sources. Young, healthy skin is smooth and evenly toned, with no spots or pigmentation issues. What makes this so? Collagen.
Throughout life, the skin and other tissues are supported by collagen, a structural protein that makes up about 30% of a person’s body weight! Collagen is not only necessary for healthy skin, but also for tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth, and more. Collagen is only synthesized internally. Its larger particles cannot penetrate the skin, which is why topical collagen solutions do little more than foster hydration.
Along with collagen, the skin is also supported by elastin, another vital protein. Where collagen creates firmness due to its rigidity, elastin lets the skin stretch and maintain resilience. Finally, a list of amino sugars classified as Glycosaminoglycans (GAG’s) attract water into the space around collagen and elastin fibers, providing suppleness to the skin.
Two Types of Aging
There are two processes that affect the speed at which the skin ages. The good news is that we have a fair amount of control over one of them!
Let’s first talk about the type of aging over which none of us have control. To bypass this aging is impossible, though some good luck in the gene lottery may help. Intrinsic aging is all about what happens on the inside. After the age of 20, each year brings a 1% depletion in the production of collagen. Each. Year. As a result, the skin thins bit by bit. As collagen drops, so do GAGs and elastin. Concerning? Yes. But, believe it or not, intrinsic aging is not the primary reason we get wrinkles.
To put it in the most simple terms, EXtrinsic aging comes from EXposure. To what? So many things. Exposure to UV rays (sunlight or tanning bed), to pollution, smoke, chemicals, and much more. Extrinsic aging can appear as thicker, but less resilient skin, like age spots, freckles, and precancerous growths. And the more sun exposure that occurs, the more these consequences arise. This is because UV light exacerbates the already-substantial drop in vital proteins and amino sugars.
There’s more good news about aging: you don’t have to accept the process! Call our Reno plastic surgery office at (775) 826-4477 to explore the myriad of surgical and non-surgical treatments we offer.