What happens during skin aging?
- The renewal of cells in the epidermis slows down and it becomes thinner. Fine lines and wrinkles start to appear
- The dermis where the collagen and support structure is found becomes thinner. You will lose collagen as you age, the elastic support structure breaks down and becomes looser - hence your skin sags.
- Skin starts to lose water and hyaluronic acid
- Pigments start to accumulate due to the continuous accumulated UV damage from the sun.
What can we do to slow down or reverse this aging process?
Here are 3 external factors to adhere to :
1. Sun avoidance and Sun protection
The sun is damaging to our skin.
- UVA causes pigmentations and wrinkling and premature break down of collagen and UVB causes burns.
How to choose a sun block?
- Look out for the “ broad spectrum” or “ Dual band “ or specifically “ UVA and UVB protection”
- SPF (Sun Protection Factor) : If your skin takes 10 minutes under direct sunlight to become red, an SPF 30 sunblock increases that duration by 30x = 300 minutes. SPF 15 protects against 92% of UVB rays while SPF 30 protects against 97% of UVB rays. Anything higher may not significantly improve the UVB protection.
- By reducing sun exposure and sun protection, we can slow down the effect of sun induced aging. Minimise the exposure to the sun and if you have to go outdoor, remember to wear a hat or a cap, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants to cover up your limbs wherever possible.
As we age, our skin loses significant amount of moisture and Hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid is found around the skin cells and has a unique capacity to bind and retain water molecules. Hence it is very important as we age to replace that moisture lost through topical applications.
Examples of moisturisers are humectants and emollients.
Humectants draw water to the skin cells to keep them hydrated, examples are Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, urea and alphahydroxy acids ( AHA )
They are suitable for all skin types including oily, combination and acne prone skin because they do not contain heavy oils.
Emollients fill in spaces or gaps between skin cells that are missing moisturising lipids. They fill the space and gap in the skin and hence makes the skin smoother and better hydrated.
Examples are : ceramics, lanolin, mineral oil and petroleum . Suitable for very dry skin, eczematous skin
There are off the counter retinol or variants of vitamin A and there are doctor prescribed retinol.
It encourages skin renewal and new skin growth. It makes the old skin shed off faster and by generating newer skin cells, helps to reduce and lighten pigmentations, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and even reduce pores.
Take note that concentrated vitamin A and higher concentrations require a doctor’s prescriptions as there are side effects associated with it.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)