Skin aging is a natural and inevitable process. Scientists are exploring ways to reverse aging or at least slow the process. But, as of now, reversing the aging process is not a reality. Unfortunately, you cannot turn back time. Changes you see in your skin are a combination of your genetic predisposition interacting with external factors, such as your diet and environment.
Skin is composed of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. The epidermis is a multilayered covering made up of cells called keratinocytes. The deepest layer of the epidermis divides, and new cells are pushed upward. As cells move to the surface, they fill with keratin and lose the ability to divide. The top layers of skin provide a waterproof barrier to prevent infection and dehydration.
The dermis is a thick layer of fibrous and elastic tissue composed of collagen and elastin proteins. Collagen provides strength to the dermis, and elastin gives it flexibility. The dermis also contains sweat glands, nerve endings, oil glands, blood vessels, hair follicles, and immune cells.
The hypodermis is the fatty layer below the dermis that insulates the body, protects from injury, and stores energy as fat. The hypodermis can vary in thickness.
All three skin layers thin with aging, which predisposes the skin to sagging and wrinkling.
Read also: What Causes Skin Wrinkles and How to Treat Them
While you cannot make your skin look 20 years younger or reverse aging skin, you can make your skin look as young as possible by following these basic skin care tips.
Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) increases collagen and elastin breakdown and inhibits collagen production. UVR decreases collagen in the dermal layer of the skin, which causes skin wrinkling and sagging.
Besides its effects on collagen, UVR also increases inflammation, damages DNA, and causes oxidative cell damage. According to researchers, UVR exposure seems to be responsible for about 80% of the visible signs of facial aging on lighter pigmented skin.1
Daily use of sunscreen reduces:2
Regular sunscreen use has significant anti-aging benefits in addition to protecting against skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.3
Recommendation: Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to 30 every time you are outdoors, even on cloudy days. Makeup and moisturizers often contain sunscreen, which can reduce the number of products you need to apply.
Drinking water alone will not moisturize your skin. However, it will help prevent dehydration and decreased blood flow to your skin.
In a study, researchers divided 128 women over age 40 into three groups based on their genetic risk for skin wrinkles. Lifestyle factors were also evaluated for wrinkle risk.
Participants in the group with more wrinkles, as measured with Mark-Vu, a skin diagnosis system, had these characteristics:
Factors that were found to interact with genetic predisposition and increase wrinkle risk include:
Researchers concluded that avoiding UV light exposure, staying well hydrated, and using estrogen post-menopause may reduce the risk of wrinkles in middle-aged women with a high genetic risk. The results were not statistically significant and did not apply to all women.4
Researchers evaluated six scientific studies that investigated whether there is a potential association between water consumption and skin hydration. They found that there was not much evidence to support a relationship between drinking water and skin hydration. Increased water consumption leads to increased blood flow to the dermis of the skin, but there is little evidence that it affects the epidermis. They recommend further research.5
Recommendation: Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. While it may not have an effect on your skin, it is good for your overall health.
Sun, wind, and pollutants can dry and irritate your skin. Many moisturizers plump skin cells, temporarily relieving dryness and reducing fine lines. Moisturizers can also repair damaged stratum corneum, increase hydration in the outer layers of skin, and provide a barrier to limit water loss across the skin.
With aging, all three skin layers thin and lose fat deposits. Moisturizers alone cannot slow or reverse this process. Many moisturizers contain other ingredients that may slow skin aging.
Recommendations: Moisturizers can soothe and protect dry or damaged skin, but they will not slow skin aging or prevent wrinkles.
Cleansers can exfoliate, brighten, and cleanse the skin, but they cannot reverse the signs of aging. Cleansers can have ingredients that soothe and moisturize the skin, such as
Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides moisturize and soothe the skin. Alpha hydrolytic acids such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acids exfoliate the skin.3
Recommendation: Choose a skin cleanser designed for your skin type and use it twice daily. Avoid skin cleansers containing alcohol or fragrances, as they can irritate the skin.
A humidifier adds moisture to the air. It will not reverse skin aging, but increased humidity can prevent dryness and irritation, which can help skin look more youthful.
When researchers tested skin water loss over six hours in a dry environment, they found an increased risk of fine lines due to dryness.6 When people with sensitive skin were exposed to air with low relative humidity, they noted increased skin roughness after a three-hour exposure.7
Recommendation: Use a humidifier in the winter and when in a dry environment to keep indoor humidity between 30% and 50%.8 Humidifying the air may reduce the appearance of fine lines on the skin and improve skin texture.
Retinoids are a powerful source of collagen-producing vitamin A. They achieve their effects on the skin through gene expression, which stimulates collagen and fibroblast growth. Retinoids also inhibit the formation of metalloproteinases, which break down the connective tissue between skin cells.
Retinoids are very drying to the skin and can cause redness, irritation, and skin flaking. These side effects peak at about two weeks of daily use and improve with continued use. Using a lubricating moisturizer with retinoids and slowly increasing use can help reduce side effects.
Recommendation: Talk to your healthcare provider about retinoids. Retinoids come in various strengths, weaker ones are available over the counter, and stronger ones are prescription only. Apply twice weekly for a couple of weeks before increasing use to every other night. After that, apply only at night and only as directed by your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
Reduce sugar consumption and increase your intake of foods high in antioxidants such as carotenoids, tocopherols, and flavonoids; essential omega-3 fatty acids; lean proteins; and lactobacilli. The best sources of antioxidants are colorful fruits and vegetables.
Polyphenols are also antioxidants and can be found in fruit juices, tea, coffee, and red wine.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in the skin of grapes. Curcumin is a member of the ginger family and is often added to rice dishes. Curcumin reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.9
Recommendation: Consume 4 to 5 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables each day.
