Holding onto our youth and delaying aging is a universal goal. As we get older, we expect and accept some of the minor signs of aging, especially if they are consistent with chronological aging. However, for some individuals the symptoms of aging are more pronounced and arrive much earlier. Premature aging is by definition unnatural aging; however, it can be both prevented and treated with professional skin care.
THE signs of premature skin aging are often quite visible, and can be very disturbing as they are unexpected. It is important that skin care professionals identify these signs and guide their clients in the treatment of this form of aging skin. As always, the best care is one that includes a combination of both professional treatments as well as proper daily home care. Let’s examine some of the more common signs as well as comprehensive treatment plans for premature aging skin.
CAUSES OF PREMATURE AGING
CAUSES OF PREMATURE AGING While the most common cause of premature aging is environmental damage, lifestyle choices and medical conditions can also augment the signs of aging at an earlier age. Smoking, facial mimicry and sleep deprivation have been shown to accelerate the aging process. While many of these forms of aging eventually manifest themselves in all individuals, when these visible cues exhibit themselves in one’s 20s or early 30s, it sets off the first alarms that premature aging is occurring.
SIGN #1: Sun Spots
The appearance of hyperpigmentation on the face or limbs in one’s 20s is evidence of early environmental damage. UV damage, which can occur in individuals as young as toddlers and throughout their teens, can lead to visible discoloration, uneven pigmentation and sun spots, referred to medically as solar lentinges. While it’s best to prevent this with the use of a sunscreen system with UVA and UVB protection starting at a very early age, it is never too late to begin.
For existing sun spots, begin with chemical peels and lightening facials. These professional treatments combine resurfacing acids and tyrosinase enzyme inhibiting ingredients (e.g., Vitamin C, natural and unnatural quinines) to both lift existing spots and suppress new ones, respectively. Although not typically seen in younger skin, stubborn or deeper hyperpigmentation can be targeted with IPL and Fraxelated lasers in which pulses of energy are used to degrade the darker pigment.
“Smoking, facial mimicry and sleep deprivation have been shown to accelerate the aging process.”
TYPICAL ONSET AGE: Early to late 20s.
APPEARANCE: Uneven skin color or specific sun spots of darker pigment.
CAUSE: Sun damage.
PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Peels that double up as both tyrosinase inhibitors as well as exfoliation enhancers to remove spots. Fraxelated lasers that have an affinity to absorb darker pigment.
RETAIL TREATMENTS: Sunscreen containing an SPF 30+ sunblock. Vitamin C and its derivatives to suppress hyperpigmentation and to act as a mild peel to lift and remove existing pigmentation. Natural quinones or hydroquinone can be used to suppress the formation of new pigmentation.
SIGN #2: Fine Lines & Wrinkles
A second very common form of aging skin is the appearance of fine lines, especially around the eyes, forehead and sometimes the lips. Oftentimes these wrinkles are due to lifestyle habits such as smoking or persistent frowning, pursing of the lips, so-called expression lines, or favoring one side of the face while sleeping. The cause of these fine lines or wrinkles is due to the loss of collagen and elastin within the skin, which would typically be present in younger skin to resist the formation of these wrinkles.
Degradation of collagen, the natural scaffolding within the skin, or reduction in new collagen can also be brought about by smoking, which stimulates free radical damage, tissue degradation and blood supply restriction in skin. Of course, when combined with UVinduced damage, the rate of collagen loss is only compounded, leading to the earlier onset of visible fine lines.
It is important to be on an antiaging daily regimen that incorporates retinoids, niacinamide, peptides, stem cells and antioxidants. Along with daily care, professional peels that contain similar bio-actives along with resurfacing acids help jump start the cellular renewal process.
TYPICAL ONSET AGE: Early to late 20s.
APPEARANCE: Fine lines around eyes, lips, forehead.
CAUSE: Lifestyle choices.
PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Peels that double up as both age inhibitors and exfoliation enhancers to jump start cellular renewal.
RETAIL TREATMENTS: Strong nighttime retinoids and at home resurfacing treatments. Stem cell, Q-10 and alpha-lipoic serums.
SIGN #3: Dehydration
A third sign of premature aging is skin that both feels and looks visibly dry. Dehydrated skin feels itchy and may have flaking, peeling or even cracking, especially in extreme climates. Typically young skin is thicker and natural oil production is greater, preventing dehydration along with visible dryness. Dry skin is one sign that there is a deterioration in the water binding structures of the epidermis and the dermis. For instance, there can be an increase in transepidermal water loss (TEWL), but also a reduction in the efficiency of the skin’s natural barrier (water retaining) functions. The reduction in the production of the GAG proteins (glycosaminoglycans) in the dermis, one of skin’s natural moisturizing components, can also contribute to dry skin.
