Ageing Skin. When we think about this skin condition, it’s typical and normal for us to think about ageing skin from an aesthetic perspective. We think about wrinkles, fine lines, flaccid skin, uneven pigmentation and overall dryness and dehydration. We perhaps look at mature aged individuals and guestimate their age based on what we are seeing. However, it is time for us to view ageing skin in a different way.
Thanks to the generally high standard of living in most parts of the world, compared to previous generations, we are fortunately living much longer with better health. For instance, in 1946 the life expectancy was 65 years old whereas today it is 80 years old. In fact, approximately 36% of our population are over 65 years old.
Despite the fact, we are living longer and for many of us it is a healthy journey, living longer does come with new challenges. Ageing is linked to a series of physiological and pathological processes as the body overall is coping with multiple ageing organs and illnesses resulting in poly-morbidities.
Among these challenges is skin ageing. Ageing skin is associated with changes in its structure and functionality such as reduction in skin cell turnover and its potential for it to regenerate. What can all this lead too? Increased vulnerability and dryness which in turn can increase the risk of skin damage and infection.
Skin is a vital organ and is one of the most important organs of the body for our health and wellbeing. It is time for skin to be seen as an organ that must be taken care of not just for aesthetic purposes but to help maintain quality of life.
SKIN: THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE
We know that skin plays a vital role in being the first line of defence as its main function is to provide protection and act as a barrier between the body and our external environment. It is the largest organ of the body that also has additional functions such as maintaining body temperature, provides sensory functions in relation to temperature and touches as well as acting as a storage for water and fat stores.
Our skin consists of 2 primary layers known as the epidermis and the dermis and even though I could provide endless information about these two fascinating layers, for the purpose of this article, l will keep it brief.
The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin that plays two important roles. In no specific order, it provides protection from bacteria and other microbes and it also helps keep moisture within the skin.
If our skin becomes injured and impaired, the body can become subjected to the invasion of outside agents, which will lead to irritation and sensitivity. Furthermore, moisture can escape from the epidermis, known as trans-epidermal water loss and this can further impair barrier function.
What is worth noting here is the pH of the skin, which ideally should be between the pH of 4 to 5.5. The low pH of the skin creates what is known as the acid mantle which contributes to the barrier function of the skin. When the skin becomes damaged, it can shift the pH towards alkaline, increasing the skin’s susceptibility to bacterial skin infections.
The skin’s pH can also be increased by systemic diseases such as diabetes and even simple wound dressings can increase the skin pH which could potentially lead to further breakdown of the skin.
The dermis often called the ‘true skin’, supports and nourishes the epidermis. It contains important components of the skin such as blood vessels, nerve endings, hair follicles, sweat glands and the lymphatic system. The dermis also contains collagen which helps to provide strength and structure to the skin along with elastin fibres that provide skin its elasticity allowing it to return to shape after it has been stretched.
As we age, the production of collagen and elastin is reduced, which in turn leads to wrinkling, sagging and increased risk of skin tears. So as much as skin is incredibly durable, it too like all other systems of our body, eventually succumbs to the inevitable effects of ageing.
So how does the skin change as we age? What are the contributing factors?
We will delve into this in Part 2…..
This guest blog is written by Dora Erdossy, Dermal Educator & Dermal Clinician. With over 25 years’ experience in the Skin Care Industry, Dora Erdossy has worked as a Dermal Clinician and Educator for some of the industry’s largest brands across Australia, USA and Europe. Dora’s passion for education saw her become an educator for dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute in 2001 where she taught in Australia, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand.
In 2005, Dora moved to the United States where for the next 3 years, she championed the role of Senior Educator at dermalogica’s Los Angeles HQ.