A multivitamin supports overall health by filling any nutrient gaps in your diet. Vitamins can support skin health.9
Recommendation: A varied diet is the best way to get a full range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. If your diet does not meet the recommended daily allowance for these vitamins, consider supplementing with a multivitamin. Vitamin deficiency affects skin health.
Cigarette smoking can age your skin, causing increased wrinkling and damage to elastin fibers, which causes skin to sag prematurely. People who smoke typically have paler skin with a grayish tinge and more visible skin wrinkling. Researchers noted that people who smoke have significantly more wrinkles than people who do not.
Chemicals in cigarettes travel through the bloodstream and cause damage to blood vessels and connective tissue. This reduces nutrients delivered to the skin and decreases support for skin structures.13
Recommendation: If you smoke, talk to your healthcare provider to get help with quitting.
Excessive alcohol use, defined as over one alcoholic beverage per day for women and over two alcoholic beverages per day for men, can change the skin’s barrier function and affect its lipid composition. Your skin is your defense against the environment, and lipids are fats that waterproof the skin.
Researchers have found that skin aging is directly related to alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Changes in facial skin structure and volume can be reversed if alcohol and/or tobacco use is discontinued.12
Recommendation: Reduce or eliminate alcohol use to slow skin aging.
Researchers found that skin temperature and water content in the stratum corneum (outer layer of skin) decreased after a 60-minute exposure to increased airflow.14 While superficial wrinkles and dryness after exposure to wind and dry air are temporary, pollution has a major effect on skin health.
The following pollutants can cause oxidative stress:
The multiple layers of the epidermis protect against these pollutants, but increasing exposure can cause damage.15
Recommendation: Use sunscreen outdoors, eat a diet high in antioxidants, and minimize exposure to cigarette smoke and other pollutants.
Collagen is a long, cylindrical protein that provides strength to skin. It holds water and gives skin its plumpness. As you get older, collagen production slowly declines. Collagen peptides are short protein sequences that are more easily absorbed and used by the skin. After being consumed in the diet, collagen peptides may be used by cells called fibroblasts to produce collagen.12
Researchers are exploring whether marine sources of collagen may aid in wound healing, reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, and enhance skin appearance.16,17
Recommendation: Collagen in the diet is broken down into its building blocks and reassembled into proteins. It is unclear whether it is beneficial for skin health. At this point, it may be better to stay with retinol as it has more scientific research supporting its ability to produce collagen.
Exercise improves blood sugar control, helps with weight control, builds muscle, reduces inflammation, decreases stress, and activates enzymes that provide anti-aging benefits. Exercise improves blood flow through your blood vessels, which increases nutrient and oxygen supply to your skin and other body tissues.18
Recommendation: Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, or a combination of both. Add two strength-building sessions per week.
Stress causes the release of hormones, including cortisol. The stress response can cause skin drying with more visible wrinkles and fine lines.19 Increased cortisol leads to increased blood sugar to provide your body cells with energy. High blood glucose can trigger glycation, a process in which sugar binds to proteins and changes their shape.
The skin acts as a barrier and defense against microbes. Physical and psychological stress can impact how well the immune system functions. Chronic stress can increase your risk of rashes and infections.20
Recommendation: Learn ways to manage your stress. It can improve skin health and reduce your risk for some chronic diseases.
Many skin care products contain perfumes and preservatives that may irritate your skin. Some may even be dangerous to your health.
Some additives to question or avoid:
Recommendations: Investigate the manufacturer who makes your skin products and their ingredients.
Makeup expires. Bacteria can multiply in makeup, especially once it has been opened and used multiple times. Some products have an expiration date based on shelf life, while others list an expiration date in terms of when the product was opened.
In addition to the expiration date, check the storage requirements. If skincare products are not stored in the proper environment, they may lose their potency or expire more quickly than the date on the packaging. This is especially true for antioxidants.
Recommendation: Check the expiration date on all your skin care products. If you toss the box, write the date on the skincare bottle so you can access it easily.
See your doctor or dermatologist if you have a rash, skin lesion, or are concerned about a mole. The more quickly skin rashes and potential skin cancers are treated, the more likely you will have a full recovery of healthy, blemish-free skin.
Recommendation: Talk to your doctor or dermatologist if you are concerned about a skin rash or lesion.
Antioxidants such as vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, and NAD+ help neutralize oxidative stress on the skin.
Vitamin C, besides being an antioxidant, promotes collagen synthesis. When combined with vitamin E and ferulic acid, vitamin C can help reduce the formation of thymine dimers, which are changes in DNA caused by ultraviolet radiation (sunlight). Using vitamin C creams regularly can help reduce fine lines, surface roughness, and pigmentation changes.3
Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and protects skin cells from oxidative damage. UV radiation exposure may contribute to skin aging by decreasing coenzyme Q10 levels in the skin. Researchers found that coenzyme Q10 can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and skin dryness and improve skin tone. Coenzyme Q10 is frequently found in skin creams alongside moisturizers, antioxidants, and alpha hydroxy acids.21
NAD+ is a coenzyme, antioxidant, and signaling molecule that is involved in over 500 chemical reactions in the body. Unfortunately, NAD+ levels decline with age.
NAD+ face cream has the following potential benefits for your skin:22,23
Recommendation: Consider including antioxidants in your daily skin care routine. Based on research supporting its anti-aging benefits, the combination of vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid has traditionally been recommended. Coenzyme Q10 and NAD+ are antioxidants that have received support from more recent research.
Start a treatment plan with NAD+ face cream today!
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
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