Intrinsic & Extrinsic Aging: Causes and Treatments

There are two main reasons that skin ages: genetic factors and environmental factors. Genetic factors are obvious—if you want to know how your skin will age, look closely at your parents. It’s likely that you will age approximately the same way at approximately the same age, minus premature aging factors that are due to the environment.

What’s included in environmental aging factors? Smoking for one. Sun exposure is another. The way you take care of your skin is a third. The way you take care of your health, in general, is a fourth.

Premature aging is also called photoaging, which creates loose skin, uneven texture, wrinkles, brown and red spots and lack of resiliency in the skin. Although we will all age and our skin will show our age, we all want to reduce as much skin aging as possible, in order to look as young as possible as long as we can. Understand that going into the sun will virtually destroy the matrix of your skin and believe it or not, it takes very little ultraviolet radiation to do that.

Smoking exaggerates wrinkles, especially those around the mouth. It does this by denying oxygen to the cells. It’s an especially poor habit before and after any invasive procedure, such as surgery or even laser treatments or chemical peels, as it can limit the body’s ability to heal.

Back in 1988, a University of Michigan study revealed that retinoic acid (also called Retin-A) could reduce wrinkles. A cry went out upon the land—literally. Men and women (mostly women) were clamoring to the plastic surgeon and dermatology offices to get their hands on this. The NY Times even sent a team of researchers to Michigan to see if this were true, thinking that the researchers had doctored the results, as before Retin-A, nothing could reduce wrinkles just from applying it to the skin. Since that time, Retin-A has become a standard for skin improvement and wrinkle reduction, right along with dermal fillers, laser treatments and chemical peels. Oddly enough, Retin-A was also discovered to reduce your risk of skin cancer because it literally changes/improves the skin’s matrix.

Many of our patients come to us with concerns about aging skin, in part because we’re located in an area where the average age is around 50 and, in part, because this is Florida, land of much sun. Many of these new patients have been treating themselves with department store products that contain AHA’s, or alpha hydroxy acids. Although these have been advertised as skin-savers, they have no scientific trials that prove beyond a doubt that they can reverse aging changes in the skin as Retinoic acid can.

Did you know that photodynamic therapy is another great aid for aging skin? Radiating the skin with red and blue lights actually signal a molecule within the skin cells to kill off damaged skin cells. This permits the younger cells to move up to the surface, giving a much more youthful appearance. Laser skin treatments can smooth the skin, reduce wrinkling, and decrease dark pigmentation such as brown and red spots, which are caused by too much sun.

There are new products coming out in the future, one of which is focused on tiny pieces of DNA, which increase the production of pigment. These are called oligonucleotides. Being tested now in lab dishes and on mice, it appears that increasing the pigment in the skin will increase the skin’s protection against UV damage. We hope that when this is proven both effective and safe that we can add it to the arsenal here at Aesthetic Plastic Surgery of Naples.

To your health and beauty,
Dr. Kent Hasen

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