The best offense to address these changes is a good defense. Although seemingly counterintuitive, gentle exfoliation increases epidermal turnover, making the stratum corneum — the outer layer of the epidermis, more efficient and improve the skin’s natural barrier properties. A daily regimen containing serums that mimic GAGs including seaweeds, hyaluranates and plant extracts replenish and plump dehydrated skin. Additionally, a strong nighttime regimen including multiple peptides and retinoids helps the skin repair itself. Adding in a moisturizer high in squalene and silicone-like molecules that form a barrier gives immediate relief to the symptoms of dry skin.
Professional treatments could include a series six of hydrating peels including vitamin peels and a maintenance program of monthly vitamin peels.
TYPICAL ONSET AGE: Mid 20s.
APPEARANCE: Dry, flaky, itchy skin.
CAUSE: Oxidative damage, poor skin nutrition.
PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Vitamin peels to thicken the skin.
RETAIL TREATMENTS: Hyaluronates, seaweeds, vitamin A, vitamin B, barrier forming moisturizers.
SIGN #4: Sensitivity & Inflammation
Dry, sensitive and inflamed skin of the neck and the exposed “V” of the chest in one’s 20s and 30s is also indicative of premature aging caused by ultraviolet radiation, free radical oxidation or a combination of both. The skin appears patchy, discolored and uneven. It may also take on a leather-like texture.
A home care regimen consisting of powerful plant-based antioxidants (berries, teas, coffee) and anti-inflammatory agents (bisabolol, chamomile, azulene, oat, argan) and vitamin B is recommended. Ingredients that help improve skin color and the symptoms of dehydration as described above should be considered. Additionally, professional treatments should exhibit both regenerating and healing properties. Due to the sensitive nature of the skin of the neck and décolleté, strong peels are not recommended. Peptides and vitamin B peels along with gentle non-acid enzyme treatments are most beneficial.
TYPICAL ONSET AGE: Late 20s.
APPEARANCE: Patchy, discolored, sensitive neck and décolleté.
CAUSE: Photodamage, oxidative damage.
PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: healing enzyme facials, vitamin B and peptide peels.
RETAIL TREATMENTS: Enzymes, oat, argan, chamomile, raspberry, blueberry, green tea products.
SIGN #5: Sagging Skin
The loss of support in the underlying tissue of the skin causes the cheeks and jawline to sag and deep wrinkles to appear. Collagen and elastin are the primary two proteins that give the skin its support and bounce back. These two proteins along with the subcutaneous tissues of muscle and fat give skin its fullness. Typically these highly visible changes in skin do not start to appear until one’s late 40s, and with proper home care it can be pushed back to the late 50s. If this loss of elasticity and fullness is experienced in one’s early 30s, it is a sign of premature aging. This change is mostly due to the loss of collagen and elastin, which is oftentimes due to photo damage. Additionally, a loss of fatty tissue or muscle mass, although less common at these younger ages, can also contribute to the lax skin of the cheeks and jaw.
Fat injections and fillers offer a very effective and affordable medical treatment solution. For more advanced medical treatments, Fraxelated lasers heat the dermis to stimulate new collagen and tighten fibrous bands. Peels also offer a great benefit to stimulating cellular renewal as well as improving skin color, texture and hydration. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, one or more of the above modalities can be combined in a series of at least six treatments.
TYPICAL ONSET AGE: Early 30s.
APPEARANCE: Sagging cheeks, loose skin, softening jaw line, wrinkles on cheeks, nasolabial folds.
CAUSE: Photodamage, oxidative damage.
PROFESSIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Peels, Fraxelated lasers, fat and filler injections.
RETAIL TREATMENTS: Vitamins A, B, C and peptides.
Advanced home care is the most effective tool that can be used to both repair the damaged skin but also prevent future damage. This is true for all five of the above premature aging symptoms. Oftentimes individuals wait until they are in their 30s or even 40s to begin home care; however, at this stage the damage has already been done. Every skin care professional should educate clients about the risks of premature aging from a very early age, even with clients as young as teenagers. Healthy, beautiful skin comes from a healthy lifestyle that is learned and practiced early on.