Skin ageing is a natural process, strongly linked to genetic or hormonal factors, with a specific time, for women, the menopause. It may be speeded up by an unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, unbalanced diet, pollution …) or by over-exposures to UV radiation. The good news is that, a contrario, it may be slowed down, even limited, thanks to regular suitable care of the skin, which may begin (a word to the wise men and women!) at the end of teenage. However, even later, "something may be done" …
Description of a mature skin
It is a slow evolution … nevertheless, inch by inch, the skin becomes dryer as the sebaceous secretions (so plentiful at teen age!) go down. From the ‘40s, it becomes thinner, dryer and loses its firmness. Slowly, but surely.
Signs of slackness
On the most sensitive parts of the body (neck, cleavage, armpits, the inside side of the thighs, belly …), it slackens, little-by-little loosens up and is sagging. On the face, it loses its resiliency, slackens; fine lines, then wrinkles to appear, first around the eyes and around the mouth, then on the forehead, then everywhere else.
The skin is more and more reactive to the sun exposure, in a heterogeneous way, thus the age spots that appear. After ca 70, the epidermis atrophies and the skin (especially the face’s) is thinner and thinner, more sensitive, while the desquamation (and the riddance of the dead cornified cells) slowing down, it may become thicker in some areas, such as the elbows, heels or knees …
A daily action
The age of the cutaneous cells is not the only factor: the speed and the rate of the
depend also on different factors that one can have an effect on. The sooner, the better.
The length of time and repeated exposures to sun rays is the main factor that speeds up the skin ageing. It is not useful to stay in the shade all one’s life long, but to protect the skin with high SPF sunscreens creams or lotions, any time there is an exposure, from the very first months, while avoiding exposure when the sun is high (from 12 to 4 PM), and its rays are the most intense … and the most harmful.
Nourish the skin from inside
Diet is also an important factor for a healthy aspect of our skin. To keep its suppleness and its firmness, to assure its protection against the free radicals produced by an inhospitable environment (pollution, air conditioning, stress …), it needs proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins (mainly enough of the A and E), suitable minerals, anti-oxidants … i.e.: a lot of fruit and vegetable, oily fish, pulse beans and cereals … and certainly not constraining and unbalanced diets that it may have to live with several times in a life. It needs also a lot of water, to have a permanent source of moisturization. On the other hand, no alcohol, no smoking: is that useful to tell it again?
When the first wrinkles are seen to deepen in the looking-glass, well, it is already late. Beware; not too late. There is always a means to do the right things. Nevertheless, the sooner a skin is taken care of and pampered, the better it faces the damages of time. The key words for its health: daily mild cleansing, moisturizing and protection. The translation is simple: not a single evening without make-up remover, not a single day without moisturizing and nourishing cream. The "programme" should begin early in the life: the attention that teenagers give to their appearance may be the best reason to learn this behaviour and never quit.
The efficient active ingredients
What about anti-ageing cosmetics? Obviously, they also are useful. Especially when they contain the most efficient ingredients … and avoid the most disreputable.
Thus, Alcohol (which dries skin and prevents a suitable moisturization) shall be avoided in any product, be it a tonic lotion or a cream (in the list of ingredients , it comes as Alcohol, Alcohol denat.) Be aware of the fragrances , which usually comprise it in their formula. Better to spray them on clothes instead of on the skin.
Be suspicious of some anti-ageing active ingredients, though well-known: the Retinol (especially Retinoic Acid) or the AHA may be aggressive towards the epidermis , mainly on sensitive skins.
Let alone all the irritating or sensitizing ingredients, which weaken the skin every time they are applied … Nevertheless, it is a given that the cosmetic industry is not lacking of interesting resources to fight the marks left with the passing of time.
Moisturizing active ingredients
To hinder the skin drying process, an anti-ageing care first shall contain enough of ingredients to maintain its hydration. They come in different families:
• The occlusive ingredients (which form a kind of leak-free film on the
and prevent its dehydration): Vaseline,
, waxes …
• The humectants (which retain water, both in the cosmetic product and in the skin): Glycerin , Propylene Glycol …
• The moisturizing agents per se: Urea, Lactic Acid and lactates, Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid (PCA) and its salts …
Anti-oxidant active ingredients
They fight against the action of free radicals and the oxidative stress they produce, which are ageing factors for cells in the overall body, and, in particular, the epidermis cells. They may be natural or synthetic:
• Coenzyme Q10 or Ubiquinone
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)
• Vitamin A (Retinol) and its esters (Retinyl Palmitate …) and Retinaldehyde (beware; Retinoic Acid is banned for cosmetic applications)
• Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and its esters (Ascorbyl Palmitate …)
• Vitamin E (Tocopherol) and its esters (Tocopheryl Acetate …)
Some vegetable extracts, especially extracts of plants high in polyphenols, have also an anti-oxidant effect:
• Anthocyanins producing plants: vine, berries
• Bioflavonoids: citrus, soya bean, vine, ginkgo biloba
• Proanthocyanidins: tea, grapes
• Catechins : tea, chocolate, apple, pears
• Hyaluronic Acid and its salts
And a bit of philosophy
It must be said: all the anti-ageing active ingredients do their job by strengthening and restructuring the epidermis . They help it to repair by itself the damages of time; their efficiency can be seen only, at best, after several weeks of application. Other products give instant results on the aspect of the skin: some pigments, thanks to their specific optical properties (they diffuse or reflect light), hide the wrinkles. An immediate result, but only for a short time. As soon as the wrinkles are there, even if it is possible to decrease their depth by some … tenths of a millimeter (0.004” to 0.008”) … well, they are there. Nothing to despair about. When everything has been properly carried out to limit their seeability … the only thing to do is to try and appreciate them!© CosmeticOBS-L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques