What Happens to Your Skin as You Age
It is no secret that our skin goes through significant changes as we age. The fine lines and age spots gradually become more prominent. These physical changes we see are a result of aging skin cells. In this blog, we'll cover what happens to skin on a cellular level as we age.
The skin has three layers, the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue. Changes in the second layer- the dermis - are the most obvious.
The two categories of skin aging include intrinsic and extrinsic.
- Intrinsic aging involves fine lines and thinning skin caused by advancing age.
- Extrinsic aging involves deep wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and hyperpigmentation. The primary cause of extrinsic aging is environmental factors such as chronic sun exposure.
Regardless of the type of aging, both wrinkles and reduced elasticity are a result of progressive atrophy of the dermis.
The components of the dermis (the second layer of skin) consist of:
- immune cells
- endothelial cells
Collagen fibers make up a significant component of the second layer of skin. In younger skin, collagen is tightly packed and well-organized, but with age, they become fragmented and coarsely distributed resulting in wrinkled skin and loss of elasticity. This can occur because of intrinsic and extrinsic aging.
Additionally, increased production of a specific group of enzymes called Matrix Metalloproteinase (MMPs) that break down collagen while there is no corresponding increase in levels of the enzyme inhibitors. This imbalance in enzyme production results in more collagen being broken down than preserved, accelerating skin aging.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a major driver in the increase in MMP production in aged skin. ROS can come from extrinsic factors like ultraviolet irradiation and intrinsic factors as a result of cell metabolism.
The regulatory systems within the dermis also become impaired with age. Specifically, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is responsible for regulating both collagen production and degradation and is critical for maintaining the mechanical integrity of connective tissue in the dermal layer of skin. With age, the TGFβ signaling pathway is inhibited and leads to a reduction in net collagen found in the dermis.
The elastic fibers in the dermis also undergo structural changes with age. Intrinsic aging leads to a reduction in the number of elastic fibers, whereas extrinsic aging leads to an increase in abnormal elastic fibers. This combination causes the loss in elasticity and wrinkle formation we see with aged skin.
Overall, with age, our cells begin to malfunction on a cellular and molecular level, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and loss of elasticity in our skin.
However, in the near future, we’ll be able to leverage our own younger cells to reintroduce youth into our skin. These regenerative treatments will be ultra-specific to you, removing the immunological risks involved with antiaging treatments that leverage pharmaceuticals or donor material. Banking your younger cells as soon as possible is the first step in preparing for these treatments. Learn more here.
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